Meat-Eating Among the Earliest Humans

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #1

Evidence of meat-eating among our distant human ancestors is hard to find and even harder to interpret, but researchers are beginning to piece together a coherent picture.

Over the course of six million years of human evolution, brain size increased 300 percent. Our huge, complex brains can store and process decades worth of information in split seconds, solve multifactorial problems, and create abstract ideas and images.

This would have been a big advantage to early humans as they were spreading out across Africa and into Asia just under two million years ago, encountering unfamiliar habitats, novel carnivore competitors, and different prey animals. Yet our large brains come at a cost, making childbirth more difficult and painful for human mothers than for our nearest evolutionary kin. Modern human brains take up only about 2 percent of our body weight as adults, but use about 20 percent of our energy. Such a disproportionate use of resources calls for investigation. For years, my colleagues and I have explored the idea that meat-eating may have played a role in this unusual aspect of human biology...

In case you missed it above, here’s the link.

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(Polly) #2

Thanks @amwassil nice round up of dietary evolution.

(Ken) #3

Very good article.


SO, BBQ is not only responsible for our big brains but our small guts. Sadly I know some big BBQ fans with small brains and big guts. Maybe they are doing it wrong.

(Bob M) #5

That’s because of the beer served with BBQ and the sugary sauces, corn bread, etc. Beer is (unfortunately, since I love it) basically the best way to get fat and pickle your liver. Has easily digestible carbs, alcohol, and high calories (if you drink the good stuff). Pretty much everything you need to gain weight.

I still like beer, but I’ve had maybe a handful of beers in the last 5 years. And other than sips of beer, not an actual beer in several. It’s hard liquor (with a shot of cream for saturated fat, to protect the liver) for me, baby! :grinning:

(Erin Macfarland ) #6

@Fracmeister Hahaha!!! Hilarious…

(Bob M) #7

That’s a very good article.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #8

How does that work? I guess it’s back to lab for some hands on…:tumbler_glass:

(Bob M) #9

Sometimes I have a white Russian, though it has some carbs in it. Vodka, coffee liquor, cream 1:1:1. Other times, I just have a hit of cream. Not always. But George Henderson has done a ton of research on the liver, and he’s convinced saturated fat is good for the liver.

(Bob M) #10

George’s website


The book Protein Power by the LCHF/keto physicians the Drs. Eades, delves into paleopathology - wheat-based civilizations like Egypt (only a few thousand years ago) had many obese in their burial grounds/mummies, also that they didn’t have long life spans, many dying prematurely in the 50s - frequently due to their high carb diet’s dental diseases. All the Egyptian art with only skinny goddesses and gods was more a cultural projection that the otherworldly was different - thus skinny rather than obese! As far as the earliest humans from antiquity though, raw organ meat is actually easier to chew and digest than cooked, and raw & cooked animal fat beloved by many indigenous peoples. But muscle meat is what gets aromatic and flavorful when cooked, making it easier to eat more of it and thus evolve a bigger brain?

I noticed this part: “Yet our large brains come at a cost, making childbirth more difficult and painful for human mothers than for our nearest evolutionary kin.” This is not at all absolutely true. And sometimes it’s a question of being in captivity, or free. Our nearest evolutionary kin in the present world (the wild chimpanzees) when in captivity don’t breed or thrive nearly as well as when wild, and often have difficulties that the observing humans aren’t even aware of. (It was Gloria Steinem who, when asked why hadn’t had children, said “I can’t mate in captivity”). In the wild mammalian and non-industrial indigenous/aboriginal world, early labors are unobtrusive, non-dramatic, and quite subtle, and the subsequent active labor/birth isn’t mentalized - it’s a primal, effective experience of the body and heart. Relatively well-nourished peasant & indigenous/aboriginal women integrated early labor into their regular life, sometimes birthing outdoors.

Yet the ubiquitous childbirth hex of difficult & painful as the baseline for the home sapiens female birthing experience - rather than it as a marathon of female power, a glorious journey with the coming child, and giving birth to one’s self as a mother - is a common stereotype in scholarship, regardless of whether the author is male or female. It certainly lacks cross-cultural insight in its silencing of aboriginal, indigenous, and peasant traditional societies as well as a portion of hormonally healthy modern women who’ve experienced the challenges of highly functional physiological birthing and the endogenous endorphins that create the advantageous, totally natural altered state that expands coping and conducive change at each level.

Here follows a wild digression for any ancestral health, ancient traditions readers - esp any curious young women who daily encounter “Eve’s Curse” in science - as it’s one of my fave women’s health topics… though I understand it’s not for everybody, so feel free to ignore.

Science has still not caught itself up on the good work done by Sarah Buckley MD and others (Michel Odent MD, Frederick LeBoyer MD, Shafia M. Monroe CM/CE, Aviva Romm MD, Christiane Northup MD - and novelist Alice Walker among others) to educate about the hormonal physiology of spontaneous childbirth, and its conditional requirements. Indigenous & Aboriginal as well as peasant women’s traditions understood the many adaptive functionalities/movements/postures that happen when a woman has the conditions needed to immerse in birth. Primal birth instincts come from a immersion in the hind/primal brain rather than the neocortex (conditions that are in short supply in most of industrial culture). This means that women with “small” pelvises can give birth to “large” babies, quite functionally, given the chance to move around in a conducive, relaxing environment she feels safe & emotionally/spiritually supported in (and not immobilized on her back attached to machines by cords, etc). It also means that traditional 6’ large-framed Maori women speedily gave birth to actual large babies - 12-14 pounders as a normal thing.

It’s a well known fact that the loose connective tissues of the pregnant pelvis combined with mobility/different postures can open the pelvic bone outlet by a couple of extra centimeters - and at the same time, babies skull plates can make their heads smaller. The position & state of a mother and baby both play a part - maternal movement and adaptive postures plus a range of environmental conditions that are soothing and private can make human labor very functional.

The language used about birth in today’s medicine & science culture goes way back in western Judeo-Christian cultures. Studying & re-evaluating the commonly accepted theological stances as well as the medical vs. midwifery model of care that influence the cultural discourse can be very worthwhile. The work of female scholar-anthropologists Robbie Pfeuffer Kahn, Robbie Davis Floyd, and Hilary Marland is all relevant.

One of the early things I learned in my cultural unlearning/decolonization about women’s health & birth was about the Judeo-Christian reference to when Adam & Eve are cast out of Eden. The English male translators commissioned by King James to create the English bible, blatantly mis-translated the Hebrew word root “Etsev” word used for cursing both Adam and Eve - when it came to Eve!. Etsev means good hard work pertaining to field/tilling work in an agricultural culture - as in physically & spiritually intense, with variable daily & seasonal weather, and the sweetness of harvest. However, in relation to only Eve/childbirth/females, the mistranslated English words pain/anguish/sorrow" are used for “Etsev”: ‘she shall give birth in pain’. Otherwise, when “Etsev” used in specific reference to Adam/males, it’s just ‘labor, toil, work’. So, the word was translated intentionally to curse Eve and her kind (continuing the tone of the Malleus Maleficarum inquisition text written in the 1480s) - and also without any regard for all the indigenous women and peasant women that knew very well both hard physical work and spiritual endurance.

Hard field work is rarely “pain-free” (most especially for enslaved peoples - mentally & physically brutalized by the work as well as the traffickers/guards) - but for the non-enslaved, neither is it only a hellish torment of cursedness that the early church patriarchs wanted female sexuality and the labor of childbearing to be for women. I imagine my own girlhood & young womanhood would’ve been quite different if I’d have been enculturated free of “Eve’s Curse”. I would have more quickly understood my personal JOY and AUTONOMY quite apart from patriarchal values. Anyway… it’s a lot to unpack considering that 16th century German theologian Martin Luther wrote and preached about it like this: “If women become tired, even die, it does not matter. Let them die in childbirth. That’s what they are there for”.

Culture plays a huge role in birth.

For both SAD and LCHF/keto women, emergency medicine is fantastic for true emergencies, and high-risk women with serious health conditions can and do require medical intervention. But being that we live in a time when even low-risk, otherwise-healthy women’s births either frequently turn into emergencies or are prescheduled surgeries, we could learn a few things from the traditional cultures.

Patriarchal values in the academy and science journalism socialize girls & women to consider otherwise-healthy birth a disease rather, than a state of optimal physiology, a dissociation rather than a hard won metamorphosis. At the same time, women & girls aren’t taught to think outside the box and think about autonomous coping skills and primal survival. For example, when London was being bombed for months during WWII - during which time well over a hundred women went into labor, all of them at home (under their kitchen tables was a popular choice for safest location) due to it being impossible to get out to the hospital safely, and having to rely on sheer instinct and primal faith. Very interestingly, recorded London birth stats for that period were actually much lower mortality than normal - in fact, there were no full term mortalities of either mother or baby (of the recorded births, ofc there were plentiful slums where unknown outcomes happened).

This culture’s many environmental factors and its medical model of “care” often converge to cause difficulty for otherwise-healthy, low-risk women - whether emotional stress or physical stress - and encourage the neocortex rather than the instinctual hind brain. The fear-tension-pain cycle and reduced oxytocin from a variety of stressors in turn influence catecholamine and cortisol reaction. They are most dramatic at birth, but can be active in pregnancy and preconception - which is why childbirth preparation & full-spectrum informed choice ideally begins before conception. In traditional hunter-gatherer societies as well as indigenous horticultural societies that lived closely with the life-death-life cycle, ancient teachings based in Nature as the teacher along with strong women’s community helped young women be equipped for a likely good birth journey.

Intact indigenous/land-based cultures - the vast majority of them female-centered, with the oldest women the key decision makers - view birth as normal as digestion and other bodily functions (when it is based in good health - and not in malnourishment or trauma). Many midwives and physicians who’ve worked with traditional indigenous women, as well as anthropologists and others who’ve been adopted by indigenous peoples (such as Jean Liedloff, Marjorie Shostak, Erica Elliott MD, Carolyn Niethammer, Pam England) have reported on how well-nourished traditional indigenous women pride themselves on birthing well/healthfully - having learned since girlhood from examples of women focusing their inner roar/power within.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #12

I posted this talk in a couple other places I think it relevant. Posting here because she talks about the very serious shortcomings of plant based diets for what she terms ‘brain health’ and eating what the brain needs. She refers to ‘pre-agricultural’ diets and ‘post-agriculatural’ diets.

(Bunny) #13

From an evolutionary aspect the increase in the so called brain size would be attributed to cooking carbohydrates and cooking meat or fat and cooking food in general (refining and processing that includes horticulture and genetic modification and potentiating the nutritional values)?

Eating raw foods could have possibly increased life spans considerably including meat and fat…bigger brains (cooking food) in exchange for decreased longevity?

The most telling attribute is that of early humans eating fish (fat/oils from fish?) and marine life, as the brain is mostly made of or comprised of DHA and EPA.

And when you add heat to it (EPA and DHA is already more electrical than chemically or mechanically reactive), presto a bigger brain?

Thermal electrical reactions between mitochondria and diet, thermal environment on food and on the body habitus before it’s eaten and the adaptable transmutation physiology of marine life like whales, seals and dolphins and land animals with bigger brains could also explain why these particular creatures have bigger brains? As well as humans feeding them cooked and highly refined processed foods?

What I wrote above would be all fine and dandy if it were true? But something is not quite right about it and there are many holes in my hypothesis? viz. (namely) carbohydrates and being the crafty little creatures that we are, we have succeeded in refining and concentrating carbohydrates to a point where it is killing us? The neurological, endocrinological, and physiological system is simply overloaded with the stuff?

When you look at Apes and Chimps and brain size compared to humans they appear to be more of an herbivore with their unique digestive tract for digesting fiber but I think they are more of an omnivore, they do in fact eat meat, but mostly carbs, does that explain why they have a bigger brain?

The reason Apes and Chimps have not evolved like humans is because they don’t have ready access to DHA and EPA from marine life, they are still sitting deep inland eating fiber and bugs or each other…lol

I could imagine us early humans being closer to marine life and lightning started a fire somewhere and they threw a fish on it and OMG it was delicious…lol

And what’s a Space Bunny story without an ending? …And from that point on that was the micro and macro-genesis of carb addiction my friends? THE END!


Yeah, I’m in SC and LOVE good BBQ but I only eat the meat and skin. It pains me to watch people literally waddle into a BBQ restaurant and load up on sauce, desserts, and other garbage but think the meat is what is making them fat and sick.

(traci simpson) #15

I ordered bbq at the farmers market but I told him no sauce and it was fabulous~