If you've been following the study of human prehistory for awhile, you may have been struck by the sheer weight of complexity and controversy. No one can split hairs like a paleoscientist and no discipline seems so murky and incomprehensible. But every now and then someone comes up with an idea that brings clarity to our ancient past. This is precisely what we find in Richard Wrangham's new book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. Once you read it, you'll be struck by the tremendous power of his explanation. For Wrangham, the pivotal movement in human history came when our ancestors first began to heat food by the fire. Suddenly, our food became far more nutritious and gave us a tremendous survival edge. Not only were cooking tribes more likely to survive, but they now had to put less energy into digestion. This allowed for bigger brains and in turn, a positive feedback loop of better food gathering, better hunting and better cooking. Over thousands of generations, cooking allowed us to evolve from modest scavengers and gatherers into the intellectual super-predators that we are today.
This book is fascinating.