The charred remains of starchy plants excavated in the Border Cave high in the Lebombo Mountains in South Africa provide the earliest direct evidence of the collecting and cooking of carbohydrate-rich foods by humans.
At least 170,000 years ago, humans not only consumed cooked meat, but they supplemented their diet with staple carbohydrates. The leftovers of such ancient feasts have been found by a team led by Professor Lyn Wadley, from the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand. The team recently published their findings in the peer-review journal Science.
During an excavation, Wadley and Dr Christine Sievers, also from Wits, identified 55 small, charred remains as rhizomes. Wadley explained that rhizomes are "a root-like underground part of a plant that gets shoots from the side. Ginger is a good example".
"The Hypoxis angustifolia rhizome (which was found) is like a small sweet potato in appearance, but it has whitish flesh. It is more palatable than the bitter, orange flesh of rhizomes from the better known medicinal Hypoxis species, which is incorrectly called the African Potato." The remains found are mostly like...