Washington: A new study has found new evidence that our had a detailed understanding of plants long before the development of agriculture.
According to the chemical compounds and microfossils from dental calculus extracted from ancient teeth, purple nut sedge (Cyperus rotundus) - today regarded as a nuisance weed - formed an important part of the prehistoric diet.
The researchers said that prehistoric people living in Central Sudan may have understood both the nutritional and medicinal qualities of this and other plants.
Lead author Karen Hardy, a Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) Research Professor at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) and an Honorary Research Associate at the University of York, said that purple nut sedge is today considered to be a scourge in tropical and sub-tropical regions and has been called the world`s most expensive weed due to the difficulties and high costs of eradication from agricultural areas.
Hardy added that by extracting material from samples of ancient dental calculus they have found that rather than being a nuisance in the past, its value as a food, and possibly its abundant medicinal qualities were known.
The researchers also discovered that these people ate several other plants and traces of smoke, evidence for cooking, and for chewing plant fibres to prepare raw materials have been found. These small biographical details add to the growing evidence that prehistoric people had a detailed understanding of plants long before the development of agriculture.
The study was published in PLOS ONE.