According to the adage, you are what you eat. Now some experts think that it could be our cooking skills which raised Homo sapiens above the other apes. Harvard biological anthropologist,
Richard Wrangham, believes that humanity may have been launched by an ape learning to cook.
Two million years ago, early humans emerged from a stock of pre-human apes. We began to undergo important evolutionary trends – we acquired full bipedal movement and a larger brain. One and a
half million years ago, our ancestors had learned to cook food – could there be a link?
Burnt bones found on the fossil record for the period have revealed this culinary change. Anthropologists estimate that when hunter-gatherers took to their barbecue lifestyle it probably
doubled their calorific intake.
Cooked food is easier to digest, safer to store, and was the most effective way of introducing complex proteins into early human’s diet. This was a crucial constituent for fuelling Homo
sapiens’ growing mental power, with modern humans finally emerging 100,000 years ago.
Nature’s new ingredients
Cooking would have opened up a whole hamper of new ingredients to our hungry ancestors. Toxic and inedible roots became edible when baked. Indigestible and tough parts of hunted animals became
Over time, our method of heating food was subject to evolution itself. From open fires to ember ovens, it was only a matter of time before some prehistoric naked chef realised that certain ways
of cooking improved and imparted flavour.