A tiny grape pip (scale 1mm), left on the ground some 780,000 years ago, is one of more than 9,000 remains of edible plants discovered in an old Stone Age site in Israel on the shoreline of Lake Hula in the northern Jordan valley, dating back to the Acheulian culture from 1.75-0.25 million years ago. The floral collection provides rich testimony of the plant-based diet of our prehistoric ancestors.
“In recent years we were met with a golden opportunity to reveal numerous remains of fruits, nuts and seeds from trees, shrubs and the lake, alongside the remains of animals and human-made stone tools in one locality,” Prof. Goren-Inbar said.
Of the remains found on site, Prof. Goren-Inbar and Dr. Yoel Melamed of the Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar Ilan University have identified 55 species of edible plants, including seeds, fruits, nuts, leaves, stems, roots and tubers. Paper. (paywall) – Yoel Melamed, Mordechai E. Kislev, Eli Geffen, Simcha Lev-Yadun, Naama Goren-Inbar. The plant component of an Acheulian diet at Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov, Israel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; 201607872 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1607872113 More.
Though popular culture pictures our ancestors as felling really big game, successful hunts were surely a rare, dramatic event. Thus, bison feature vividly on cave walls. Plants can’t run or fight so women, children, and many disabled men can gather and prepare them. No surprise if tubers never got the big, exciting publicity even if they fed more people more often.
Apparently, roasted lily seeds, pictured above, are somewhat like popcorn.
See also: Human evolution: Agriculture’s first steps were painful and profitless. So why did we really do it?
Was there a turning point in the human diet? Does it matter?
Meat eating speeded human face evolution?
Human origins: The war of trivial explanations
Neanderthals started fires with Mn compound?
Did Neanderthals follow the Paleo diet? Yes if it includes plenty of mammoths and rhinoceros
The search for our earliest ancestors: signals in the noise
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How Stone Age tools were made: