Food Preparation

Certainty Style Key

Certainty styling is being phased out topic by topic.

Hover over keys for definitions:
True   Likely   Speculative
Human Uniqueness Compared to "Great Apes": 
Relative Difference
MOCA Domain: 

Many primate species, including humans, practice various forms of food processing and modification of the physical structure of food. Food processing affects the rate of food intake, passage time, and absorption of nutrients. All human populations practice food preparation to varying degrees.

Among wild populations of chimpanzees, food preparation/extraction activities include crushing, pounding, or soaking of plant material, termite fishing, honey extraction, tuber digging, nut cracking, and use of spears to hunt. Orangutans also exhibit modification of fruits and use of tools for insect fishing. Complex plant modification is seen among gorilla populations that consume a wide array of herbaceous foods that are high in secondary compounds. In order to cosume many of these plant foods, gorillas employ hierarchically structured sequences of actions and flexible sub-routines to mechanically alter the plant before consumption.

The presence of food preparation among extant wild populations of great apes suggests, at the very least, that similar activities were undertaken by early hominins.


Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Probable Appearance: 
6,000 thousand years ago
Definite Appearance: 
2,000 thousand years ago


  1. Microbial biomarkers reveal a hydrothermally active landscape at Olduvai Gorge at the dawn of the Acheulean, 1.7 Ma, Sistiaga, Ainara, Husain Fatima, Uribelarrea David, Martín-Perea David M., Ferland Troy, Freeman Katherine H., Diez-Martin Fernando, Baquedano Enrique, Mabulla Audax, Domínguez-Rodrigo Manuel, et al. , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020/09/15, p.202004532, (2020)
  2. The Diets of Non-human Primates: Frugivory, Food Processing, and Food Sharing, Hohmann, G. , The Evolution of Hominin Diets: Integrating Approaches to the Study of Palaeolithic Subsistence, Dordrecht, p.1–14, (2009)
  3. The Oldowan: The tool making of early hominins and chimpanzees compared, Toth, N., and Schick K. , Annual Review of Anthropology, Volume 38, p.289-305, (2009)
  4. Savanna chimpanzees use tools to harvest the underground storage organs of plants., R Hernandez-Aguilar, Adriana, Moore Jim, and Pickering Travis Rayne , Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2007 Dec 4, Volume 104, Issue 49, p.19210-3, (2007)
  5. Savanna chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus, hunt with tools., Pruetz, Jill D., and Bertolani Paco , Curr Biol, 2007 Mar 6, Volume 17, Issue 5, p.412-7, (2007)
  6. Clever Hands: The food processing skills of mountain gorillas, Byrne, R., Robbins M. M., Sicotte P., and Steward K. J. , Mountain Gorillas: Three Decades of Research at Karisoke, Cambridge, (2001)
  7. Geographic variation in tool use on Neesia fruits in orangutans., van Schaik, C P., and Knott C D. , Am J Phys Anthropol, 2001 Apr, Volume 114, Issue 4, p.331-42, (2001)
  8. Diet and food preparation: Rethinking early hominid behavior, Ragir, S. , Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, Volume 9, p.153–155, (2000)
  9. Manufacture and use of tools in wild Sumatran orangutans, van Schaik, C. P., Fox E. A., and Sitompul A. F. , Naturwissenschaften, 1996, Volume 83, Issue 4, p.186 - 188, (1996)
  10. Aspects of transmission of tool-use in wild chimpanzees, Boesch, C., Gibson K. R., and Ingold T. , Tools, language and cognition in human evolution, Cambridge, MA, (1993)
  11. Possible causes of sex differences in the use of natural hammers by wild chimpanzees, Boesch, Christophe, and Boesch Hedwige , Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 13, p.415 - 440, (1984)
  12. Optimisation of Nut-Cracking with Natural Hammers by Wild Chimpanzees, Boesch, C., and Boesch H. , 1982, Volume 83, Issue 3/4, p.265-286, (1982)