For 1 million years, humans have had the ability to harness fire, which makes it one of the most significant tools in human evolution. It provided warmth on cold days and nights, frightened away nocturnal predators, and allowed us to sleep on the ground instead of trees. But most of all, fire allowed us to cook our foods. This discovery was paramount to our ancestors’ survival ….
The Clovis people were one of the first Paleo Indians to eat cooked-foods in North America. They were a group of hunter-gatherers who migrated from Asia to our continent in 10,000 BCE. The men were skilled hunters who specialized in using “Clovis points” or spearheads to bring down gigantic behemoths from the last ice age, such as the woolly mammoth. These eight-ton prehistoric elephants had enough meat to feed the clan throughout the winter! Can you imagine? Using spears to fight a 15-foot-tall animal? What a dangerous adventure it must have been … These paleo hunters also pursued other wild game: bison, deer, elk, sometimes pronghorn or mountain sheep, and surprisingly, horses and camels. North America actually used to have unique species of horses and camels, but they went extinct 11,000 years ago due to human arrival and climate change.
So what did the rest of the clan do? While the men were out hunting, the women and children foraged in marshes and forests for nuts, berries, roots, and other plants. This was the best method to sustain your clan. Prehistoric hunts were risky … and chances of success were slim. So the clan heavily relied on foragers to bring back wild foods, or in trades with other clans. Altogether, this made the Paleo diet. According to studies, half of this diet was meat while the other consisted of nuts, seeds, fruits, edible roots, and other plants.
But could they have just eaten this stuff raw? Was cooking really that important?
Oh yeah! Cooking revolutionized the Paleo diet. First of all, fire helped detoxify some foods of poisons as well as sanitize them from harmful parasites and bacteria. Also, preparing and cooking meals over a fire ensured that our ancestors extracted as much energy from the food as possible. Think of it like this … when you prepare your meals, you may have to chop, slice, and pound the foods. Then you heat your foods, which break down the connective tissues in meat and softens the cell walls of plants. So in a way, cooking is like you are “predigesting” the food. And when you eat cooked-foods, your body spends less work breaking down the food and absorbing the fats and nutrients. This is a huge plus to clans. There are a lot of calories that are burned by clan members. So by roasting their meals over a fire, each person could extract more energy for their bodies and brains.
Huh … but what did clans do when they were not able to harvest meat – an energy-dense food? And how does all of this compare to modern-hunting and cooking today? You don’t have to stew on those questions any longer. Just check out the video to see what two teens discover in their Clovis Kid Cook-off. Or if you are hungry for more, forage in the “Learn More” section or download the lesson activity to ignite your wild game cooking skills.
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