Oldest charred food remains reveal earliest evidence of plant cooking by Neanderthals | Science & Tech News

Scientists have analyzed the oldest burnt food remains ever found, providing the earliest evidence of Neanderthal plant cooking.

Ancient hunter-gatherer were thought to have had a largely meat-based diet, but researchers have found that prehistoric humans had a varied diet, which was mainly plant-based.

The researchers used scanning electron microscopy to analyze nine burnt ancient food samples from two locations: Shanidar Caveone Neanderthals and early modern human habitation about 500 miles north of Baghdad in Iraq, and the Franchthi caves in Greece.

Undated documentary photo from Liverpool John Moores University of Shanidar Cave.  Scientists have unearthed the remains of what is believed to be the world's oldest flatbread made by Neanderthals in the foothills of Iraq Photo: Chris Hunt/Liverpool John Moores University/PA Wire
A view of the Shanidar caves in Iraq. Photo: Chris Hunt/Liverpool John Moores University

According to Ceren Kabukcu, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Liverpool who led the study published in the journal Antiquity, the five food fragments recovered from Shanidar are the “earliest” pieces found in Southwest Asia , dating back 40,000 and 70,000 years. .

Carbonated processed plant foods include a mix of different nuts, wild peas, wild mustard, wild nuts and wild grasses that may have formed the regime. Neanderthal eating.

Dr Kabukcu told Sky News: ‘They look like charred crumbs or crumbs that could be fried rice or porridge.

The four surviving relics recovered from Franchthi, she added, are the earliest of their kind recovered in Europe, dating from hunter-gatherers around 13,000 to 12,000 years ago.

One of the food deposits was discovered to be “bread-like”.

cooking tricks

The team was also able to identify cooking tricks used by Neanderthals and early modern chefs to make food tastier.

Beans, the most common ingredient identified, have a naturally bitter taste, which chefs from Stone Age extinguished by soaking, filtering, then pounding or grinding.

Crushing or grinding food will also make it easier for the body to absorb nutrients, as well as provide more cooking options.

Undated documentary photo released by Liverpool John Moores University of a fireplace found in Shanidar Cave.  Scientists have unearthed the remains of what is believed to be the world's oldest flatbread made by Neanderthals in the foothills of Iraq Photo: Graeme Barker/University of Cambridge/PA Wire
Pieces of food found in Shanidar Cave. Photo: Graeme Barker/Cambridge University

According to the researchers, the bread-like meal found in the Franchthi cave was made by grinding the seeds into a superfine powder, suggesting that hunter-gatherers developed specialized cooking methods in the Middle Ages. Middle and Paleolithic, tens of thousands of years ago.

“Our work convincingly demonstrates the deep roots of plant foods that include more than one ingredient and are prepared with multiple steps of preparation,” said Dr. Kabukcu.

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In modern agriculture, bitter compounds are almost completely eliminated, but neither Neanderthals nor early modern human cooks removed the entire seed coat, retaining its natural bitterness. of certain legumes in their meals.

The findings suggest that “plants with strong flavours, some bitter, some sharp, some rich in tannins were important ingredients (or seasonings) in Paleolithic hunter-gatherer cooking. old rocks,” Dr Kabukcu told Sky News, adding that “there are very ancient and complex plants”. culinary traditions based on these botanical flavors” very early on.


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