The Rock Art Network
The Rock Art Network
The Rock Art Network
Bradshaw Foundation - Latest News
Paleo diet of roasted vegetables
Tuesday 21 January 2020

An article by Michael Le Page on newscientist.com - Earliest roasted root vegetables found in 170,000-year-old cave dirt - reports on the charred fragments found in 170,000-year-old ashes in a cave in southern Africa which may represent the earliest roasted root vegetables yet found. The finding suggest the real “paleo diet” included lots of roasted vegetables rich in carbohydrates, similar to modern potatoes.

Earliest roasted root vegetables cave charred fragments southern Africa paleo diet carbohydrates potatoes
New research suggests the real “paleo diet” included lots of roasted vegetables rich in carbohydrates, similar to modern potatoes.

Team leader Lyn Wadley of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa explains that “people were eating a very balanced diet, a combination of carbohydrates and proteins.” In 2016, her team found dozens of bits of charcoal in an ash layer in the Border cave in South Africa. This ash layer is the remnant of the fires of early people. By studying the charred remains of hundreds of modern plants under a microscope over the following years, the team were finally able to identify the charcoal fragments as being the rhizomes – subterranean stems – of a plant from the genus Hypoxis.

Article continues below
Article continues

Seeds of root vegetables and other plants have been found at an 800,000-year-old site in Israel where early humans lived, but Wadley’s find is the earliest clear evidence of roasting. The rhizomes of Hypoxis plants can be as rich in carbohydrates as potatoes, although apparently they taste more like a yam. They are still eaten today, though they have become rare due to overexploitation.

Earliest roasted root vegetables cave charred fragments southern Africa paleo diet carbohydrates potatoes
Hypoxis angustifolia - the rhizomes of Hypoxis plants can be as rich in carbohydrates as potatoes, although apparently they taste more like a yam. Image: Marco Schmidt

The abundance of the rhizome fragments suggests that roasted root vegetables were a common part of the diet, contrary to the popular notion that early humans ate a lot of meat. Most versions of the paleo diet, which is supposedly based on what our ancestors’ ate, advise people to avoid potatoes as well as grains. Wadley suggests that "the paleo diet is really a misnomer. Our ideas about what early people ate may be skewed by the fact that plant remains are less likely to survive than butchered animal bones – and that researchers seldom look for them. Many archaeologists are not interested in botanical remains.”

While one species of Hypoxis is commonly called the African potato (Hypoxis hemerocallidea), the yellow rhizomes of this plant are bitter, and it is used for medical purposes rather than as food. The Border cave people were probably eating a species with rhizomes with white flesh, such as Hypoxis angustifoli, which is far more palatable.

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz5926

Comment
Paleoanthropology
When Did the Early Humans Acquire a Mind?
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 23 June 2020
Genetic distance of Neanderthals & humans
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 04 June 2020
Altai Neanderthals trapped & hunted golden eagles
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 14 May 2020
Oldest H. sapien bones found in Bulgaria
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 12 May 2020
Neanderthals used flowers in mortuary rituals
by Bradshaw Foundation
Wednesday 19 February 2020
Paleo diet of roasted vegetables
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 21 January 2020
Neanderthals dived for shells to make tools
by Bradshaw Foundation
Monday 20 January 2020
The extinction of the Neanderthal
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 28 November 2019
Skull found in Greece
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 11 July 2019
Ice Age wolf found
by Bradshaw Foundation
Wednesday 12 June 2019
DNA reveals ancient migrations
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 06 June 2019
Archaeological evidence from hearths
by Bradshaw Foundation
Monday 20 May 2019
Studio Libeskind in Kenya
by Bradshaw Foundation
Wednesday 15 May 2019
Oldest footprint in the Americas
by Bradshaw Foundation
Monday 29 April 2019
DNA reveals origin of Stonehenge builders
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 16 April 2019
New research on Homo floresiensis
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 14 March 2019
Follow the Bradshaw Foundation on social media for news & updates
Follow the Bradshaw Foundation
on social media for news & updates
Follow the Bradshaw Foundation on social media for news & updates
Follow the Bradshaw Foundation
on social media for news & updates
If you have enjoyed visiting this website
please consider adding a link © Bradshaw Foundation
 
 
ROCK ART NETWORK
Rock Art Network Bradshaw Foundation Getty Conservation Institute
The Final Passage
by Rock Art Network
4 May 2020
PALEOANTHROPOLOGY
Bradshaw Foundation Donate Friends
Support our work & become a
Friend of the Foundation
 
 
Bradshaw Foundation Facebook
 
Bradshaw Foundation YouTube
Bradshaw Foundation iShop Shop Store
Bradshaw Foundation iShop Shop Store
Bradshaw Foundation iShop Shop Store