How Eating Meat Made Us Human. Sorry Vegans.Breaking News
tags: science relevant to history
You see it in Nine Reasons Your Canine Teeth Don’t Make You a Meat-Eater; in PETA’s Yes, It’s True: Humans Aren’t Meant to Eat Meat; in Shattering the Myth: Humans Are Natural Vegetarians. (Google “humans aren’t supposed to eat meat” and have at it.)
But sorry, it just ain’t so. As a new study in Nature makes clear, not only did processing and eating meat come naturally to humans, it’s entirely possible that without an early diet that included generous amounts of animal protein, we wouldn’t even have become human—at least not the modern, verbal, intelligent humans we are.
It was about 2.6 million years ago that meat first became a significant part of the pre-human diet, and if Australopithecus had had a forehead to slap it would surely have done so. Being an herbivore was easy—fruits and vegetables don’t run away, after all. But they’re also not terribly calorie-dense. A better alternative were so-called underground storage organs (USOs)—root foods like beets and yams and potatoes. They pack a bigger nutritional wallop, but they’re not terribly tasty—at least not raw—and they’re very hard to chew. According to Harvard University evolutionary biologists Katherine Zink and Daniel Lieberman, the authors of the Nature paper, proto-humans eating enough root food to stay alive would have had to go through up to 15 million “chewing cycles” a year.
This is where meat stepped—and ran and scurried—in to save the day. Prey that has been killed and then prepared either by slicing, pounding or flaking provides a much more calorie-rich meal with much less chewing than root foods do, boosting nutrient levels overall. (Cooking, which would have made things easier still, did not come into vogue until 500,000 years ago.)
comments powered by Disqus
- Trump administration says joint UNC, Duke Middle East Studies program portrays Islam too positively
- What White Kids Learn About Race in School
- Frederick Douglass photos smashed stereotypes. Could Elizabeth Warren selfies do the same?
- Chronicling New York’s Muslim History
- New Documents Illuminate The University of Texas’s Secret Strategy to Keep Out Black Students
- Women Scientists Were Written Out of History. It’s Margaret Rossiter’s Lifelong Mission to Fix That
- Allen C. Guelzo Reviews Sidney Blumenthal's Latest Installment of His Biography of Lincoln
- What Reconstruction-Era Laws Can Teach Our Democracy: The NY Times Reviews Eric Foner's Latest Book
- Should historians read their own book?
- Cokie Roberts, Pioneering Journalist Who Helped Shape NPR, Dies At 75