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Mar 22nd, 2007, 08:37 AM
Were early humans vegetarian?

Meat eating & human evolution: a review of research into diet and evolution (http://veg.ca/content/view/285/113/)

(From www.veg.ca)

Mar 22nd, 2007, 08:42 AM
The Diet of Early Humans
Vegetarianism and Archaeology

Derek Wall examines the "mighty hunter" myth of human ancestry

(from The Vegetarian, September/October 1988, published by The Vegetarian Society UK) (http://www.ivu.org/history/early/archaeology.html)

Mar 23rd, 2007, 11:46 PM
The last bit of research I read a few years ago was that today's humans can only have decended from two ancestors.

One was e Austrolopithicus man who was vegetarian and a e homotype that was omnivorous - probably moving onto meat rather than have developed from eating it.

Meat eaters will argue that we are descended from apes - 'just look at our teeth' - which of course look nothing like an animals but a lot of people associate apes as meat eaters (not true - look at a Gorilla).

May 11th, 2007, 12:30 AM
yes they were

May 17th, 2007, 08:58 AM
According to an article i viewed (maybe wikipedia, i forget), the first civilization at Mesopotania, came from 3 separte distinct group/tribes. One was a vegetarian farming community, the other of fisherman on the coastline, and the third nomadic herdsman rasing sheep/goats. No, i'm not sure that the article stated the vegetarian farmers were first.:p

Sep 10th, 2007, 08:50 AM
On BBC website proposing that meat is not the reason for our evolutionary success.


Sep 10th, 2007, 10:05 AM
I saw that just now and came here to post it :) That's really interesting. So it was potatoes? I'd really like to find out more about this, anyone know of any good reading?

There's a link on the right hand side to us only stomaching milk in the last couple of thousand years, but that's old news.

Sep 10th, 2007, 10:38 AM
I knew chips were good for us :D

Sep 10th, 2007, 11:17 AM
Interesting, thanks.

The idea I find the most convincing is the one about its being our adaptability to different diets in different environments that led to our evolutionary success, rather than our consumption of any one food.

Sep 10th, 2007, 08:53 PM
Hooray! That research was done at my school (UC-Santa Cruz)!

Go Banana Slugs!

Mar 22nd, 2008, 02:47 PM
I've spent some time trying to find some good books about human evolution. It's not easy.

There's a book called The Dawn of Human Evolution, which suggests that the earliest stone tool makers used their tools to add animal products to their (mainly vegetarian) diet around 2.5 million years ago. (Other sources claim that the first tools weren't used to add animal products, but to prepare plants and dig in the earth.)

Then there's another book, The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans, which looks interesting, which covers what they believe happened with these species over a period of 7 million years. It's from 2007, which makes it more interesting than books that are only 10 years older, since new findings that shred new light on the human evolution is quite common. (The only people who seem to think that they 100% of what there is to know about human evolution are meat eaters trying to convince vegans to eat meat. ;) )

One book that looks interesting is The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment, by Paul and Anne Erlich. It's not out yet, so it's probably quite updated when it's available. Here's what Amazon writes about this book:

In humanity’s more than 100,000 year history, we have evolved from vulnerable creatures clawing sustenance from Earth to a sophisticated global society manipulating every inch of it. In short, we have become the dominant animal. Why, then, are we creating a world that threatens our own species? What can we do to change the current trajectory toward more climate change, increased famine, and epidemic disease?

Renowned Stanford scientists Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich believe that intelligently addressing those questions depends on a clear understanding of how we evolved and how and why we’re changing the planet in ways that darken our descendants’ future. The Dominant Animal arms readers with that knowledge, tracing the interplay between environmental change and genetic and cultural evolution since the dawn of humanity. In lucid and engaging prose, they describe how Homo sapiens adapted to their surroundings, eventually developing the vibrant cultures, vast scientific knowledge, and technological wizardry we know today.

But the Ehrlichs also explore the flip side of this triumphant story of innovation and conquest. As we clear forests to raise crops and build cities, lace the continents with highways, and create chemicals never before seen in nature, we may be undermining our own supremacy. The threats of environmental damage are clear from the daily headlines, but the outcome is far from destined. Humanity can again adapt—if we learn from our evolutionary past.

The Complete World of Human Evolution is interesting too. From the book description:

Human domination of the earth is now so complete that it is easy to forget how recently our role in the history of the planet began: the earliest apes evolved around twenty million years ago, yet Homo sapiens has existed for a mere 150,000 years. In the intervening period, many species of early ape and human have lived and died out, leaving behind the fossilized remains that have helped to make the detailed picture of our evolution revealed here.

This exciting, up-to-the-minute account is divided into three accessible sections. "In Search of Our Ancestors" examines the contexts in which fossilized remains have been found and the techniques used to study them. "The Fossil Evidence" traces in detail the evolution of apes and humans, from Proconsul to the australopithecines, and Homo erectus to the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. The latest fossil finds at major new sites such as Dmanisi in Georgia and Gran Dolina in Spain are appraised, and new advances in genetic studies, including the extraction of DNA from extinct human species, are evaluated. "Interpreting the Evidence" reconstructs and explains the evolution of human behavior, describing the development of tool use, the flourishing of the earliest artists, and the spread of modern humans to all corners of the world.

The First Human: The Race to Discover Our Earliest Ancestors also discuss some of the newest findings, in Chad in 1995 and 2001. From Scientific American:
"Another hominid would not come to light there until 1995, but Brunet’s team found that australopithecine jawbone and then explored much older sites. In 2001 a Chadian student on Brunet’steam unearthed the cranium nicknamed "Toumaï." Formally named Sahelan-thropus tchadensis, it is currently the oldest known hominid skull and pushes the emergence of our evolutionary line as far back as seven million years ago—as Gibbons writes, "so ancient that Brunet said that Toumaï could ‘touch with its finger’ the last ancestor shared by humans and chimpanzees."

And here's what Booklist (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/feature/-/1000027801) writes about the same book:
A writer for Science magazine, Gibbons explains what paleoanthropologists have been doing over the past 15 years: competing, feuding, and making dramatic discoveries. Anchoring her narrative to the anatomy that is the foundation of physical anthropology, Gibbons intentionally emphasizes the personalities involved. Leakeyesque fame is one unspoken prize in field research on human origins, and several scientists acknowledge here their youthful inspiration by Louis and Mary Leakey's careers. One was Don Johanson, celebrated for the "Lucy" fossil discovered in 1974 that reigned temporarily as the oldest human ancestor. From the state of scientific affairs at that time, Gibbons' narrative drives forward the hunt since 1990 for a hominid ancestral to Lucy. Amid the particulars of newly excavated fossils, which include a spectacular skull from Chad that provisionally is the oldest human progenitor at six or seven million years old, Gibbons pointedly dramatizes the field's territorial attitudes toward fossils. Science in the flesh is ever popular, and Gibbons' successful debut marks her as a writer to watch.
It definitely seems true that paleoanthropologists have been competing and feuding...

The Upright Ape by Dr. Aaron G. Filler sticks out from the others:

Sudden abrupt changes in which entirely new types of organisms come into existence almost instantaneously do not fit the model of Modern Evolutionary Theory and the Darwinian model. In this remarkable 288 page book written by Harvard trained evolutionary biologist Aaron Filler, MD, Ph.D.--a student of Stephen Jay Gould and Ernst Mayr--we learn how modern biological evidence finally proves that sudden non-Darwinian evolution has played a major role in a number of major events in the history of life including the origin of humans.

Based on this updated biological information, Dr. Filler re-examines the latest fossil evidence to reveal that the human body form is far more ancient than has been widely accepted--emerging abruptly, apparently due to a Pax gene change--at the time of Morotopithecus 21.6 million years ago. As a consequence, Filler argues, there is now compelling evidence that apes descended from humans and not the other way around.

Then there's Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution, which focus on changes triggered by culture, and less on genes:

Humans are a striking anomaly in the natural world. While we are similar to other mammals in many ways, our behavior sets us apart. Our unparalleled ability to adapt has allowed us to occupy virtually every habitat on earth using an incredible variety of tools and subsistence techniques. Our societies are larger, more complex, and more cooperative than any other mammal's. In this stunning exploration of human adaptation, Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd argue that only a Darwinian theory of cultural evolution can explain these unique characteristics.

Not by Genes Alone offers a radical interpretation of human evolution, arguing that our ecological dominance and our singular social systems stem from a psychology uniquely adapted to create complex culture. Richerson and Boyd illustrate here that culture is neither superorganic nor the handmaiden of the genes. Rather, it is essential to human adaptation, as much a part of human biology as bipedal locomotion. Drawing on work in the fields of anthropology, political science, sociology, and economics—and building their case with such fascinating examples as kayaks, corporations, clever knots, and yams that require twelve men to carry them—Richerson and Boyd convincingly demonstrate that culture and biology are inextricably linked, and they show us how to think about their interaction in a way that yields a richer understanding of human nature.

In abandoning the nature-versus-nurture debate as fundamentally misconceived, Not by Genes Alone is a truly original and groundbreaking theory of the role of culture in evolution and a book to be reckoned with for generations to come.

The Seven Daughters of Eve, by Bryan Sykes:

A discussion of the history of genetics and descriptions of the early landmark work of Sykes and his associates culminate with his finding that 90 percent of modern Europeans are descendents of just seven women who lived 45,000 to 10,000 years ago.

In The Human Odyssey: Four Million Years of Human Evolution
Ian Tattersall writes: "Our first ancestors, both these who lived in the humid forest like Ardipitheus ramidus and those who had begun to exploit the resources of dry woods and clearings like Australopitcheus afarensis, were not hunters but vegetarians. To put it more dramatically, the first hominids did not come down from the trees to become "murder apes", nor was it their taste for meat that prompted them to abandon the forest".

While most books focus on much shorter periods, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body goes a lot further in this book from 2008, in that it also discusses our ancestors' ancestors:

The field of evolutionary biology is just beginning an exciting new age of discovery, and Neil Shubin's research expeditions around the world have redefined the way we now look at the origins of mammals, frogs, crocodiles, tetrapods, and sarcopterygian fish--and thus the way we look at the descent of humankind. One of Shubin's groundbreaking discoveries, only a year and a half ago, was the unearthing of a fish with elbows and a neck, a long-sought evolutionary "missing link" between creatures of the sea and land-dwellers.

Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution from 2002 supports the idea that humans didn't evolve as hunters, but as hunted prey:

This astonishing new interpretation of fossil and living primates reveals that humans evolved not as hunters, but as hunted prey. Although 'Man the Hunter' is a popular description of our ancestry, the central importance of hunting is firmly fixed only in the archaeological record of relatively recent human history. Man the Hunted argues that primates, including the earliest members of the human family, have evolved not as hunters but as the prey of any number of predators, including wild cats and dogs, hyenas, snakes, crocodiles, and even birds of prey. Eyewitness accounts, data collected by the authors, and the published reports of naturalists establish the astonishing extent to which living monkeys, lemurs, apes, and even humans fall victim to a wide variety of predators, some of which even specialize in the consumption of primates. Additionally, the fossil record demonstrates that primates have been prey for millions of years, a fact that necessarily shaped the evolution of our earliest ancestors in body and behaviour.

Seven Million Years: The Story of Human Evolution is out in a new edition (from 2006), but a review (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Seven-Million-Years-Evolution-Phoenix/dp/0753820846/ref=pd_sim_b?ie=UTF8&qid=1206173642&sr=1-1) points at some of the newer findings that more or less aren't mentioned:

Telling the story of seven million years of human evolution in a little over 250 pages inevitably leaves gaps. There was almost no discussion of the exciting events surrounding the discovery of Peking Man, little depth to the analysis of cave painting, and no mention at all of the work of David Lewis Williams in this field. Likewise, the discoveries of Homo floresiensis and the recently extended timeline for both Homeo erectus and the Neanderthals must have surfaced during Palmer's writing of the book. Homo floresiensis is discussed, but Palmer must have wished he had another year or so to delay publication and consider this important find in a deeper research context.

The Origins of Man: An Illustrated History of Human Evolution is from 2007:

"The Origins of Man" gathers the many strands of investigation into our origins - including fossil remains, ancient artefacts, palaeoclimatological evidence from ice cores, genetics and linguistic traces - to offer a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge of our origins. The text is richly supplemented with detailed, specially commissioned cartography, illustrations and photographs. The book begins by setting the scene for our investigation of ourselves as a biological species: What kind of evidence is available, how good is it and how can it be interpreted? Then the extended genealogical search for our ancestry begins - first Dr Palmer describes our most familiar immediate ancestors, then he takes us deeper into the remote and less familiar past. Our relationship to our forebears is described, and the link between us and our primate ancestors is revealed. Finally, perhaps the most remarkable and most puzzling part of our story - our global dispersal beyond Africa, a mere 100,000 years ago - is explored. The motivation behind this diaspora, and it's impact on our world today brings the story of our origin to a close.

Here's a book that takes us 45 million years back: The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey: Unearthing the Origins of Monkeys, Apes, and Humans, and claims that humans emerged in Asia rather than Africa:

Taking us back roughly 45 million years into the Eocene, 'the dawn of recent life', Chris Beard, a world-renowned expert on the primate fossil record, offers a tantalizing new perspective on our deepest evolutionary roots. In a fast-paced narrative full of vivid stories from the field, he reconstructs our extended family tree, showing that the first anthropoids - the diverse and successful group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans - evolved millions of years earlier than was previously suspected and emerged in Asia rather than Africa. In "The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey", Beard chronicles the saga of two centuries of scientific exploration in search of anthropoid origins, from the early work of Georges Cuvier, the father of paleontology, to the latest discoveries in Asia, Africa, and North America's Rocky Mountains. Against this historical backdrop, he weaves the story of how his own expeditions have unearthed crucial fossils - including the controversial primate Eosimias - that support his compelling new vision of anthropoid evolution.
The only book written for a wide audience that explores this remote phase of our own evolutionary history, "The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey" adds a fascinating new chapter to our understanding of humanity's relationship to the rest of life on earth.

A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the "Hobbits" of Flores, Indonesia concentrates on the hominin skeletons found in Flores, Indonesia in 2003.

Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors is discussing our ancestors practiced cannibalism, and also when humans became less violent:

Without becoming overly technical, Wade explains how scientists use the study of DNA to determine when signficant events occurred in human evolution--for example, when humans began to use fully modern language (about 50,000 years ago), the size of the ancestral population of modern humans (as small as 150 people), or when the ancestral population left the African continent (also around 50,000 years ago).

Some of Wade's observations may surprise and trouble many people. Creationists will not be pleased with the book's basic view that Darwin's theory of natural selection is absolutely correct and that it applies to people as well as animals. Others will be troubled by the ideas that our DNA contains evidence that our ancestors practiced cannibalism; that homo sapiens wiped out the Neanderthal and Homo ergaster populations in genocidal warfare that spanned millenia; that hunting and gathering societies are much more warlike than modern, settled ones; that our DNA suggests that humans became more sociable and less violent roughly 15,000 years ago, finally enabling human societies to settle down and begin farming; that human evolution did not stop 10,000 or 50,000 years ago as some have argued, but that it continues down to the present day and will continue into the future (either naturally or artificially); that in rare cases, unusual selection pressures have produced populations that, on average, are either more intelligent or more physcially capable in certain respects than others. Wade handles each of these delicate propositions with care, but some will be disturbed by the implications of what he is saying. (Perhaps that's why E.O. Wilson, in the blurb on the back of the book, praised Wade's "courage and balance.")

"Before the Dawn" is a superb survey of what scientists know (or think they know) about human origins in 2006. But this is a report from the cutting edge of genetics and paleoanthropology, so stay tuned for further developments.

Finally, The Human Story: Where We Come from and How We Evolved is from 2007.

These two sentences from the synopsis pretty much sums the current situation up....

Over the past twenty years there has been an explosion of species' names in the story of human evolution, due both to new discoveries and to a growing understanding of the diversity that existed in the past.

...which (again) reminds me of my fascination with those meat eaters who claim to have the full overview over human evolution, when it started, what our ancestors ate - and so on. I'm of course not so fascinated by their twisted idea that Homo Sapiens anno 2008 should eat what some of our ancestors ate at some point in history.

Maybe we should just declare ourselves as the next big thing in human evolution - Homo Vegetus? This way we don't need to feel guilty for not practicing the cannibalism some of our ancestors did, not eating meat, not eating the insects our "closest relatives" eat - or because we are not the 'murderer apes' they want us to be...

Sorry for the long introduction. :) Here's the question: Have any of you read any of these books?

Mar 22nd, 2008, 06:28 PM
No, I haven't. I prefer Homo Planticus.

Mar 24th, 2008, 05:07 PM
I have not, but I love discussions of human evolution. I'm really interested in reading "Man the Hunted." I really enjoyed a book called "Ancestors" but I don't remember who wrote it. I can find out later, since it's at home on my shelf. It's probably outdated now, but it's very informative up to it's publication date (early 1990s).

Korn, if you read any of those books, let us know what you think of them.


Apr 5th, 2008, 09:29 AM
I have The Complete World of Human Evolution and Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins (http://www.amazon.com/Smithsonian-Intimate-Guide-Human-Origins/dp/B000VPP8U6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1207381729&sr=8-1) - and have just ordered Man The Hunted.

There are some comments/reviews/discussion about Man The Hunted here:

...and there's all an article about early humans (babies? children?) being hunted by birds - here (http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8F39VDOF&show_article=1).

Some of the conclusions that has been made, especially in the past, about human evolution have been based on assumptions and sparse findings - eg. if they have found one bone or one half scull of one hominid, they (or rather, some) have assumed that if they could find that this person had been eating meat, all our ancestor at all times ate meat. This is of course just as invalid as saying that no humans ever ate fish after the finding a few years ago showing that (to the researches surprise) a person living on the Norwegian coast in the stone age never had been eating fish (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16509).

No modern research on humans as such is based on studying one person only, and there's no reason to assume anything about a specific era in the human evolution based on finding one bone from one person from a period when we know that, say, one million others lived on the earth that we know little or nothing about. The different parts of the world were much more separated from each other back then, and I find it likely that several hominid societies existed in parallel with different lifestyles and eating habits. The most silly thing about our ancestors diet being used as an argument against a vegan lifestyle is of course the fact that "It has not happened before" is never a valid reason to not "let it happen". If humans or our ancestors shouldn't do anything new because our/their ancestors didn't do it, we wouldn't have had art, musical instruments, or boats. So even if some smart guy would provide evidence that none of our ancestors ever lived on a meat free or vegan diet, this wouldn't be a valid reason to not do it today. I'm still kind of eager to find out more about what scientists know - and assume - about the human evolution, especially now when more - and more proper - research slowly is being performed.

I agree that Man The Hunted looks interesting, because researchers have assumed that if they found, say, tools that could be used to kill animals with in an old grave, they were used to kill animals with - for food. Some of the newer literature suggests that the tools they earlier assumed were used for killing was used for digging in the earth, and others write about animals being killed for rituals only; in other words, they were not eaten. This, combined with the need to protect oneself against dangerous, large (now extinct) predators seem to explain some of the tools/weapons that one earlier assumed were used to kill for food.

May 28th, 2008, 10:21 AM
I'm really interested in reading "Man the Hunted."

I have the book now, but haven't had time to read it yet. Meanwhile, here's an article from Washington University/Neil Schoenherr: (http://news-info.wustl.edu/tips/page/normal/4582.html)

'Man the Hunter' theory is debunked in new book

By Neil Schoenherr

Robert W. Sussman presented on the theory of Man the Hunted during "The Origin and Nature of Human Sociality" at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 19 as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Annual Meeting Feb. 16-20 in St. Louis, MO.

You wouldn't know it by current world events, but humans actually evolved to be peaceful, cooperative and social animals.

In his latest book, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis goes against the prevailing view and argues that primates, including early humans, evolved not as hunters but as prey of many predators, including wild dogs and cats, hyenas, eagles and crocodiles.

Despite popular theories posed in research papers and popular literature, early man was not an aggressive killer, argues Robert W. Sussman, Ph.D., professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences.

Sussman's book, "Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators and Human Evolution," poses a new theory, based on the fossil record and living primate species, that primates have been prey for millions of years, a fact that greatly influenced the evolution of early man.

He co-authored the book with Donna L. Hart, Ph.D., a member of the faculty of Pierre Laclede Honors College and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The book is scheduled to be released in late February.

Our intelligence, cooperation and many other features we have as modern humans developed from our attempts to out-smart the predator, says Sussman.

Since the 1924 discovery of the first early humans, australopithicenes, which lived from seven million years ago to two million years ago, many scientists theorized that those early human ancestors were hunters and possessed a killer instinct.

Through his research and writing, Sussman has worked for years to debunk that theory. An expert in the ecology and social structure of primates, Sussman does extensive fieldwork in primate behavior and ecology in Costa Rica, Guyana, Madagascar and Mauritius. He is the author and editor of several books, including "The Origins and Nature of Sociality," "Primate Ecology and Social Structure," and "The Biological Basis of Human Behavior: A Critical Review."

The idea of "Man the Hunter" is the generally accepted paradigm of human evolution, says Sussman, who recently served as editor of American Anthropologist. "It developed from a basic Judeo-Christian ideology of man being inherently evil, aggressive and a natural killer. In fact, when you really examine the fossil and living non-human primate evidence, that is just not the case."

Studying the fossil evidence

And examine the evidence they did. Sussman and Hart's research is based on studying the fossil evidence dating back nearly seven million years. "Most theories on Man the Hunter fail to incorporate this key fossil evidence," Sussman says. "We wanted evidence, not just theory. We thoroughly examined literature available on the skulls, bones, footprints and on environmental evidence, both of our hominid ancestors and the predators that coexisted with them."

Since the process of human evolution is so long and varied, Sussman and Hart decided to focus their research on one specific species, Australopithecus afarensis, which lived between five million and two and a half million years ago and is one of the better known early human species. Most paleontologists agree that Australopithecus afarensis is the common link between fossils that came before and those that came after. It shares dental, cranial and skeletal traits with both. It's also a very well-represented species in the fossil record.

"Australopithecus afarensis was probably quite strong, like a small ape," Sussman says. Adults ranged from around 3 to 5 feet and they weighed 60-100 pounds. They were basically smallish bipedal primates. Their teeth were relatively small, very much like modern humans, and they were fruit and nut eaters.

But what Sussman and Hart discovered is that Australopithecus afarensis was not dentally pre-adapted to eat meat. "It didn't have the sharp shearing blades necessary to retain and cut such foods," Sussman says. "These early humans simply couldn't eat meat. If they couldn't eat meat, why would they hunt?"

It was not possible for early humans to consume a large amount of meat until fire was controlled and cooking was possible. Sussman points out that the first tools didn't appear until two million years ago. And there wasn't good evidence of fire until after 800,000 years ago. "In fact, some archaeologists and paleontologists don't think we had a modern, systematic method of hunting until as recently as 60,000 years ago," he says.

"Furthermore, Australopithecus afarensis was an edge species," adds Sussman. They could live in the trees and on the ground and could take advantage of both. "Primates that are edge species, even today, are basically prey species, not predators," Sussman argues.

The predators living at the same time as Australopithecus afarensis were huge and there were 10 times as many as today. There were hyenas as big as bears, as well as saber-toothed cats and many other mega-sized carnivores, reptiles and raptors. Australopithecus afarensis didn't have tools, didn't have big teeth and was three feet tall. He was using his brain, his agility and his social skills to get away from these predators. "He wasn't hunting them," says Sussman. "He was avoiding them at all costs."

Approximately 6 percent to 10 percent of early humans were preyed upon according to evidence that includes teeth marks on bones, talon marks on skulls and holes in a fossil cranium into which sabertooth cat fangs fit, says Sussman. The predation rate on savannah antelope and certain ground-living monkeys today is around 6 percent to 10 percent as well.

Sussman and Hart provide evidence that many of our modern human traits, including those of cooperation and socialization, developed as a result of being a prey species and the early human's ability to out-smart the predators. These traits did not result from trying to hunt for prey or kill our competitors, says Sussman.

"One of the main defenses against predators by animals without physical defenses is living in groups," says Sussman. "In fact, all diurnal primates (those active during the day) live in permanent social groups. Most ecologists agree that predation pressure is one of the major adaptive reasons for this group-living. In this way there are more eyes and ears to locate the predators and more individuals to mob them if attacked or to confuse them by scattering. There are a number of reasons that living in groups is beneficial for animals that otherwise would be very prone to being preyed upon."

May 28th, 2008, 01:17 PM
In his latest book, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis

That's my alma mater! Guess I have to read it now.

Jul 24th, 2008, 01:07 PM
I just just googled East African diet a bit. The Eastern part of Africa is an area where many researchers seem to agree that is where the first human ancestors were located*.

What I found, and didn't know, was that plant based food is (still?) very common in this area:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuisine_of_Africa :

East Africa

The cuisine of East Africa varies from area to area. In the inland savannah, the traditional cuisine of cattle-keeping peoples is distinctive in that meat products are generally absent. Cattle, sheep and goats were regarded as a form of currency and a store of wealth, and are not generally consumed as food. In some areas, traditional peoples consume the milk and blood of cattle, but rarely the meat. Elsewhere, other peoples are farmers who grow a variety of grains and vegetables. Maize (corn) is the basis of ugali, the East African version of West Africa's fufu. Ugali is a starch dish eaten with meats or stews. In Uganda, steamed, green bananas called matoke provide the starch filler of many meals.
Around 1000 years ago, the Arabs settled in the coastal areas of East Africa, and Arabic influences are especially reflected in the Swahili cuisine of the coast – steamed cooked rice with spices in Persian style, use of saffron, cloves, cinnamon and several other spices, and pomegranate juice.
Several centuries later, the British and the Indians came, and both brought with them their foods, like Indian spiced vegetable curries, lentil soups, chapattis and a variety of pickles. Just before the British and the Indians, the Portuguese had introduced techniques of roasting and marinating, as also use of spices turning the bland diet into aromatic stewed dishes. Portuguese also brought from their Asian colonies fruits like the orange, lemon and lime. From their colonies in the New World, Portuguese also brought exotic items like chilies, peppers, maize, tomatoes, pineapple, bananas, and the domestic pig – now, all these are common elements of East African food.

http://www.sallys-place.com/food/cuisines/africa.htm :

East Africa is huge. Kenya is larger than France; Uganda is the size of the Midwest, they are huge countries with immense plains. The European influence is less, as this side of Africa was last changed by the trade ships. The diet of the East African is again starch based, with millet, sorghum, bananas and milk mostly found as curds and whey. Cornmeal is now such a basic part of African cuisine is hard to believe that it was a new World import.

Home to some of the greatest game preserves, East African cuisine is distinctive for the almost total absence of meat. Cattle, sheep and goats are regarded as more a form of currency, and status, and so are not eaten. The Masai, live almost entirely upon the milk and blood, but not the meat, of their cattle.

Settlers influenced East Africa by importing their cuisine almost in its entirety. The first settlers, were the Arabs, settling in the coastal areas. The many pilaf dishes, rice cooked in the Persian steamed and spiced manner remain. Pomegranate juice, saffron, cloves, cinnamon, all spice East African food; showing the Arabic origins. Eventually, and many centuries later, the British, and their imported workers from India conspired to forever influence the East African diet, including boiled vegetable, and curries.


The African Diet
Throughout Africa, the main meal of the day is lunch, which usually consists of a mixture of vegetables, legumes, and sometimes meat. However, though different meats are considered staples in many areas, many Africans are not able to eat meat often, due to economic constraints. Beef, goat, and sheep (mutton) are quite expensive in Africa, so these foods are reserved for special days. However, fish is abundant in coastal regions and in many lakes.

The combination of various foods is called stew, soup, or sauce, depending on the region. This mixture is then served over a porridge or mash made from a root vegetable such as cassava or a grain such as rice, corn, millet, or teff. Regional differences are reflected in variations on this basic meal, primarily in the contents of the stew. The greatest variety of ingredients occurs in coastal areas and in the fertile highlands. Flavorings and spiciness have varied principally due to local histories of trade. In the traditional African diet, meat and fish are not the focus of a meal, but are instead used to enhance the stew that accompanies the mash or porridge. Meat is rarely eaten, though it is well-liked among carnivorous (meat-eating) Africans.

East Africa
Extensive trade and migrations with Arabic countries and South Asia has made East African culture unique, particularly on the coast. The main staples include potatoes, rice, matake (mashed plantains), and a maize meal that is cooked up into a thick porridge. Beans or a stew with meat, potatoes, or vegetables often accompany the porridge. Beef, goat, chicken, or sheep are the most common meats. Outside of Kenya and the horn of Africa, the stew is not as spicy, but the coastal area has spicy, coconut-based stews. This is quite unique in comparison to the central and southern parts of Africa.

Two herding tribes, the Maasai and Fulbe, have a notably different eating pattern. They do not eat very much meat, except for special occasions. Instead, they subsist on fresh and soured milk and butter as their staples. This is unusual because very few Africans consume milk or dairy products, primarily due to lactose intolerance.

The horn of Africa, which includes modern-day Somalia and Ethiopia, is characterized by its remarkably spicy food prepared with chilies and garlic. The staple grain, teff, has a considerably higher iron and nutrient content than other grain staples found in Africa. A common traditional food here is injera, a spongy flat bread that is eaten by tearing it, then using it to scoop up the meat or stew.


Food in East Africa

People in the inland savannah keep cattle, but cattle heads are regarded as a symbol of wealth, not as food; meat products are notoriously absent from their diet. Sometimes cattle’s milk or blood might be drink, but meat is consumed only on the very odd occasion.

The rest of Eastern Africans rely on grains and vegetables; you will find ugali –a starchy corn based paste similar to polenta- served with soups and stews everywhere. Matoke, a dish of steamed, green bananas, provide the filling base in many of the Ugandan meals.

Swahili cuisine shows Arab influences, particularly at the coast, in their use of saffron, cloves and cinnamon, or their preference for spiced steamed rice and pomegranate juice.

Oranges, lemon, limes, chili peppers, corn, tomatoes, pineapple, and pork meat were introduced by the Portuguese and Spanish from their countries and colonies in Asia and America; they also pioneered the techniques for roasting and marinating meats, ad the use of spices to flavor otherwise bland dishes.

Finally, one can find curries, lentil dishes, chapattis and pickles brought by British and Indian settlers.

So... if you want to try some of the first vegan meals that ever was eaten, maybe there are still some meals/traditions alive that has been around in East Africa for thousands of years.

If plant based food still is so common there, with access to modern weapons - in an area with a lot more people and a lot less wild animals than ever - why would they have eaten a lot more animal based food thousands of years ago. eg. in the period where they either didn't have tools to kill animals and tear their skin apart - or only had primitive tools and weapons, and where one could go in a shop and buy milk or meat from factory animals?

Here's a cookbook:
A Vegan Taste of East Africa (http://www.amazon.com/Vegan-Taste-East-Africa-Cookbooks/dp/1897766971)

*There are several theories about where our ancestors originate from, and while not all agree that they came from Africa, but instead suggest that we have 'multi-regional ancestors', East Africa (and Central+South Africa) is mentioned very often.

Wikipedia on Human Evolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution)

Journey of Mankind (http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/journey/)

Jul 24th, 2008, 01:46 PM

Hunger and Fear
By Rick Gore
Senior Assistant Editor of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine

“You want to eat what your ancestors ate?” Lee Berger is driving across the veld, or grasslands, of South Africa when he stops to ask this question. The ancestors he is talking about did not live last century, nor even within modern memory. They are early hominids.

Without waiting for an answer, Berger opens his door and heads for a cluster of reddish brown termite mounds. A jackal howls in the distance, while zebras nearby snort at our intrusion. Berger licks a long blade of grass and pokes it in one of the larger mounds. He pulls the blade out, laden with termites, and pops a few in his mouth.

“Mmmm, like herbs,” he says, smiling. “They’re good when you’re really hot. They have all this acid in them, and it makes your mouth water. Try one.”

I do. A crunch between the front teeth, a squirt, and an aftertaste I find more astringent than mmmm.

“Our ancestors would have eaten them, just as chimpanzees and some hunter-gatherers still do,” he says. “They’re pretty high in protein.”

His eyes scan the grasslands around us.

“Do you realize how much food is out here—if you aren’t picky?” he says, catching a grasshopper. “Have him. A bit gritty, but chockablock in nutrients.” He rolls over a rock and grimaces at a centipede. “Don’t eat that. It’ll sting the heck out of you,” he cautions before looking under another rock.

“If you really want to understand your ancestors, you’ve got to come to environments like this,” he continues. “Just walking on the veld, they would have encountered all kinds of nutritious things—a field mouse or a bird’s eggs or flying ants. And some of the roots and tubers out here make terrific food.”...

Even in times of plenty, survival for any early hominid was no small challenge. Big cats probably posed the greatest threat, but Berger and a colleague of his at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Ron Clarke, recently identified another predator and in the process may have solved a long-standing murder mystery: the death of the Taung child.

More here: Hunger and Fear (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/outpost/ax/metacontent_fs.html?interpret_f4_fs)

Jul 24th, 2008, 01:54 PM
interesting, thanks.

Jul 24th, 2008, 02:07 PM
Here's another, short quote for people who assume that all humans ancestors always have been eating meat, and that humans only recently has started to explore living on a meat free diet):

"I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it's been".
Wayne Gretzky


Jul 25th, 2008, 08:47 AM
Are Humans Meant to be Omnivores? (http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/dis-arehumans.htm)

An excerpt:

Mr. Pollan seems to satisfy his conscience and do the right thing about three-quarters of the way, and call it even.

Personally I think the "designer" arguments are weak and easily knocked down. Cats have fangs that should make humans ashamed to claim that they do also. A cat's stomach pH would destroy ours. Our intestinal length in proportion to our body is typical for herbivores. And so on.

When we see a bird we may feel communion and awe but not hunger. In fact, to kill an animal because we like the taste of his flesh requires that we harden ourselves, to overcome our natural sympathy and desire to be kind; such "training" unfortunately works against the causes of peace and compassion. On the other hand, when we see a ripe piece of fruit hanging from a tree, our
natural inclination is to bite right into it.

We *can* eat meat, which may help us to survive in lean times, but we don't have to today. The presence of healthy vegans proves that. Therefore the question of what to eat is a moral one. And the answer is to eat as compassionately as we can. And in the West that generally equates to choosing a vegan diet. You reach the same endpoint if considering environmental impact.

"We must eat meat" is a defense mechanism, a way of refusing to admit that we choose to eat meat.

Aug 18th, 2008, 09:37 PM
In a way, it makes sense to assume that the most suitable diet for humans is the diet that makes us perform best.

When looking back in history, where our ancestors had to survive under much more difficult conditions than we have today, the performance aspect was of course a lot more important than it is today.

Here's a little excerpt from michaelblujay.com (http://michaelbluejay.com/veg/natural.html) - including (yet another) quote from John Robbins' Diet from a New America:

Human performance is highest on meat-free diets (http://michaelbluejay.com/veg/natural.html)

Vegetarian and vegan athletes are at the top in their sports. Carl Lewis, the runner, won nine Olympic gold medals. Lewis says that he had his best performance as an athlete after he adopted a vegan diet. (source)

The famed bodybuilder, Andreas Cahling (picture at right), is also vegan. Ditto for former Mr. USA and Mr. America, Jim Morris. (Also see YouTube video from 2007 of Morris, now 72, who is still buff as ever and who still swears by his vegan diet.)

Ruth Heidrich, a vegan Ironman triathlete and marathon runner has racked up more than 700 first-place trophies and set several performance records. She was also named One of the 10 Fittest Women in North America.

Of course it's true that most athletes eat meat, but that's because most people eat meat. Given how well vegetarian athletes perform, meat-eating athletes would undoubtedly perform even better if they ate less animal foods. And while reliable statistics are hard to come by, there is little doubt that athletes in general have been moving towards vegetarianism in large numbers over the past twenty years.

John Robbins wrote in Diet for a New America about how vegetarians have much more stamina and endurance than meat-eaters:

At Yale, Professor Irving Fisher designed a series of tests to compare the stamina and strength of meat-eaters against that of vegetarians. He selected men from three groups: meat-eating athletes, vegetarian athletes, and vegetarian sedentary subjects. Fisher reported the results of his study in the Yale Medical Journal.25 His findings do not seem to lend a great deal of credibility to the popular prejudices that hold meat to be a builder of strength.

"Of the three groups compared, the...flesh-eaters showed far less endurance than the abstainers (vegetarians), even when the latter were leading a sedentary life."26
Overall, the average score of the vegetarians was over double the average score of the meat-eaters, even though half of the vegetarians were sedentary people, while all of the meat-eaters tested were athletes. After analyzing all the factors that might have been involved in the results, Fisher concluded that:

"...the difference in endurance between the flesh-eaters and the abstainers (was due) entirely to the difference in their diet.... There is strong evidence that a...non-flesh...diet is conducive to endurance."27
A comparable study was done by Dr. J. Ioteyko of the Academie de Medicine of Paris.28 Dr. Ioteyko compared the endurance of vegetarian and meat-eaters from all walks of life in a variety of tests. The vegetarians averaged two to three times more stamina than the meat-eaters. Even more remarkably, they took only one-fifth the time to recover from exhaustion compared to their meat-eating rivals.

In 1968, a Danish team of researchers tested a group of men on a variety of diets, using a stationary bicycle to measure their strength and endurance. The men were fed a mixed diet of meat and vegetables for a period of time, and then tested on the bicycle. The average time they could pedal before muscle failure was 114 minutes. These same men at a later date were fed a diet high in meat, milk and eggs for a similar period and then re-tested on the bicycles. On the high meat diet, their pedaling time before muscle failure dropped dramatically--to an average of only 57 minutes. Later, these same men were switched to a strictly vegetarian diet, composed of grains, vegetables and fruits, and then tested on the bicycles. The lack f animal products didn't seem to hurt their performance--they pedaled an average of 167 minutes.29

Wherever and whenever tests of this nature have been done, the results have been similar. This does not lend a lot of support to the supposed association of meat with strength and stamina.

Doctors in Belgium systematically compared the number of times vegetarians and meat-eaters could squeeze a grip-meter. The vegetarians won handily with an average of 69, whilst the meat-eaters averaged only 38. As in all other studies which have measured muscle recovery time, here, too, the vegetarians bounced back from fatigue far more rapidly than did the meat-eaters.30

I know of many other studies in the medical literature which report similar findings. But I know of not a single one that has arrived at different results. As a result, I confess, it has gotten rather difficult for me to listen seriously to the meat industry proudly proclaiming "meat gives strength" in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Aug 19th, 2008, 07:40 AM
For me, the 'designed to' the 'meant to' and all the other such arguments are pointless. It's pretty much the 'might makes right' argument repackaged, that because we can eat meat, we should. That same argument would say that humans should bludgeon each other to death with crowbars (we tend to have hands, and often access to crowbars, therefore humans must be designed to randomly bludgeon each other with crowbars). Regardless of if we can beat each other over the head with blunt objects, I'd think most of us agree that we shouldn't.

Note: this assumes that the person making the 'designed for' argument does agree that randomly bludgeoning each other with crowbars is not mankind's preferred state. Should the other person not subscribe to such a belief, I'd recommend against getting into a debate in general.

Aug 19th, 2008, 08:04 AM
It's pretty much the 'might makes right' argument repackaged, that because we can eat meat, we should. That same argument would say that humans should bludgeon each other to death with crowbars

The original post in this thread was from a Christian organization, and here's something I found on jewishveg.com (http://www.jewishveg.com/schwartz/natural.html):

That our natural instinct is not toward flesh food is stated by R. H. Wheldon:

The gorge of a cat, for instance, will rise at the smell of a mouse or a piece of raw flesh, but not at the aroma of fruit. If a man can take delight in pouncing upon a bird, tear its still living body apart with his teeth, sucking the warm blood, one might infer that Nature had provided him with carnivorous instinct, but the very thought of doing such a thing makes him shudder. On the other hand, a bunch of luscious grapes makes his mouth water, and even in the absence of hunger, he will eat fruit to gratify taste.[5)]

Nov 27th, 2008, 02:21 PM
we evolved the ability to eat certain things and in a modern light, we may choose to see this ability bestowed by evolution as right or wrong. it's possible that we could see it as granting us advantage over creatures locked into a single diet or food source. while eating animals isn't nice, imo, when one adopts a short term view- I can accept the merits of an omnivorous argument that sees an evolutionary advantage within cross species competition over a (evolutionary speaking) short term