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Palaeontology

How did our ancestors consume raw meat ?

By T.K. Randall
March 10, 2016 · Comment icon 34 comments



Raw meat consumption required the use of stone tools. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Cicero Moraes
Raw meat is notoriously difficult to chew, so how did our prehistoric ancestors manage to do it ?
Unlike other carnivorous animals such as wolves which have teeth that can slice through raw meat, human teeth are primarily adapted for chewing and crushing like a mortar and pestle, meaning that we have to cook meat first so that our teeth can break it down when we eat it.

Before the advent of cooking however our meat-eating ancestors somehow managed to eat raw meat all the time with teeth very similar to our own - so what was their secret ?

Daniel Lieberman, a paleoanthropologist from Harvard University, discovered first-hand just how difficult it actually is for a human to eat a piece of raw meat.

"You put it in your mouth and you chew and you chew and you chew and you chew, and nothing happens," he said. "It's almost like a piece of chewing gum."
In a new study which involved analyzing the number of chews needed to process meat that had been prepared through different methods, Lieberman and his colleage Katherine Zink, a human evolutionary biology researcher, concluded that the key to how our ancestors dined on raw meat was their ability to use stone tools to slice and grind up the meat beforehand.

"We didn't just start eating meat," said Lieberman. "We had to invent some technology in order to be able to do it."

With their mouths free from constant chewing our ancestors would have also been able to take up other, more useful activities during mealtimes such as talking.

"If you no longer need to maintain the big jaws and big teeth, it allows natural selection to choose for other performance benefits that improve fitness and survival," said Zink.

Source: LA Times | Comments (34)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #25 Posted by quiXilver 7 years ago
I would bet they happened on burnt corpses from forest fires and ate those... When fire was tamed, it was then applied to meat that was caught.
Comment icon #26 Posted by flabbins 7 years ago
Surely they could have cut it somehow and dried it out?? Its not rocket science
Comment icon #27 Posted by third_eye 7 years ago
*fermentation* ~ Pit Of Fish Bones Is World's Earliest Evidence Of Fermentation February 18, 2016 | by Janet Fang Researchers studying thousands of fish bones excavated from a 9,200-year-old pit in Sweden have uncovered the world’s earliest evidence of food fermentation – and it’s accomplished without the use of salt. Modern methods of food fermentation typically require salt and enzymes to prevent spoilage and the growth of potentially harmful microbes. This ancient example of large-scale food storage, described in the Journal of Archaeological Science earlier this month, suggests Early Mesol... [More]
Comment icon #28 Posted by Zalmoxis 7 years ago
Raw meat will also make us bellyache and get indigestion because our bodies aren't adapted well to digesting the bacteria in uncooked flesh.
Comment icon #29 Posted by Blizno 7 years ago
"...eat raw meat all the time..." No, our ancestors probably had diets similar to other omnivores: mostly vegetation with the occasional treat of meat. Homo Habilis is the first hominid to be found associated with simple stone tools. H. Habilis also had huge teeth and mighty jaws, dwarfing ours. Homo erectus has been associated with fires. Their teeth and jaws were also much larger than ours. Modern chimpanzees eat meat as often as they can drag down a victim. They hunt in organized groups. I've heard it suggested that chimps eat about the same proportion of meat to vegetation as modern-human ... [More]
Comment icon #30 Posted by docyabut2 7 years ago
We did have some sharp teeth, any one see that movie (The Good Dinosaur) that little guy really chopped away
Comment icon #31 Posted by Sundew 7 years ago
What about seafood? I've eaten raw fish, conch, oysters and so forth. It's not red meat, but it is animal protein and it's not difficult to tackle with human teeth. Except for the conch, which can be like rubber unless it's pounded throughly. And that's a good transition, a human using a rock to remove a limpet or an abalone by smashing it, and then figuring out that by beating it with a rock, it not only let you get the food, but tenderize it too. But humans could have transitioned between seafood and red meat, using methods practiced on seafood.
Comment icon #32 Posted by Gingitsune 7 years ago
Inuits have been eating raw stuff for millenia. Fishes, but also seal, birds, moose, reindeer, whales. Here's an article: http://discovermagazine.com/2004/oct/inuit-paradox
Comment icon #33 Posted by CJ1983 7 years ago
I've eaten raw meat, it's not that hard. My guess is the guy who wrote this didn't try very hard. You have to enjoy the feel and taste of raw fresh meat. I don't suggest large amounts to those who may be curious. I just like to take a couple bites from fresh hunting kills, depending on the animal anyway. Deer is best followed by bison.
Comment icon #34 Posted by GiganticManchild 7 years ago
Where there's a will there's a way :3


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