THE FIRST SUPPER
In Book Two we will cover the origins of our own species, Homo Sapiens in Africa around t wo to three hundred thousand years ago and continue all the way to the present, the here and now--covering three major eras of our existence along the way, The Paleolithic when we were hunting and gathering (aka foraging), and The Neolithic when we were domesticating both plants and animals and The Modern, when large organizations, such as governments and corporations started to supply our food. While the previous book covered mostly biological evolution--that is, underlying changes to DNA and genetic expression--this book will cover both our biological and cultural evolution. As for biological evolution, we did change substantially in most ways as we evolved from Erectus into Sapien; for example, our brains became larger and our faces different. But at that point we stabilized as one species, that is, as Homo Sapien. But its important to note that, while we may have stopped evolving in some senses collectively as one species, we nontheless continued to evolve as seperate groups. Or
in other words, while starting to inhabit various ecosystems, humans began to evolve unique and subtle traits the distinguished them from other humans who inhabited different ecosystems.
But once we then stablized as one species as the smartest animal on earth (with the possible exception of Neanderthalis), we started to evolve through an entirely different mechanism altogether, called cultural evolution--that is, with our greater intelligence, we could adapt to our environment through merely thinking and innovation--sometimes in the flash of one insight--which we could then hand down to our children--thus perpetuating them.
--evolution from Erectus into Sapien
At the end of the previous book, we covered the Hominoid that preceeded us in our evolution, Homo Erectus. Even though Erectus is seperated from the chimps by millions of years of evolution, he nontheless continued many of the same trends as the chimps. For example, both were diverse feeders, instead of specialists, concentrating on many different plant and animal foods. They also both got the bulk of their fuel for ATP from sugars. But while chimps got nearly all that fuel from fruit, Erectus got more of it from starches from tubers, sedges and seeds, showing the trend towards our own love of starch. Meanwhile, too, Erectus got less of his fuel from the fermentation of fibers, from organic acids in other words; and maybe bit more of his fuel from the best source around--that is, fatty acids. While the chimps got most of their protein from leaves, Erectus got more of his protein from animals. But when either Erectus or Chimps consumed animals, they tended to show preference for the fatty acids on these animals--even though these animals contained little fat overall.
But most importantly of all, Erectus departed from the chimp, because of his greater intelligence which he used to better process his food, through cutting, grinding and cooking and other means, making the food less toxic, easier to digest, and more biochemically energetic. Or in other words, by the time our line of evolution reached Homo Erectus, we have already evolved many of the major foodways that define us as humans--but our physical evolution was by no means complete.
Which raises one interesting question? What changed in our foodways that contributed to our evolution into Homo Sapien from Erectus, if anything. Surprisingly, even though this jump in our evolution happened relatively recently, scientists generally have little hard or soft evidence, or even theories, to explain our final stage of evolution--but as you may have guessed, I do.
It does appear that, following the same pattern as always, climate was the impetus for our transition into human. As we have already noted, Africa, for the previous seven millions years, was overall becoming increasingly dry and open but at the same time, within this overall change, the climate, for the previous 700k years, was fluctuating between periods of Glacial and Interglacials. Because of the frequency of these fluctuations, many animals could not adapt and evolve fast enough--and therefore became extinct. But Erectus had one powerful adaptation not available to the rest of the animal kingdom--that is, our intelligence, which we could use to adapt to our environment faster; in other words, as the climate was changing back and forth quite frequently, most animals could not adapt morphologically fast enough but Erectus, on the other hand, could just think his way through the changes, so to speak. But prior to our emergence as Homo Sapien, earth entered into another Glacial Maximum which was so intense that it appears that much of Africa became mostly one vast desert, creating another crisis in foodways for even someone as intelligent as Erectus--and as we all know, its typically crisis in foodways that leads to evolution.
--animal fat causes evolution
In this scenario, with Africa becoming more desert-like, we could imagine many of the plant foods upon which Erectus relied for energy, like fruits, tubers, sedges and grass seeds, became more scarce or disspeared altogether. Meanwhile, too, he was competing more agressively with other animals for these same sources. While he could still possibly acquire enough animal for his protein because of his superior hunting skills, these animals would have been even more lean in these hotter conditions--therefore not providing meaningful amounts of fats for any energy. And ultimately, this all caused most of the Erectus, and even the Hominoids that preceeded him, to become extinct because there was just not enough of the refined food in Africa anymore to feed them--despite their greater intelligence.
But they did not all become extinct. Throughout our line of evolution, we tendended to gather next to water, lakes and rivers and maybe even coastlines for obvious reasons. As Africa became dryer, Erectus probably gathered more desperately around these watery environments--even while they were shrinking more. But even then they still could not find enough of their refined foods to sustain them. In more physiological or chemical terms, even if they could hunt enough lean animals to provide them with protein, they could not acquire enough fuel for ATP, either from glucose, organic acids or fatty acids, to give them energy for the business of survival. This, of course, created the crisis in their foodways--that is, starvation--which, as we know, creates the spark of our evolution.
As we have already seen, animals sometimes evolve backwards, so speak, to adapt to their environment. In this particular case, Erectus could have de-evolved in some sense; for example, they could have started eating rougher foods like leaves and grasses and evolved a gut more like a horse or even cow; and as such, they would have had less nutrional energy and would have therefore shrunk his brain. But instead they became more complex, more intelligent--which essentially means, in the established pattern of primate evolution, that they would need to make their diet even more refined--even while all of their favorite and more refined plants foods were dissapearing. And if that is indeed the case, then where did Erectus not only get his fuel for ATP in this environment; where did he get even better fuel for ATP to allow his brain to become larger and more powerful?
As we already know, though, one food of all, one nutrient of all, provides by far the greatest amount of fuel for ATP--that is, fatty acids. So for this reason and many others, it make sense to believe that this change in our foodways--the addition of larger amounts of fatty acids--was the kicker into evolution as humans. But where might that fat have come from?
--The hippo and fat on animals
Interestingly enough, along these lakes and rivers, was one of the best sources of fatty acids or nurtioinal fuel in all of Africa--the mighty and fatty Hippopatumus. Previous in our existence in Africa, as mentioned, we did not have much access to fatty animals because they typically do not exist in warm environments. For example, animals became fat primarily for three reasons: for flotation, for insulation and for calories to survive long, freezing winters. Otherwise, animals do not want to become fat because it prevents the dissipation of heat, requires more energy for locomotion and slows them down, making them more susceptible to predators. Or said in simpler terms, the environment in which we evolved, which included jungles and savannas, contain few if any large and fatty animals to provide fuel for ATP to hominoids--even while Hominoids were preferring that fat when it was available in the form of marrow and brains. From time to time I hunt, clean and butcher deer in Alabama and even in that more temperate environment, I am lucky to get one or two handfuls of fat usually from around their spine, amidst the huge chunks of lean meat. Furthermore, the animals that we buy at the Grocery Store, like cow, chicken and pig, are otherwise extremely lean in their natural and wild state and, as such, are intentionally fattened through modern agriculture to make them contain the greater fat that we so obviously prefer.
In any case, Africa and most of our evolution was devoid of large, fatty animals with one exception--that is,
the Hippo. But in Africa the Hippo was the anomalie; because he needed fat for flotation in lakes and rivers, he tended to collect radically more fat as compared to other animals and in fact he is even categorized as an aquatic animal in the same category as dolphins and whales. Since hippos are probably the most dense form of nutrients in all of Africa or in other words, the tastiest meal around for all predators from lions to hyenas, they also evolved to become the most well-defended: for starters they are huge, weighing over 3k pounds and they can also simultaneously charge on open ground and stomp any creature into smithereens and slink away into the water, out of reach. Furthermore, they have thick layers of skin, and thicker layers of fat, to protect them from punctures from fangs and claws and stone tips. And they are known as one of the most agressive and dangerous animals in all Africa, responsible for maulings of many humans in Africa today.
For this reason, though Hippos lived concomitant with all Hominoids, they were probably rarely killed and eaten because the risks were just too great; even Erectus did not have the intelligence, tools, cooperation and courage for this task and, likewise, Hippo bones were only found once with Erectus--at least to my knowledge. Furthermore Erectus probably did not have the physiology to systematically digest larger amounts of fats, as he was adapted over millions of years to get the bulk of his fuel from glucose and fructose and fermentation of fiber.
So we can easily imagine this scenario, that, as Erectus gathered around waterways, while all of Africa was becoming too desert-like to provide him with enough plant foods for his energy, he was staring and salivating, so to speak, from the riverbanks and lakesides at this animal, which, with one kill, could not only provide him with more protein than he could ever consume, but most importantly, with enough fat to feed his tribe for months. The hippo was truly the motherload, the feast of early man. But nonthless Erectus could not kill the animal--nor either neccesarily utilize that amount of fat for their nutrition.
So my contention is that, as we evolved from Erectus into Sapien, we adapted the intelligence, cooperation and courage, and the concommitant tools, to be able to kill the Hippo. When considering the skills needed, we can consider Hippo hunting in more recent times, finding that, indeed, this particular hunt requires more advanced skills, coordination and timing that only humans could accomplish. For example, Hippos were typically hunted in crude boats while they were in the water, with harpoons attached to ropes and the process took considerable time to complete and involved considerable calculation and danger. Sometimes, Hippos were trapped in huge, spear-laden pits--and even poisoned. If Hippos or animal fat in general was part of our evolution, we too would need to evolve the physiology to digest larger amounts of animal fat.
We actually have considerable hard, soft and theoretical evidence for this claim. For example, we have few fossils of early Homo Sapien, probably due to the fact that not many of us existed back then because of the harshness of the environment. But when we do find these fossils, they seem to be only in areas that either provided Hippos or other fatty mammals. For example, in what is currently Ethiopia in eastern Africa, we have found two fossils of perhaps the earliest Homo Sapiens on record, the Idaltu. Though not everyone neccesarily considers them Sapiens, their brains were as large or larger than our own. Their fossils were found in areas that both now and back then contain lakes and rivers, full of hippos and, among their fossils, we find what we have never found before with other Hominoids (except for that one occassion previouisly mentioned)--the butchered bones of hippos that, more or less, proved that they were eating these animals. Its important to note in passing, too, that the fatty acids ratios of hippos mimick exactly the ratios of the animals we as humans ate in later times like reindeer, sheep.
We also have another form of evidence, for this theory around animal fat, with the Klassies--who lived thousands of miles away, completely isolated from the Idaltu, in caves along the coastline--and their sites have been extensively excavated and studied. From multiple forms of evidence, we know that they ate both marine and terrestial animals--and most likely tubers and other plants from the interior. Its conceivable, too, that they could have survived reasonably well on lean sea-food, like fish and shellfish, and tubers and other plants, provided those plants were plentiful year round or otherwise preserved--but its ultimately doubtful. Unfortunately we do not have any direct evidence that the Klassies consumed large amounts of animal fats, in the form of the bones of butchered, fatty mammals in their various camps. However, its still likely that they did indeed consume considerable animal fat for several reasons. First of all, seals were likely prolific during the time of their habitation which are not only enormously fatty but also fairly easy to hunt; at the same time one beached whale could have provided enough animal fat for many people for months, if the fat was properly rendered and preserved--which was well within their ability since they used fire. Furthermore, if these animals were used for their fat, its likely that we would not know that because their bones would have been left on the beach or rocks, and washed away, while slabs of fat would have been butchered from them would have been brough back to camp. Furthermore, in more recent times, whenever Homo Sapiens settled along cooler coastlines where fatty animals are available, they are almost aways harvested both for their meat and their fat, which is typically rendered and preserved.
Its also evident that Cro-Magon Man consumed large amounts of animal fats. For the first two hundred thousand years or so that we existed in Africa, our population evidently stayed small due to the harshness of the environment; in fact, on a couple of occassions, we were close to extinction. So our next real evidence of early man is not Africa, but central and southern Europe tens of thousands of years later, with Cro-Magon man who lived their during the Ice Age. During this time great herds of millions of reindeer migrated just below the glaciers: given that these animals had to survive long, arctic winters, they stored enormous amounts of fat, especially in the Fall. And as you might expect, one site after another typically confirms that Cro-Magnon preferred the reindeer over other sources of prey and even shattered their bones for the marrow within--and its likely that the fat of these animals was one of the staples of their diet and helped them survive through the six months of winter or longer when they could probably not leave their habitations. In fact, it appears that these and other animals provided enough nutrition to allow Homo Sapien to sustain himself over tens of thousands of years, sometimes in arctic condition, and even manage to proliferate in their population at least at certain times over the course of about forty thousand years or so.
Even though I made the contention that our evolution was tied specifically to the Hippo, because it seems like the most obvious source of animal fat, I think its possible that our evolution was tied to another source of animal fat or even plant fat--perhaps even to marine animals that carry more fat in the cooler waters around certain parts of Africa during certain times of the climate cycles. Furthermore, its important to note that if we humans really evolved around coastlines, we would not neccesarily know that, because all those coastlines are currently many feet under the water--and even far out to sea relative to our coastlines today.
--Defense of Fat
The scientific community may not like this theory, not because it's wrong, but because it contradicts the decades of jargon around the lipid hypothesis--the idea that animal fat contributes and even causes heart disease. If that is indeed the case, then I would admit its unlikely that we were designed by evolution to consume it. But as I will present in this book, the evidence for the lipid hypotheis is weak in every form as most of the researchers acknowledge at this point--but the idea continues to proliferate if only because it helps the pharmaceuticals continue to push their statins for billions in revenue. Meanwhile the case for animal fat, as part of the indigeouns diet of mankind, is rather overwhelming. First, as already mentioned, it would provide superior fuel by many multiples for ATP to help us run our more complex bodies and brains--even though brains do not feed from fatty acids but glucose, this effect would still occur for more complicated reasons that I will explain later.
But perhaps, most importantly of all, fat, and animal fat, may be the most powerful nutrients in our diet because it provide, per measurement, about five times the amount of ATP as the glucose and organic acids of our Hominoid ancestor; or said in simpler terms, it provides us with much greater energy. And at the same time, it provides us with the individual fatty acids we need to maintain many of the most vital tissues in our body, including our brain. As we have seen already: throughout our line of evolution, it appears that as we evolved from one Hominoid to another, we adapted to eat not only different nutrients, but better nutrients--ones that essentially provided greater ATP while requiring less ATP--and that, in turn, in one complicated set of dynamics explained later, allowed us not only to power our energetically demanding brains but also to maintain our higher metabolism. (also competition).....Neanderthalis
Secondly, we ourselves are made of animal fat; our body-fat and structural fat is way more similiar to the animals we consume than any plants we eat. Thirdly our line of evolution has preferred animal fat for millions of years: our common ancestor showed preference for the fattier parts of the animals they killed, such as marrow and brains; and our line of evolution showed this same prefernce, as witnessed by the trails of bones shattered for the marrow within. And ever since we arrived in our current form as man, we have shown great preference for fatty animals, both in Paleolithic as well as Neolithic times--all the way into modern times--this despite, being told that its unhealthy for us. In our grocery stores today, we are not buying lean animals that resemble the ones found in the wilds in warm or even temperate environments; rather we consume animals that have been intentionally fattened to resemble the Hippo and Arctic animals, through special feeding and captitivty, to make them more appealing to our tastes. But most of all, we are clearly designed through evolution to consume animal fat; as we shall see in our intricate discussion on human foodways and physiology, which I will adress promptly, we are clearly, in every way, designed to detect, gather, process, digest and utlize all of its nutrients--even large amounts of it.
Furthermore, if you asked the question, what appears to seperate Homo Sapien, in his foodways, from all the other Hominoids the preceeded him from the common ancestor to Erectus, the answer would be: that though we all showed preference for animal fat, we humans are the only species who are enabled to consume larger amounts of it because it simply was not available to other Hominoids, including Erectus. But before you think you have finally grocked the meaning of this book, and are ready to commence with your diet of your beloved bacon, butter and lard, bear with me because our nutrition, in total, is way more complicated than something so simple.
--the fat paradox: not all societies consumed
However, this theory as we shall see is paradoxical and problematic due to the fact that many Homo Sapiens, as they scattered across the globe, did not consume much animal fats because they inhabited regions where it was just not available, such as tropical grasslands, rain forests and even deserts. In fact, some settled in places where all forms of fats were scarce, such as the Aborignees of Australia. So how do we explain this paradox--that animal fats allowed us to evolve, but yet some cultures of humans can live without much of it? You perhaps can start to guess the answer to that questions but before I attempt the answer myself, I first want us to look at the nature of our evolution overall as well as the different types of Paleolithic Homo Sapien diets that existed--and only then, will we return to answer that complicated question that may create some political turmoil.