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The Joys of Boiling

Author(s): James Skibo

Year: 2017

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The list of the greatest technological innovations of all time include the wheel, bow and arrow, stirrup, and the controlled use of fire among other great human achievements. These technologies are given such prominence because they changed human history in significant ways. Never mentioned, however, is the cooking pot.Yet this common, inexpensive, utilitarian tool was an important part of profound, worldwide changes in cooking and food. Boiling or simmering opened up a whole series of new foods such as cereal grains, rice, potato, cassava, and other plants that are an important part of today’s worldwide diets. Cooking food over a fire may have made us human, as Wrangham notes, but boiling, according to Levi Strauss, made us civilized. The cooking pot was part of a whole suite of sweeping worldwide changes that ushered in the Neolithic Revolution. In this paper I discuss the great advantages of boiling/simmering, and I make the case that the cooking pot should be listed as one of the greatest technological innovations of all time.

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The Joys of Boiling. James Skibo. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429557)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14607

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America