Grounded oats have been found at a prehistoric site in Southern Italy, indicating that we prepared and ate grains much earlier than previously thought. Photo credit: Donald Lee Pardue / Flickr

The so-called paleolithic diet is gaining momentum. As its name suggests, you should eat as closely as possible to what we humans ate during the Paleolithic era before the agricultural revolution that took place some 10,000 years ago.

Grinding stone from Grotta Paglicci, Italy. Credit: Stefano Ricci.

This implies eating fewer carbohydrates in general and fewer grains in particular. Instead, you should focus on eating meat, fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. And with as little industrial produced food, flour, and sugar as possible.

Now, some new archaeological findings indicate that we ate grains further back in time than previously thought.

Archaeologists have excavated the Paglicci cave in southern Italy for nearly 40 years. Having found cave paintings, tools and the remains of both animals and plants – it has been a rich source of information about early human European settlement.

Archaeologists studied one item a little more closely, and what they interpreted to be a 30,000-year-old mortar rod, was indeed proven to be just that by what they found still attached to the rod.

Swollen, gelatinized starch grain from the Paglicci grinding stone. Credit: Marta Mariotti Lippi

They found and analyzed tiny grains of starch from a variety that is consistent with what is found in oats today. The grains appear to have not only been ground into a flour, the grains also indicate having been heated before being grounded.

If these findings are indeed proof of us eating ground grains some 30,000 years ago, it would be one of the oldest evidence yet of early human cooking, preparing plants in several steps to achieve more easily obtained nutrients.


Reference: Marta Lippi Mariotti et al. Multistep food processing plant at Grotta Paglicci (Southern Italy) around 32.600 cal BP PNAS 7 September 2015. DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.1505213112