Tracks found by accident on proposed museum site in Tanzania were preserved in volcanic ash dampened by ancient African rains. The footprints of five ancestors of humans who walked the Earth more than 3.6m years ago have been found preserved in volcanic ash that was dampened by ancient African rains. Researchers unearthed the tracks by accident when they began to excavate test pits that had been called for as part of an assessment of the impact of building a proposed museum on the site in Tanzania. The markings reveal that the ancient human relatives walked side by side for at least 30 meters. The footprints were laid down in a layer of ash that was subsequently buried, but which, when moistened, retained the tracks like clay. A first analysis of the footprints suggests that they were made when a male, three females and a child passed through what is now Laetoli in the African country. The individuals almost certainly belong to a species of hairy bipedal ape called Australopithecus afarensis which is known to have lived in the region.
Read also: Fossil Footprints Show Movements of Our Early Ancestors
Today’s Paleo diet cookbooks might be missing a few pages. Archaeological excavations at a Stone Age site in Israel have revealed the first direct evidence of the sort of plants that our distant human ancestors ate with their meat and fish. Their tastes were more adventurous than we might expect, with roasted acorns and sedges both on the menu. Archaeologists tend to emphasize the role of meat in ancient human diets, largely because the butchered bones of wild animals are so likely to be preserved at dig sites. Edible plants may have been overlooked simply because their remains don’t survive so well.
Read also: Traces of true paleo diet emerge from muck in northern Israel
The plant component of an Acheulian diet at Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov, Israel
Like all biological traits, human memory reflects a long evolutionary history, most of it shared with other animals. Yet, with rare exceptions, evolution has either been overlooked in discussions of memory or treated in an outdated way. As a result, a simple idea about the cerebral cortex has reigned for more than a century: that its various areas specialize in functions characterized as memory, perception, the control of movement, or executive control (mainly decision-making). By taking a contemporary view of brain evolution into account, however, it’s clear that the brain simply doesn’t work this way. Instead, evolution has led to different parts of the cortex specializing in distinct kinds of neural representations, many of which evolved during major evolutionary transitions. Representations, in this sense, correspond to the information processed and stored by a network of neurons, and they underpin our memories as well as our ability to perceive the world and control our actions.
Read also: The Evolution of Memory Systems: Ancestors, Anatomy, and Adaptations
While lasting only twenty minutes, on average, family mealtimes are embedded in a social, cultural, and economic context that are associated with a variety of indicators of children’s health and wellbeing. Shared family mealtimes have been associated with such diverse outcomes as reduced risk for substance abuse, promotion of language development, academic achievement, and reduced risk for pediatric obesity. This social policy report provides a brief overview of current research suggesting that frequency of family mealtimes, family climate during shared mealtimes, environmental and policy influences on family food choice are related directly and indirectly to children’s health and wellbeing.
The report is divided into five sections. The first addresses frequency effects of shared family mealtimes and relations to child health and wellbeing indicators. The second section addresses family climate during shared family mealtimes. This section examines the role that family interaction patterns, dining in or outside the home, and the effects of having
the television on during mealtimes plays in relation to child outcomes of interest. The third section addresses parents as gatekeepers of the family table. This section considers the role of food marketing and parent versus child decision making about food in relation to shared mealtimes. The fourth section examines briefly the topic of food accessibility including food insecurity and time scarcity and associated influences on family mealtimes. The final section concludes with six policy recommendations for decision makers and community opinion leaders.
As a family therapist, I often have the impulse to tell families to go home and have dinner together rather than spending an hour with me. And 20 years of research in North America, Europe and Australia back up my enthusiasm for family dinners. It turns out that sitting down for a nightly meal is great for the brain, the body and the spirit. And that nightly dinner doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal that took three hours to cook, nor does it need to be made with organic arugula and heirloom parsnips. For starters, researchers found that for young children, dinnertime conversation boosts vocabulary even more than being read aloud to. The researchers counted the number of rare words – those not found on a list of 3,000 most common words – that the families used during dinner conversation. Young kids learned 1,000 rare words at the dinner table, compared to only 143 from parents reading storybooks aloud. Kids who have a large vocabulary read earlier and more easily. Older children also reap intellectual benefits from family dinners. For school-age youngsters, regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art. Other researchers reported a consistent association between family dinner frequency and teen academic performance. Adolescents who ate family meals 5 to 7 times a week were twice as likely to get A’s in school as those who ate dinner with their families fewer than two times a week.
In France, pleasure, or “plaisir,” is not a dirty word. It’s not considered hedonistic to pursue pleasure. Perhaps a better translation of the word is “enjoyment” or even “delight.” Pleasure, in fact, takes the weight of a moral value, because according to the French, pleasure serves as a compass guiding people in their actions. And parents begin teaching their children from very early childhood in a process called the education of taste, or “l’éducation du gout.”
The education of taste means teaching children to appreciate and savor the wide variety of flavors in the world and to eat properly at the table. In my eight months conducting research on French parenting in Paris, I found that the education of taste begins very early in families and is reinforced in daycare centers, where even two-year-olds are served formal, yet relaxed, four-course lunches with an appetizer, main course, cheese plate and dessert.