Ancient Pottery Reveals The Oldest Evidence Of People Cooking Plants

Posted: Dec 20 2016, 5:59am CST | by , Updated: Dec 20 2016, 9:16pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Ancient Pottery Reveals the Oldest Evidence of People Cooking Plants
Ancient rock artwork showing a human figure collecting plants. Credit: The Archaeological Mission in the Sahara. Sapienza University of Rome
 

Researchers have uncovered the earliest direct evidence of humans processing plants at two sites in Libyan Sahara.

The pottery fragments uncovered in Sahara shows that our ancient ancestors may have cooked plants as far back as 10,000 years ago, providing the oldest known evidence of humans using plants as a food.

Cooking is thought to be a key turning point in the evolution of humans, but surprisingly, we have been lacking the evidences of cooking plants in prehistoric pottery. The new discovery can help researchers fill in key pieces to the puzzle and can offer more insight into this critical step in human development. 

A combined team of international researchers, led by University of Bristol, have studied 110 pottery fragments unearthed at two sites in what is now Libyan Sahara. The region was once lush and green and had lakes and crisscrossed rivers. 

Researchers have detected residue of plant oil and wax over half of the fragments. This indicates that those pots were used for cooking plants and other food in ancient times. Some of those plants were leafy and grew on land while others were aquatic plants.

The interpretations of chemical signature on pottery fragments is also supported by different plant species preserved in the site.

“The finding of extensive plant wax and oil residues in early prehistoric pottery provides us with an entirely different picture of the way early pottery was used in the Sahara compared to other regions in the ancient world,” said lead author Dr Julie Dunne from University of Bristol's School of Chemistry.

“Our new evidence fits beautifully with the theories proposing very different patterns of plant and animal domestication in Africa and Europe/Eurasia.” 

Previously, researchers have found remains of plants, grinding stones, grains crushed into flour and even an ancient piece of art depicting a man picking plants but new finding is the first direct evidence of humans actually cooking plants.

The use of plants as food would have broadened human’s diet and provided them new sources of energy.

Dr Dunne says. “Until now, the importance of plants in prehistoric diets has been under-recognized but this work clearly demonstrates the importance of plants as a reliable dietary resource.” 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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