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Did Cooking Make Us Human?

Horizon examines the evidence that our ancestors' changing diet and mastery of fire prompted anatomical and neurological changes that took us out of the trees and into the kitchen.

We are the only species on earth that cooks its food - and we are also the cleverest species on the planet. The question is: do we cook because we're clever and imaginative, or are we clever and imaginative because our ancestors discovered cooking?

Horizon examines the evidence that our ancestors' changing diet and their mastery of fire prompted anatomical and neurological changes that resulted in taking us out of the trees and into the kitchen.

1 hour

Clip

Chapters

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • Did Cooking Make Us Human? Introduction

    Food appears to be critical to our evolution; we couldn’t have become the dominant species without it, but why, and when, did our ancestors decide to cook food?

    Duration: 02:55

  • Did Cooking Make Us Human? A Caveman’s Diet

    Eight volunteers eat nothing but raw fruit, nuts and vegetables for two weeks. This experiment is to see how modern humans cope on a diet that was used by our ancestors 400 million years ago.

    Duration: 07:27

  • Did Cooking Make Us Human? Hunting for Meat

    It is believed that our ancestors’ decision to eat meat caused their brain to evolve, but how did they go about this? A professor travels to Namibia to witness how humans hunt with basic weapons.

    Duration: 07:40

  • Did Cooking Make Us Human? Meat-Eating Teeth

    One scientist is trying to determine when humans started to eat meat. This is done by examining the changes in dozens of ancient teeth to see what, and when, humans were eating.

    Duration: 06:34

  • Did Cooking Make Us Human? Early Cooking

    There are conflicting views on when humans actually began to eat meat. Yet one excavation site in Africa shows how the Homo erectus may have had the ability to cook their prey.

    Duration: 10:33

  • Did Cooking Make us Human? Food and the Body

    A scientist feeds mice raw and cooked food to see if there is a change in the creatures’ weight and energy levels. Another scientist sees how the stomach handles a raw and cooked potato differently.

    Duration: 09:09

  • Did Cooking Make us Human? Digesting Meat

    Dr Stephen Secor demonstrates, using a snake, that eating cooked foods enables creatures to save energy. This energy is used to power something far more important: the brain.

    Duration: 06:46

  • Did Cooking Make us Human? Craving Food

    The brain’s need for energy-rich food is being put to the test by one Doctor who is monitoring the brain’s reaction to being fed different levels of fat.

    Duration: 07:50

Credits

Role Contributor
Producer Charles Colville
Director Charles Colville
Executive Producer Andrew Cohen

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