`Cavemen ground flour, prepared veggies 30,000 years ago`

Scientists have found evidence that suggests ancient cavemen were grinding their own flour.

Last Updated: Oct 20, 2010, 09:16 AM IST

Washington: Scientists have found evidence
that suggests ancient cavemen were grinding their own flour
and preparing vegetables for meals at least 30,000 years ago.

The discoveries represent the oldest evidence for flour
preparation and plant food processing by prehistoric humans,
and possibly Neanderthals, who had incorporated far more plant
products into their diets than presently believed.

Researchers at the Italian Institute of Prehistory and
Protohistory, who based their study on the findings of ancient
kitchen tools, said the cavemen were apparently expert cooks
and preparing tasty food is not unique to modern times.

"Cooking enhances digestibility and also the taste of
starch is improved by cooking," said lead author Anna Revedin,
adding that it also helped to fuel the active lifestyle of
hunter-gatherers.

"We are quite convinced that flour enhanced their
mobility capacity, since it ensured a good source of energetic
food during their travels," Revedin told Discovery News.

She and her colleagues analysed mortar and pestle-type
stones that were found at three sites: Bilancino II in the
Megello Valley of Italy, Kostenki 16 at Pokrovsky Valley in
Russia, and Pavlov VI in southern Moravia, Czech Republic.

Since modern humans as well as Neanderthals inhabited
these regions, the researchers believe it could be possible
that either or both groups had cooking know-how.

The food preparation tools were found to contain the
remains of starch grains from various wild plants, including
cattail rhizomes, cattail leaves, moonworts, the ternate
grapefern, lady`s mantle, burdock, lettuce roots, burr chervil
root, edible grasses, seeds and more.

Flour made from cattails -- which tastes like the plant`s
distant cousin, corn -- seems to have been very popular, the
researchers said.

"Our experiments suggest that it is possible to mix this
flour with water to obtain a sort of flat bread cooked on hot
stones," Revedin said. "It is also possible that the flour was
used in a mixed soup."

Flour would have increased the "nutritional power" of
basic meals common to nomadic populations, she explained.

Virtually all of the discovered cattails and ferns are
rich in starch and, as such, represent significant sources of
carbohydrates and energy, said the researchers who detailed
their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences.

PTI