Prehistoric Food Hygeine

Category : food decay, food hygiene, hunting, Miscellaneous
Prehistoric Food Hygeineby Andrew Routledgeon.Prehistoric Food HygeineFood hygiene is a subject which is of concern to everybody in the world every day of their lives. To many people around the world the ability to find safe sources of food and water are very real questions of survival. Everybody has an interest in eating to maintain good health. From a very early […]




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Food hygiene is a subject which is of concern to everybody in the world every day of their lives. To many people around the world the ability to find safe sources of food and water are very real questions of survival. Everybody has an interest in eating to maintain good health.

From a very early age we are taught that rancid food is bad for us and we posses physiological mechanisms which trigger very adverse reactions when we come across food which possesses qualities which do not suit those to which we recognizing as safe. Our parents teach us the guidelines which we use to appraise the edibility of our food and water.

Scientists have discovered that out prehistoric ancestors often scavenged for food but although they scavenged they still made sure that the food they ate was still quite fresh. Prehistoric man would follow carnivores as they hunted for food or would have followed other scavengers such as vultures which only eat fresh meat. By waiting for the carnivore to finish it’s meal from a safe distance primitive humans were able to quickly move in on a kill and eat the meat scraps that were still left on the bones and, seemingly, to eat the bone marrow inside the bones by developing the skill of crushing them with stones. Early man obviously competed with other scavengers for these spoils but smaller animals would have quickly learned that early man moved around with implements which could be used to attack. Namely the stones with which they split the bones to get at the bone marrow. This would have been the point in evolutions in which many animals learned to fear man.

By following carnivores to their kills early man would have been able to ensure that the meat he was eating was no more than a few hours old as as such was as fresh as was possible to hope for, given the circumstances of those primitive conditions. In order to ensure that he was second only to those top predators, man had to establish himself as second in the pecking order for food. Yet although primitive man was second only to the top predators in pecking order in one sense it would have been an absolute necessity to develop the skills necessary to control the environment around the kill zone for several reasons. The first reason the first reason would have obviously been to ensure personal safety. Another reason would have been having the ability to chase off the predator once he has eaten enough and was too tired to resist effectively. Yet another reason would have been to prevent the carcass being stolen by rival human tribes or other animal species. However one cannot dismiss that a major reason in establishing a high level of control around the kill zone and making a timely move in on the spoils would have been to ensure that they meat still left on the carcass was still fresh enough to eat. So this sense of timing would have been a key factor in the food hygiene regime of early man.

My personal estimation is that this time period would have been anything from one to six hours after the kill. We also know that prehistoric man had a much more robust immune system that we do today. Things that primitive man could eat to no ill effect would make us quite ill. The range of foods which he would have eaten was far more extensive that what we eat (with the possible exception of the Chinese). Cooking and sterilization of food would only become known to man after he attained the ability to make and control fire.

So from these facts we know that food hygiene, at a very basic level has always been a fundamental concern to mankind.

Question. Could the necessity to chase carnivores and other scavengers from a carcass have brought about the advent of designing and using weapons as we know then in more recent history? Could having an array of weapon choices have provided prehistoric man with the ability to further control a hunt scene by hunting alongside certain species of carnivores (such as canines) while both they and their quarry were distracted by the hunt? Could this possible situation have led to the eventual alliance between man and canine? Would the realization of the benefits of developing the skills needed to exploit such opportunities have played a key role in the evolutionary development of mankind and eventually lead to his gaining the ability of placing himself at the top of the animal kingdom hierarchy?



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Andy has many years of experience in food preparation, Food Hygiene, Catering and staff Training

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    Andrew RoutledgeDecember 15, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you for that!

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