Earliest roasted root vegetables discovered in 170,000-year-old southern African cave

The researches at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa found that early humans had a very balanced diet

Researchers found burnt and blackened fragments of earliest roasted root vegetables in 170,000-year-old ashes in a cave in southern Africa. The study suggested that the real paleo diet included mostly roasted vegetables rich in carbohydrates, which is similar to modern potatoes.

The research lead, Lyn Wadley of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa said that people had a very balanced diet, a combination of carbohydrates and proteins.

Archaeological finding

In 2016, when the team of researchers found dozens of bits of charcoal in an ash layer in the Border cave in South Africa, they understood that the layer of the ash was the leftovers from the fires of early inhabitants of that area.

Later, further microscopic analysis of the hundreds of modern plant remains revealed the presence of charcoal fragments as being the rhizomes, subterranean stems, of plants from the Hypoxis is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the family Hypoxidaceae.

roasted root vegetables
Roasted root vegetables Pixabay

Ancient vegetable

It should be noted that the researchers earlier found seeds of root vegetables which were discovered at an 800,000-year-old site in Israel, but the recent finding indicates towards the earliest evidence of roasting. The subterranean stems of Hypoxis can be as rich as in carbohydrates as potatoes but the Wadley said that they taste more like yam.

The researchers also found that these roasted root vegetables were a common part of the diet contrary to the popular notion that early humans used to eat meat a lot. Most versions of the early diet advised people to avoid potatoes and grains.

In the study, published in the journal Science, Wadley said that the idea about what the ancestors of modern human used to eat may have changed by the fact that the plant remains will survive lesser than butchered animal bones. She mentioned that "Many archaeologists are not interested in botanical remains."

Food storage

Earlier archaeologists said that that ancient people who used to live in Qesem Cave in central Israel during the early Palaeolithic, around 400,000 to 220,000 years ago may have stored long bones of fallow deer so that they can break it and extract the bone marrow after several weeks.

The team led by Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University analyzed marks on over 80,000 bones from Qesem Cave, where early humans used to live and found heavy chop marks on the ends of some of fallow deer leg bones. But these bones carry no meat and little fat, and the skin is easy to remove when the bone is fresh.

Related topics : Archaeology