Portfolio > The Quest for Food: Excerpts

Primate Diets
Control of Fire 
Luring Prey
Wetland Foods
Periglacial Steppe
Sub-arctic Habitat
Marine Resources
Buffalo Hunters
Sago Harvesting
Firing Woodlands
Preserved Foods
Keeping Account

All illustrations by the author Ivan Crowe

Control of Fire

Homo erectus may have been the first hominids to use fire. The control of fire not only helped these early humans to keep warm and keep dangerous animals at bay, it also meant they could cook their food. This was of profound significance as many otherwise toxic plants can be made edible and more palatable by cooking, This vastly extended the range of plant foods available to those Homo erectus populations who had fire and allowed them to survive in regions where previously insufficient food resources were available. Cooking also helps preserve food and the action of heat by breaking down membranes and cell walls releases additional nutrients that would otherwise remain locked up in the foods eaten. In particular it is thought that the increase in brain size that occurred with Homo erectus may have been fuelled by these extra nutrients the cooking of plant foods made available. Cooking also made many foods more tender, which would have helped young and old alike: reducing infant mortality and increasing longevity.