Diet and food preparation: Rethinking early hominid behavior

Bibliographic Collection: 
APE, MOCA Reference
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Ragir, S.
Year of Publication: 2000
Journal: Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews
Volume: 9
Pagination: 153–155
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1520-6505

At least four innovations in nutrient sources, preparation, and distribution underlie the transformation of our evolutionary ancestors into modern humans: the digging, preparation, and consumption of tubers and rhizomes; the technological mediation of hunting and butchering of animal prey; the socially mediated redistribution of animal prey; and the control of fire for cooking. The emergence of technologies for processing hard-to-obtain or difficult-to-digest foods such as animal protein, savanna tubers, rhizomes, and perennial bulbs probably precipitated changes in energy availability and expenditure that directly affected gut proportion and indirectly affected sexual dimorphism, fetal weight, and brain size.1, 2 The indigestibility or toxicity of several potential food items, including rootstocks and carrion, could be extremely important for understanding hominid adaptations to the mosaic ecology of late Plio-Pleistocene South and East Africa.3–5 Primate consumption of rootstocks, seeds, and meat, which is often assumed to be essential for hominid adaptation to the savanna-woodland, is constrained by digestion-inhibiting agents in underground storage organs and by the rapid bacterial contamination of carrion. These potential restrictions on hominid food choice have led me to argue that hunting rather than scavenging, together with technologically assisted extractive foraging and food preparation, was an essential parts of the earliest hominid behavioral repertoire.4, 6.

DOI: 10.1002/1520-6505(2000)9:4<153::AID-EVAN4>3.0.CO;2-D
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