We were apes before we were humans. But humans were the onetime apes who ultimately mastered fire and cooked.
Primatologist and anthropologist Richard Wrangham says that in evolutionary terms, that made all the difference. And not just because it put flambé on the menu.
Fire meant proto-humans could cook. Cooking, he says, meant they could get dense, empowering nourishment. Then came bigger brains, a different body and — voila! — homo sapiens. Complete, he says, with a social structure built around that fire.
This hour, On Point: Fire, cooking, and human evolution.
Richard Wrangham joins us from Seattle, Wash. He's professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University and a primatologist who has spent four decades studying chimpanzee behavior and what it tells us about human evolution. His new book is "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human."
You can read an excerpt from "Catching Fire" at NYTimes.com.
This program aired on June 8, 2009.