Anthropology 105

Questions on Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human

Due in class on Monday 

Introduction: Define the following terms:

  • Australopithecines versus Habilines
  • Hunter-Gatherer (you may have to look this up on your own)
  • Man the Hunter Hypothesis (and page 45)
  • Gathering (see 47)

Chapter 1: Quest for Raw Foodists

  • What was the Evo Diet experiment? What were its implications?
  • Why does Wrangham think raw food is not as nutritious for modern humans as cooked food?  
  • What are the implications of the Raw Foodist/Giessen Raw Food study: (what happens to BMI as proportion of raw food consumed increases?  How is consuming raw food connected to amenorrhea (look up the term)?  Why does he mention the fact that modern German women are less active than traditional hunter-gatherers?
  • What are Instinctotherapists?
  • Of the various foods Wrangham describes in this chapter, which do you find most interesting and why?
  • What other evidence does Wrangham cite to support his claim that cooking is not a luxury but a necessity?


Chapter 2: The Cook’sBody


  • What is an evolutionary trade off? Briefly, what are some benefits of cooking? What are some costs?
  • What is the “spontaneous” benefits of cooked foods for many mammals.  Name some of the mammals Wrangham mentions that seem to prefer or benefit from cooked food?  Some of these are mentioned in other chapters.
  • What is BARF and how is it relevant to Wrangham’s argument?
  • Name 3 differences between the chimpanzee and human digestive system
  • What are Maillard compounds?  How are they relevant to Wrangham’s argument?


Chapter 3: The Energy Theory of Cooking


  • What kind of evidence does Wrangham cite that cooking increases energy available/caloric content of food?
  • Ileal digestibility of raw versus cooked food:
  • Gelatinization:
  • GI index:
  • Denaturation:
  • What did the rat study described on page 76 show?


Chapter 4: When Cooking Began


  • Describe some of the archaeological evidence for the use of fire.  Where are the sites, how old are they and what do they include?
  • Why is some early direct evidence of fire controversial?
  • What is some indirect or circumstantial evidence for the use of fire, in particular, for Homo erectus?


Chapter 5: Brain foods.

  • What is the social brain hypothesis and why is it not enough to explain increasing brain size in our lineage?
  • What is the ecological brain hypothesis and why is it not enough to explain increasing brain size in our lineage?
  • What is Aiello and Wheeler’s hypothesis for increasing brain size?
  • What improvements in cooking have developed over time?

Chapter 6: How cooking frees men

  • In general, what is the sexual division of labor for hunter-gatherers?
  • In 3 or 4 sentences, how did cooking make the sexual division of labor possible?

Chapter 7: The Married Cook

  • In 3 or 4 sentences, what do you think of Wrangham’s claim that cooking for the family is mostly done by women and cooking for the community is done by men.  What do you think of his argument for why this is the case (assuming it is)?
  • What social mechanisms keep the peace among hunter-gatherers with respect to the distribution of food?

Chapter 8: The Cook’s Journey

  • What is the connection, according to Wrangham, between cooking and human’s relative hairlessness?

Epilogue: The Well-Informed Coo

  • What is the Atwater System? Why does Wrangham think we need to modify Atwater’s system?
  • Overall, what do you think an evolutionary consideration of food may contribute to our understanding of the modern industrialized diet?

Please answer all the following questions

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