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SCIENCE IN THE NEWS DAILY

Scientists Find Clue to Human Evolution's Burning Question

from the Guardian (UK)

Cooking is a universal in human culture. The mixing and heating of raw ingredients to make dinner is a fundamental part of our lives, one of the most noticeable things that separates us from even our closest animal cousins.

The advantage of this method of preparing food is clear: It makes food tastier, easier to digest and makes the extraction of energy from raw ingredients quicker and more efficient. All useful things if you want to power an over-sized, energy-hungry brain without having to spend all your time foraging and chewing food.

Richard Wrangham, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, has argued that the invention of cooking split the ancestors of humans from the evolutionary path that went on to include modern gorillas and chimpanzees. Cooking allowed our ancestors to develop bigger brains and, in his hypothesis, is the key reason modern humans emerged. The controlled use of fire, according to Wrangham, was a more important milestone in human evolution than the invention of agriculture or eating meat.

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