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...