It’s easy to just talk about diet and the paleolithic era by saying “human evolution in the paleolithic”. That’s also easy to get jumbled up. Here’s a list of not only Homo sapiens, but the dates and diets of older fossils within the Homo genus. These species may not all be our direct ancestors, but it gives a good idea of the diets of our ancestral line and related branches.
For context, I’ve also added some of the “great” moments in agricultural history. This is followed up by a chronological links of the major books related to the paleo diet and its aliases. I’m working on making this list more detailed and potentially adding a list of scholarly articles. It would be cool to be able to visualize the relative time periods as well. In a text list, it’s easy to lose perspective of how little time humans have been eating grains.
-6,000,000 Divergence from other ape species
-3,750,000 Australopithecus afarensis (staples: fruit, leaves, pith, seeds)
-2,600,000 Lower Paleolithic (first stone tools)
-1,900,000 Homo rudolfensis (staples: leaves, seeds, tubers opportunistic: fruits, large insects, small vertebrates)
-1,900,000 Homo erectus (staples: fruit, meat opportunistic: small vertebrates, insects)
-1,830,000 Homo habilis (staples: fruit, leaves, herbs opportunistic: meat from large vertebrates)
-1,810,000 Homo georgicus (staples: tubers, roots, seeds, herbs, opportunistic: fruit, meat)
-1,600,000 Homo ergaster (staples: meat, small vertebrates, tubers, fruits, seeds, nuts, insects)
-700,000 Homo antecessor (staples: herbs, seeds, tubers, roots seasonal: nuts, fruits, mushrooms, meat)
-600,000 Homo rhodensiensis (80% plant sources, 20% animal sources)
-420,000 Homo pekinensis (staples: herbs, seeds, nuts, roots, tubers seasonal: meat, fruit, berries)
-400,000 Homo heidelbergensis (80% plant sources, 20% animal sources)
-250,000 Middle Paleolithic (stone scrapers, points, backed knives, etc.)
-200,000 Homo sapiens (modern human species)
-175,000 Homo neanderthalensis (staples: large game, bone marrow, cannibalism opportunistic: plants)
-40,000 Upper Paleolithic (musical instruments, blade tools, spear-throwers, bows and arrows)
-10,000 (BCE) End of Pleistocene
-9,500 (BCE) Earliest Agriculture
-8,800 (BCE) Earliest archaeological evidence of harvested emmer wheat
-7800 (BCE) Earliest archaeological evidence of harvested eikorn wheat
-7500 (BCE) Domestication of Maize/Corn
-7000 (BCE) Neolithic Agricultural Revolution (emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, barley, lentil, pea, chickpea, bitter vetch, flax)
-7000 (BCE) Humans breed durum (pasta) wheat by artificial selection of emmer wheat
-7000 (BCE) Average human height shrinks by 5 to 6″ (An Edible History of Humanity)
Paleolithic Era Part II: The Return
1975 – The Stone Age Diet by Walter L. Voegtlin
1989 – The Paleolithic Prescription by S. Boyd Eaton, Marjorie Shostak, and Melvin Konner
1995 – NeanderThin: A Caveman’s Guide to Nutrition by Ray Audette, Troy Gilchrist, and Alan S Brown
2002 – The Paleo Diet, Cordain
2005 – The Evolution Diet by Joseph Stephen Breese Morse
2005 – The Paleo Diet for Athletes By Loren Cordain and Joe Friel
2006 – Evolution of the Human Diet: The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable by Peter S. Ungar
2009 – The Original Diet: The Omnivore’s Solution by Roy Mankovitz
2009 – Primal Body-Primal Mind by Nora Teresa Gedgaudas
2009 – The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
2009 – Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham
2010 – The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf
2010 – ‘The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us about Weight Loss, Fitness, and Aging by Arthur De Vany
2011 – ‘Everyday Paleo‘ by Sarah Fragoso (Foreword by Robb Wolf)
I started reading up about the paleo / primal life-style in December last year and changed my diet at the start of the year when I got back from Thailand.
Here's a blog post I wrote about the process:
Cool. I'll check it out.
I came here from Marks daily apple, so apart from his Primal Blueprint – which book on the above list do you really recommend.
Hi and welcome! For readers of Mark's work interested in the health aspects, I would recommend either of two… For those into the science and application for everyday life, Robb Wolf's 'The Paleo Solution'. For those pushing more into competitive athletics, adventure/expedition training, or even just distance running, I'd recommend Cordain & Friel's 'The Paleo Diet for Athletes'. Robb's take is new and more fat-consumption-friendly than Cordain/Friel's. It's my understanding that Cordain has since swayed more pro-fat, but the available version doesn't yet reflect that.
For an interesting look at the archaeology/anthropology, 'Catching Fire', by Richard Wrangham is interesting. It offers a hypothesis contrary to the "raw foods" diet that is currently in semi-fad status. Basically, he proposes that cooking has been around for several hundred thousand years longer than previously thought, and that humans adapted to eating cooked food. This perspective makes a nice complement to any of the diet related books… including Mark's.
I've added links to the 3 right above the comments.
Some of those mentioned in the timeline are out-of-print, and harder to get a copy of. I haven't read those 2 or 3.
Thanks for a snappy answer! I looked at Rob Wolf's book, but the moniker 'Transform your life in 30 days!' turned me off. So thanks for the recommendation, now I'll reconsider it 😀
Have you read 'Primal Body-Primal Mind'? It seems like what I could be after. I'm a firm believer that the basis for a sound mind is a healthy body.
If you're interested in the history of cooking, you should read Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food. It's very interesting. Among other things I learned that humans probably 'farmed' snails in enclosures early on. Good source of protein, I guess.
You might also be interested in Arthur De Vany's long awaited New Evolution Diet, which will be released in December of this year.
Thanks Lillea, I added your suggestion to the list! I was surprised to discover that Nassim Taleb wrote the afterword to the book. I’m familiar with his work from finance (of all places) so it was an interesting coincidence to see him infiltrating all of my worlds. I read your suggestion while traveling and spaced it out. I’m glad @ArtDeVany followed me on twitter to stir my memory!
I wanted to check those links in the timeline but some are not found… fix them?
Unga bunga! I just stumbled upon this post while researching for a small class I am offering at Just for Health School, where I studied and now practice/teach herbal medicine east/west. What wonderful research and energy you put into this! I will definitely be including a link for the attendees to visit and possibly a printout of this post as well. Love it!
B.S. Integrative Therapeutic Practices
Certified Master Herbalist East/West http://www.Integrativeherbalism.com/blog
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Why does Paleo seem to be so focused on meat consumption when it is obvious from your post that most human/pre-human species based their diets on plants ( leaves, fruit, tubers etc. ) ? It seems most human sub-species ate little meat and mainly plant-matter ?
Thanks for all the interesting info – a real good read 🙂
I am assuming paleo diet varied often due to climate. The omnivore could adapt to many food sources thus surviving droughts, floods etc. Modern man must determine not what paleo man ate but what is scientifically the ideal diet for 20th century man. That is what our big brain is designed to do.
I think the point here is that as man started eating meat he became smarter, when he started agriculture they got weaker
we are quite capable of adapting to many diets and foods very quickly. it is not until recent food processing techniques of the last 100 years did things go astray. what is always lost in these discussions is not what we eat that matters but how what we eat effects the surface of the earth. what type of ecosystems(or lack thereof) do we get our food from. that is what really matters