Monday, January 3, 2011

When and how did humans started cooking food?

Cooking has a a very long history among humans, and according to the latest study from George Washington University Neanderthals even cooked plants and vegetables and not only meat. The US researchers concluded this after finding grains of cooked plant material in Neanderthal's teeth.

Some researchers believe that it didn't take much time for our ancestors to realize that fire has more purposes than just heating and giving light. Once they discovered cooking they probably didn't give too much credit to the fact that cooking kills bacteria and other parasites on food, the fact that the cooked food was more tasty, not to mention more easily chewed should have been more than enough for them to embrace the art of cooking.

I personally believe that cooking was the result of accidentally dropping meat into the fire, and then learning "wow, this sure has a better taste", but science supports the theory that the origin of cooking is linked to selective pressure for enlarged brains among younger hominins, which basically means that cooking occurred only after our ancestors developed large enough brains.

Let's get back to Neanderthals. If the latest study is true then this means that Neanderthal's diet was not only focused on meat, and that they were more than just a plain simple meat-eaters.

However, this latest study is in contradiction with chemical analysis of their bones which suggests they ate little or no vegetables.

The lead author of this new study, Professor Alison Brooks, from George Washington University believes that chemical results were measuring proteins levels, which the researchers assumed came from meat but it's also possible that some of the protein in their diet was coming from plants.