170,000-Year-Old Roasted Root Vegetables Are Found in Cave Dirt

Scientists found the oldest roasted root vegetables in a cave in Southern Africa.
Nursah Ergü

The world's oldest roasted root vegetables were discovered in a cave in southern Africa, between the 170,000-year-old ashes.

This new discovery demonstrates that the real paleo diet contained a lot of roasted vegetables rich in carbohydrates, just like modern potatoes.


Lyn Wadley of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa said, "I think people were eating a very balanced diet, a combination of carbohydrates and proteins."

Lyn Wadley and her team have studied the charred remains of a lot of modern plants under a microscope, the team came up with this discovery. They identified the charcoal fragments as the rhizomes of a plant from the genus Hypoxis.

Actually, this isn't the first discovery about the root vegetables; seeds of root vegetables and other plants have been found at an 800,000-year-old site in Israel, but, Lyn Wadley and her team came up with the earliest evidence of roasting.

Wadley says, "The rhizomes of Hypoxis plants can be as rich in carbohydrates as potatoes, although they taste more like a yam."

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The abundance of the rhizome fragments shows that roasted root vegetables were preferred highly by early humans, even if it's thought that early humans ate a lot of meat. Also, a lot of versions of the paleo diet, which is a diet based on consuming what early humans consumed in their daily lives, don't include potatoes and grains.

Wadley says, "I’m afraid the paleo diet is really a misnomer." 

Our thoughts on early human's diet can be wrong since plant remains are less likely to survive than animal bones. Also, the researchers rarely study them. Wadley says, "Many archaeologists are not interested in botanical remains."

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