Adventures in Eating: Prehistoric Eats
Rosemarie | January 1985
I just finished reading Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear. An unusual and interesting novel on Prehistoric man. In her story, written after considerable research, she gives a glimpse of how the Cave Man (Peking Man) might have thought and behaved, what he ate, how he hunted, and the social consciousness and interaction within their society.
This directed me to search further into the area of food used by prehistoric man. Since our tummies need a rest, and none of us need to eat for the next month, I am taking you off the hook – no recipe – no cooking. This brief overview will give you “food for thought”.
Scientists generally accept the fact that anywhere from 3 to 40 million years ago, the ape to man change was set in motion by a shortage of eggs, nestlings, and fruit, which drove the ape down from the trees to forage in the grasslands. It was then he realized that meat existed in the form of lizards, porcupine, tortoises, squirrels, etc. and even plump insects and grubs.
About a million years ago, when icy climatic conditions occurred, man had to adapt not only to temperature but to accompanying change in food plants and animals. It wasn’t until about half a million years ago that he (Peking man) became capable of hunting large animals such as buffalo and rhinoceros.
Their main weapon was a sling. Together with certain stones that were fashioned into a cutting instrument, Peking man was fully equipped to hunt. The large animal hunts began by tracking the quarry, managing to single out one of the herd, confusing it, and surrounding it. The slings were then used to stun the animal while the bravest man of the tribe ran up with his sharp stone and cut the tendons in the legs of the animal. In a short time the animal fell, and blows to the head finished their work. Blood was drained, and drunk by all. It was a favorite and a good source of protein!
The women did not hunt, but were ready to dress the animal and prepare the meat for drying. It is believed that Peking man was the first to discover fire and use it for cooking. The backyard barbecue is here to stay!
Between 10,000 BC and 3,000 BC with the influence of warm winds, great fields of wild grain appeared in the areas of the Near East. Man soon learned that he could plant the seeds of these wild grains and not have to totally depend on where the wild growths occurred. His food source and taste changed drastically. Farming and cultivation was now a part of man’s way of life and was instrumental in bringing about a population explosion.
Now I know who to blame for my insatiable love for whole grain bread. More some other time.
Happy New Year!