Were people cooking two million years ago?

From International Business Times (August 22, 2011), we learn: "Cooking is 1.9 Million Years Old: Study." And Michael Cremo is still wrong anyway?:

New evidence suggests that our ancestors have been cooking and processing food as far back as 1.9 million years ago. This could explain why humans have small teeth, as we don't need to spend our time chewing as much as animals.

The scientists found that chimpanzees spend 10 times more time chewing compared to humans.

Bovines spend almost all their waking hours eating grasses.

Cooking softens and processes food to make eating much easier and reduce chewing time. Had our ancestors not cooked, we'd be eating nearly half of the day instead of just 5 percent that we spend today.

The theory goes, cooking freed our ancestors up for more creative activities than chewing. Like talking without your mouth full. It makes sense in principle, but here's the hitch:

"There isn't a lot of good evidence for fire. That's kind of controversial," Organ said. "That's one of the holes in this cooking hypothesis. If those species right then were cooking you should find evidence for hearths and fire pits."

To put their theory on the table, so to speak, they need to definitely establish that people used fire in those days.

Note: Technologically primitive peoples have also made use of hot springs and naturally occurring fire. If a natural fire has started and is burning out, it is easy to grasp the principle of keeping a bit of it going, even if one doesn't know how to start a fire. Also some methods of preparing food can make it easier to digest without cooking – chopping vegetable matter into small bits, for example, as well as pounding grains. We shall see.

See also: Stone tools found from two million years ago – and Michael Cremo is still wrong?

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain. Follow UD News at Twitter!

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