Cueva Negra evidence suggests paleolithic diet included plenty of plants

Evidence Suggests Paleolithic Diet Included Plenty of Plants

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Paleolithic plant diet

(Yaakov Langsam)

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—New Scientist reports that remnants of edible plants dating back 780,000 years have been found at the Gesher Benot Ya’aqov site in northern Israel. Evidence of more than 50 different kinds of plants was preserved in the waterlogged site, along with evidence of occupation, probably by Homo erectus. The plant remains suggest that, in addition to animal foods, Paleolithic human ancestors ate a wide variety of seasonal nuts, fruits, seeds, leaves, stems, roots, and tubers, which were collected from plants, trees, and shrubs. Gesher Benot Ya’aqov is also known for its early evidence of the use of fire by human ancestors. Naama Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem explained that roasting the region’s plants would have made more of them edible. “The modern human diet is clearly restricted when compared to the [early] hominin diet or even to the early farmers’ diet,” said Goren-Inbar. For more, go to “Evolve and Catch Fire.”

Evolve and Catch Fire

Trenches Spain Flint Block

(Copyright MUPANTQUAT Murcian Association for the Study of Palaeoanthropology and the Quaternary)Heat-shattered flint block

Monday, October 17, 2016

Heat-shattered flint blockEvidence that early humans were tending fires around 800,000 years ago has been found in a cave in southeastern Spain. Excavations in Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar have turned up hundreds of stones, stone artifacts, and animal bones, all with signs of having been subjected to fire. Dating of the site was based on evidence of a reversal of Earth’s magnetic field, known to have occurred around 780,000 years ago, in layers just above where the burned objects were found. “This is the oldest evidence of fire being tended for any site outside Africa, where fire is known from at least a million years ago,” says Michael Walker of the University of Murcia.

The benefits of controlled fire are clear—warmth, light, cooking—but a separate study suggests that modern humans evolved in a way that allowed them to take maximal advantage of it. The researchers found that modern humans have a genetic mutation that may have helped them tolerate intensely smoky conditions in caves. This may have offered an advantage over Neanderthals, who lacked the mutation.

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