What’s Cookin’? Nothing, If You Were an Early Human

About a million years before steak tartare came into fashion, Europe’s earliest humans were eating raw meat and uncooked plants. But their raw cuisine wasn’t a trendy diet; rather, they had yet to use fire for cooking, a new study finds.

The finding is based on a dental plaque analysis from a 1.2-million-year-old hominin, an early human, excavated from Sima del Elefante (Pit of the Elephant) in northern Spain. In 2007, the Atapuerca researchteam took samples of the dental plaque from a hominin molar, and later a team of archaeologists extracted microfossils from the plaque so they could learn more about the diet of early humans.

The microfossils included traces of raw animal tissue, uncooked starch granules (suggesting that the hominin ate grasses and a species of pine), insect fragments and a possible toothpick sliver, the researchers said.

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