NEW YORK (AP) — If you’re cooking a meal for Thanksgiving or just showing up to feast, you’re part of a long human history — one that’s older than our own species.
Some scientists estimate our early human cousins may have been using fire to cook their food almost 2 million years ago, long before Homo sapiens showed up.
And a recent study found what could be the earliest known evidence of this rudimentary cooking: the leftovers of a roasted carp dinner from 780,000 years ago.
Cooking food marked more than just a lifestyle change for our ancestors. It helped fuel our evolution, give us bigger brains — and later down the line, would become the centerpiece of the feasting rituals that brought communities together.
“The story of human evolution has appeared to be the story of what we eat,” said Matt Sponheimer, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who has studied the diets of early human ancestors.
The new study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, is based on material from Gesher Benot Ya’aqov in Israel — a watery site on the shores of an ancient lake.
Artifacts from the area suggest it was home to a community of Homo erectus, an extinct species of early humans that walked upright, explained lead author Irit Zohar of Tel Aviv University.