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Evidence Of The Cooking 780,000 Years Ago Rewrites Human History

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According to a recent study, cooking was practiced by early humans much earlier than previously believed. Cooked fish may have provided the nutrients needed for brain development. One of the most significant evolutionary milestones in the history of our species was when we first learned to cook food.

It’s what transformed us into modern humans. “Around 1 to 2 million years ago, early humans developed taller bodies and bigger brains. The thinking is that calorie-rich diets, and cooking, in particular, drove this change,” said David Braun, professor of anthropology at Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in Washington, D.C. A new study, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, suggests that early humans first cooked food around 780,000 years ago.

Until recently, the earliest evidence of cooked food came from early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals who used fire to prepare meat and vegetables about 170,000 years ago. Cooking fires existed before Homo sapiens. The latest research demonstrates that Homo erectus, an ancestor of modern humans, was engaged in food preparation much earlier in time.

“Setting this date back by more than 600,000 years has implications for reconstructing the evolutionary history of ancient humans,” study co-author Jens Najorka from The Natural History Museum, London, told DW. 

Burnt fish teeth provide evidence of early cooking methods. The research team examined the fish tooth fragments (from carp and barbel) discovered around fires at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov. The team discovered that the teeth had been cooked at a temperature below 500 degrees Celsius by examining the crystal structure of the teeth.

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