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Chimpanzee behavior, ecology and physiology, which contribute to understanding human evolution
Cooking made us human.
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With our supersized brains and shrunken teeth and guts, we humans are bizarre primates. Richard Wrangham of Harvard University has long argued that these and other peculiar traits of our kind arose as humans turned to cooking to improve food quality—making it softer and easier to digest and thus a richer source of energy. Humans, unlike any other animal, cannot survive on raw food in the wild, he observes. “We need to have our food cooked.”
Based on the anatomy of our fossil forebears, Wrangham thinks that Homo erectus had mastered cooking with fire by 1.8 million years ago. Critics have countered that he lacks evidence to support the claim that cooking enhances digestibility and that the oldest known traces of fire are nowhere near as old as his hypothesis predicts. New findings, Wrangham says, lend support to his ideas.
This article was originally published with the title The First Cookout.