Early humans: They ate boiled fish 780,000 years ago

Science 780,000 years ago

Even early humans ate boiled fish

PLEASE NOTE: EMBARGO UNTIL NOVEMBER 14, 5:00 PM.  - HANDOUT - An illustration of hominids exploiting and cooking Luciobarbus longiceps (large barb, Cyprinidae) on the shores of Hula paleo lake (illustration by Ella Maru) NOTE: Free for editorial use only in connection with reporting on the study as credit is given : University of Tel Aviv Photo: University of Tel Aviv urn_binary_dpa_com_20090101_221111-99-478892-FILED

Fish was probably the first food cooked and priced by early humans.

Source: ake Hula Illustration by Ella Maru/Tel Aviv University

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Cooking is one of the ancient cultural techniques. However, it is unclear when our ancestors consciously prepared food with heat. One of the first hot dishes may have been boiled fish.

fPeople probably already ate boiled fish about 780,000 years ago. This is the result of research into finds at the Gesher Benot Ya’aqov excavation site near the former Lake Hula in the Jordan Valley in northern Israel. Discovered fish teeth show microstructures that indicate controlled heating to 200 to 500 degrees Celsius.

The study by an international research group led by Irit Zohar of Tel Aviv University has been published in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution”. It is not entirely clear how the fish was cooked exactly.

“These new findings not only demonstrate the importance of freshwater habitats and the fish they contained in the diet of prehistoric humans, but also illustrate their ability to control fire to prepare food,” says Zohar.

Fish from the Jordan

The finds also showed that early humans understood the benefits of cooking fish for consumption. While fish can be eaten raw, previous research has shown that cooked fish is more nutritious, safer to eat and easier to digest.

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At the excavation site, which was determined to be 780,000 years old, the scientists discovered thousands of pharyngeal teeth typical of carp. They could assign the teeth to different types. were particularly common Luciobarbus longiceps and Carasobarbus canis represented, both from the Jordaan.

The site was unlike any other where researchers found bones, skulls and other remains of numerous fish. No other remains were present at the site of the pharyngeal teeth, so it is very unlikely that it was a place where fish died of natural causes.

The heat of the fire has left its mark

The research team used a previously developed method to find out whether the fish to which the pharyngeal teeth belonged had been cooked or burnt. To do this, they performed a crystal structure analysis using X-rays. The enamel of the pharyngeal teeth contains small structures that change in length depending on the temperature they are exposed to.

In the 18 to 23 nanometer (millionth of a millimeter) length range, the teeth are heated to 200 to 500 degrees, which corresponds to early forms of boiling (without water). At more than 23 nanometers, the researchers assume that the fish will burn.

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The deformation, which is greater at lower temperatures than at high temperatures, also indicates a controlled use of the fire’s heat. The scientists also found small pieces of burnt flint, suggesting a hearth, perhaps an earthen oven.

Acheulean culture

“We don’t know exactly how the fish was prepared, but since there is no evidence that it was exposed to high temperatures, it is clear that it was not cooked directly on the fire and was not thrown on the fire as waste or material. to be burned,” said Jens Najorka of the Natural History Museum in London, a co-author of the study.

Based on other finds discovered at the excavation site, archaeologists attribute the site to the Acheulean culture. “This is another in a series of discoveries regarding the great intellectual capacities of the Acheulean hunter-gatherers active in the ancient region of the Hula Valley,” explains Naama Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a other author of the study.

The Acheulean culture, with their double-edged hand axes, is often associated with Homo erectus. However, other early human species, such as Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Homo ergaster, are also possible causative agents.

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