“Our ancestors likely began acquiring a taste for fat 4 million years ago, which explains why we crave it today,” says Jessica Thompson, the paper’s lead author and an anthropologist at Yale University. “The reservoirs of fat in the long bones of carcasses were a huge calorie package on a calorie-poor landscape. That could have been what gave an ancestral population the advantage it needed to set off the chain of human evolution.”
Thompson, who recently joined Yale’s faculty, completed the paper while on the faculty at Emory University.
While focusing on fat over meat may seem like a subtle distinction, the difference is significant, Thompson says. The nutrients of meat and fat are different, as are the technologies required to access them. Meat eating is traditionally paired with the manufacture of sharp, flaked-stone tools, while obtaining fat-rich marrow only required smashing bones with a rock, Thompson notes.
The authors review evidence that a craving for marrow could have fueled not just a growing brain size, but the quest to go beyond smashing bones with rocks to make more sophisticated tools and to hunt large animals.
“That’s how all technology originated — taking one thing and using it to alter something else,” Thompson says. “That’s the origin of the iPhone right there.”Paper. (paywall) – Jessica C. Thompson, Susana Carvalho, Curtis W. Marean, Zeresenay Alemseged. Origins of the Human Predatory Pattern: The Transition to Large-Animal Exploitation by Early Hominins. Current Anthropology, 2019; 000 DOI: 10.1086/701477
Also ketchup. Okay, okay, we made that one up. But just wait …
None of these explanations can explain what they set out to: How did the capacity for reason develop? Many life forms wish to hunt large animals but do not develop sophisticated tools and throwing skills as a result. Naturalism (nature is all there is), often called “materialism,” will—one senses—always be stuck in this rut and never recognize it as a rut.
See also: Human evolution: The war of trivial explanations
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