The first modern humans cooked plants 170,000 years ago - La Provincia

Charred Vegetable Remains found in a cave in the Lebombo mountains in South Africa indicate that the first modern humans already cooked starchy plants ago 170,000 years.

"This discovery provides a fascinating vision of the behavior practices of the first modern humans in South Africa. It also implies that they shared food and used wooden sticks to extract plants from the soil, "says Professor Lyn Wadley, a scientist at the Institute for Evolutionary Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

"It is extraordinary that such fragile remains of plants have survived for so long," says Christine Sievers, a scientist at the University of the Witwatersrand, who completed the archeobotanical work with Wadley. Underground food plants were discovered during the excavations in Border Cave in the mountains of Lebombo, where the team has been digging since 2015.

During the excavation, Wadley and Sievers recognized the small carbonized cylinders as rhizomes -ground underground-. They all appear to belong to the same species, and 55 whole charred rhizomes were identified as Hypoxia, commonly called the Yellow Star Flower.

"The most likely of the species that grow in KwaZulu-Natal today is the thin-leaved Hypoxis angustifolia that is favored as food," Sievers adds. "It has small rhizomes with white pulp that is tastier than orange pulp and bitter rhizomes of the best known medicinal hypoxysis species (incorrectly called African potato). "

Hypoxia rhizomes are nutritious and rich in carbohydrates. While they are raw edible, the rhizomes are fibrous and have a high resistance to fracture until they are cooked. Rhizomes are rich in starch and would have been an ideal food. "Cooking fiber-rich rhizomes would have made them easier to peel and digest in order to consume more and the nutritional benefits would be greater," says Wadley.

The discovery also involves the use of wooden digging sticks to extract the rhizomes from the ground. One of these tools was found in Border Cave and dates from approximately 40,000 years ago.


Source link