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I Cook, Therefore I Am?

9.15.08

The "Meeting the Minds" column in today's Boston Globe introduces Moore professor of biological anthropology Richard Wrangham and explores the controversy around Wrangham's argument that cooking food is what allowed for the enlargement of the primitive human brain and, consequently, for humans to break away from the rest of the animal kingdom.

The column also quotes Maccurdy professor of prehistoric archaeology Ofer Bar-Yosef, who finds Wrangham's hypothesis less than convincing:

"There is not a shred of evidence to support his dating... There are no burnt bones. There are no remains of fireplaces. There is no evidence in the records to support the use of fire before 800,000 years ago. No one would disagree that cooking played an important role in human evolution. The question on which we differ is when we start. If you say we started using fire 1.8 million years ago, then you have to prove it by finding evidence in the field."

Harvard Magazine covered Wrangham's cooking hypothesis back in 2000; read that article here.