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Vegetables with your Mammoth Steak Sir?

Sun, 24th Oct 2010

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Archaeologists working a several sites across Europe have found evidence that our stone age ancestors were a dab-hand in the kitchen much earlier than we first thought.

Writing in PNAS, Italian researcher Anna Revedin (c) Eric Hunt

" alt="Brussels Sprouts" />and her colleagues have isolated and identified grains of starch stuck to stone tools, including a primitive pestle and mortar, recovered from three archaeological sites in Italy, Russia and the Czech Republic.

Critically, these sites, one of which contains the remains of two mammoths and a large hearth, date back to about 30,000 years ago, a time when early humans were believed to be principally carnivorous and less keen on vegetables than the average teenager.

But careful microscopic examination of the tools recovered from the sites confirms that their users were collecting starch-rich plants, principally rhizome-bearing species, which they were presumably grinding to a primitive flour.

Moreover, to make the food palatable and liberate sufficient calories to make the exercise worthwhile, they must also have been cooking the proceeds, the team argue.

Large scale plant processing is known to have been well established when the first farms appeared in Mesopotamia about 12,000 years ago.Before this time, however, incorporation of plant products into the average human diet is much less well understood.

Now we know that even early Europeans were partial to a palaeolithic meat and two veg too...



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Although not entirely surprising.

Analysis of teeth indicate that early hominids were likely vegetarians, so it is not reasonable to anticipate a 100% shift in the diet from grains and vegetables to meat.

Furthermore, humans are unable to produce Vitamin C, and other plant derived vitamins, and thus develop Scurvy when consuming diets that are largely meat based.  Many other mammals including some primates do produce their dietary Vitamin C.  Without fruits and vegetables, our species would not have survived.

Prior to refrigeration, preserving grains would have been much easier than the preserving of meats, especially in places with limited access to salt. 

There seems to be slight differences between cultivation and domestication of plants with the domestication indicating selective breeding for useful traits.  But, the plants might have been cultivated and harvested in one form or another for many years earlier. 

I'm seeing notes of wheats, barleys, and figs being domesticated about 10,000 years ago, with crops being cultivated independently in the Americas and the "old world" which would seem to indicate common agricultural practices in the past.  Notes about rice would indicate that it was cultivated or domesticated as early as 14,000 years ago.

The other thing that happened is that around 30,000 years ago, the populations of many large game animals (and predators) were dwindling rapidly.  It is likely that human agriculture started to spring up as likely a response (or perhaps even a cause) of this dwindling of large game.

Anyway, the results cited here are interesting, but not particularly surprising based on other information about humans and human history. CliffordK, Mon, 13th Dec 2010

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