Control of Fire in the Paleolithic: Evaluating the Cooking Hypothesis

Bibliographic Collection: 
APE
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Wrangham, Richard
Year of Publication: 2017
Journal: Current Anthropology
Volume: 58
Issue: S16
Pagination: S303 - S313
Date Published: 2017/08/01
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 0011-3204
Abstract:

According to current evidence, Homo sapiens was unable to survive on a diet of raw wild foods. Because cooked diets have large physiological and behavioral consequences, a critical question for understanding human evolution is when the adaptive obligation to use fire developed. Archaeological evidence of fire use is scarce before ca. 400 ka, which suggests to some that the commitment to fire must have arisen in the mid-Pleistocene or later. However, weak jaws and small teeth make all proposals for a raw diet of early Pleistocene Homo problematic. Furthermore, the mid-Pleistocene anatomical changes seem too small to explain the substantial effect expected from the development of cooking. Here I explore these and other problems. At the present time no solution is satisfactory, but this does not mean the problem should be ignored.According to current evidence, Homo sapiens was unable to survive on a diet of raw wild foods. Because cooked diets have large physiological and behavioral consequences, a critical question for understanding human evolution is when the adaptive obligation to use fire developed. Archaeological evidence of fire use is scarce before ca. 400 ka, which suggests to some that the commitment to fire must have arisen in the mid-Pleistocene or later. However, weak jaws and small teeth make all proposals for a raw diet of early Pleistocene Homo problematic. Furthermore, the mid-Pleistocene anatomical changes seem too small to explain the substantial effect expected from the development of cooking. Here I explore these and other problems. At the present time no solution is satisfactory, but this does not mean the problem should be ignored.

Notes:

doi: 10.1086/692113

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/692113
Short Title: Current Anthropology
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