Dating fruit jars
Your librarian will be happy to help you find a copy.] "Homo erecutus may have used fire to a very limited extent some 300,000 years ago, but the evidence is sparse and questionable.
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In fact, in a raw state, many plants contain toxic or indigestible substances or antinutrients.
But after cooking, many of these undesirable substances are deactivated, neutralized, reduced, or released; and starch and other nutrients in the plants are rendered absorbable by the digestive tract.
Before the domestication of animals, it is unlikely that potential vegetable food would have been given to any other animal species first, to see what effect these would have (perhaps one of the earliest functions of the dog, besides scavenging, was an 'experimental' animal to test 'new' foods--a procedure known to have been practiced in some recent African communities).
Thus, even with the exercise of considerable caution, it is likely that many degrees of food poisoning, from mild stomach disorders to death, occurred before man became fully aware of the limits of his food resources-- both plant and animal.
How did the first peoples know which foods were "safe" to eat? Food historians make educated guesses based on ancient records and modern practices.
Based on this evidence, they presume foods were selected or rejected based on observation (they were avoided by the other animals in the area) in conjuction with basic trial and error (if it made the taster sick, it was unlikely others partook).
"For hundreds of thousands of years the evolving human race had eaten its food raw, but at some time between the first deliberate use of fire--in Africa in 1,400,000BC or Asia in 500,000BC (depending on which theory happens to be the flavour of the month)-and the appearance of the Neanderthals on the prehistoric scene, cooking was discovered.
Whether or not it came as a gastronomic revelation can only be guessed at, but since heat helps to release protein and carbohydrate as well as break down fibre, cooking increases the nutritive value of many foods and makes edible some that would otherwise be inedible.
Berries, nuts, fungus, and water sources were especially complicated and concernful.
Myths and legends perpetuated the warnings against consuming known poisonous foods.
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