The first evidence of cooking and eating starch – HeritageDaily


New discoveries made in the Klasies River cave in South Cape, South Africa, where charred remains of food have been discovered, are the first archaeological evidence that anatomically modern humans roasted and ate fish. 120,000 years old.

New research by an international team of archaeologists, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, provides archaeological evidence that was so far lacking to support the hypothesis that duplication of starch digestion genes is an adaptive response to a starch-enriched diet.

"It's very exciting. Genetic and biological evidence previously suggested that early humans would have eaten starch, but this research had not yet been done, "says lead author Cynthia Larbey of the Department of Health. Archeology of the University of Cambridge. The work is part of a systemic multidisciplinary investigation into the role played by plants and fire in the lives of communities in the middle stone age.

The interdisciplinary team researched and analyzed undisturbed foci at the archaeological site of the Klasies River.

"Our results showed that these small foci were used for cooking and that starchy roots and tubers were clearly part of their diet, from the oldest levels, around 120,000 years ago to 65,000 years ago. Says Larbey. "Despite changes to hunting strategies and stone tool technologies, they were still cooking roots and tubers."

Professor Sarah Wurz of the School of Geography, Archeology and Environment of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa (Wits University), and principal investigator of the site, indicates that research shows that "the first human beings followed a balanced diet and were ecological geniuses able to intelligently exploit their environment to feed themselves properly and perhaps even to heal themselves".

By combining cooked roots and tubers with the proteins and fats of shellfish, fish, and small and large fauna, these communities have been able to adapt optimally to their environment, which testifies to a great ecological intelligence from 120,000 years ago.

"The starch-based diet is not something that happens when we started to grow, but rather, it's as old as the humans themselves," says Larbey. Agriculture in Africa has only begun during the last 10,000 years of human existence.

Humans living in South Africa 120,000 years ago formed and lived in small groups.

"Evidence from the Klasies River, which contains several human skull fragments and two maxillary fragments dating back 120,000 years, shows that humans living at that time looked like the modern man of today. However, they were a little more robust, "says Wurz.

Klasies River is a very famous human occupation site on the Cape Coast, South Africa, unearthed by Wurz. With Susan Mentzer from the Senckenberg Institute and the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, they explored small homes.


Header Image – The Cave of the Klasies River in South Cape, South Africa. Credit: Wits University

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