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Ancient Food Roundup

September 2, 2011

Lager beers have been around for about 500 years, thanks to the meeting of yeasts from the Old and New World.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

The first barbecue. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A 1.9 million year old ancestor of modern humans may have been the first homonid to cook dinner. Harvard researchers, reporting in the Proceedings of the National Acadamy of Sciences, studied the teeth, DNA and other characteristics of primates both living and extinct, to determine how much time each spent eating. Most primates spend about 45% of their days chewing away, while modern humans spend just 5%. Cooking led to this reduction and less time spent chewing meant more time for other pursuits.

In other news, scientists report they’ve discovered the origins of a mysterious yeast that allowed Bavarian beer makers to create the first lager beer 500 years ago. It came from Patagonia, in South America, apparently stowing away on the first ships to visit there. When the South American yeast met and combined with Bavarian yeast, the resulting hybrid made beer-making history. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.