We’ve all been there: waiting for a pot to boil on the stove, wondering why it’s taking forever, only to realize we’ve forgotten to turn the fire on. Isn’t that the worst? Turns out, no. The worst is when you’re an ancient human and your cooking tools, which are rocks, explode.
That’s my main takeaway from this fascinating piece in The Atlantic. In it, anthropologists attempt to answer a question I’ve truly never considered before: how did humans boil water before we had pots? Pottery was only invented around 20,000 years ago, and humans have been around nearly ten times as long. Indeed, anthropologists have argued cooking is what functionally makes us human, so how’d we do it without pots?
The answer: stones, most likely. An experiment at the University of York in the U.K. recently confirmed that it is indeed possible to boil water with hot rocks. Students went to the woods, built a fire, heated up stones for 10-15 minutes, then dropped several stones into an animal hide filled with water. Lo and behold, it boiled! It’s best to use porous rocks like granite and basalt; wet rocks are dangerous, because when the water inside them turns into steam, they explode. Catastrophe!
Anyway, the Atlantic piece walks through their experiment in more detail. So once you’ve consumed every single bit of content available on The Takeout, you should go read that.