170,000 years ago, humans were cooking plant-based, carbohydrate-rich foods according to a report published in the journal Science Advances.
An international team of archaeologists have found charred remains of starchy plant parts in Border Cave, located near the border between South Africa and Swaziland.
The remains from underground plant stems known as rhizomes, provide the evidence that early humans cooked plants packed with carbohydrates. The plant remains preserved in the ashes from ancient cooking fires at the Border Cave site.
The scientists found out that the remains belonged to a small flowering plant known as Hypoxis Angustifolia, which can be found growing throughout southern Africa and could be a source of food for travelling early humans.
The researchers say that while plant-based carbohydrates “almost certainly contributed substantially to ancient nutrition”, it is unknown when exactly humans first began eating them.
The archaeologists also found burnt bones on the site, which suggests that early humans cooked both plant-based and animal food.
Until now, the animal-based diets of early humans have been widely studied because bones and stone tools left behind from the hunting activities are the only remains preserved in archaeological sites. Traces of plants do not preserve well, therefore there is not much information available on the plant-based diet of our ancestors.