New Scientist's claim that "Palaeolithic mammoth burgers were eaten with a bun" may be a bit of a stretch, but the idea that stone age hunter-gatherers lived exclusively on carb-free meat diets may have been proven false according to new research.
There's no telling yet whether the findings will be a blow to adherents of the so-called Paleo Diet, which draws its inspiration from the way humans ate during the Paleolithic era.
Scientist Anna Revedin and a team of researchers at the Italian Institute of Prehistory and Early History studied the wear-marks and traces of plants on 30,000-year-old grindstones found in Italy, Russia and the Czech Republic, finding that the stones were used as tools to grind plant material and even make flour:
This showed that they had been used as mortars and pestles to grind plants like cat's tail and fern roots, which packed a starchy, high-energy punch. The find suggests that Stone Age humans across Europe even knew how to make flour – a complex process involving harvesting roots, then drying, grinding and finally cooking them to make them digestible. Revedin says the development of flour may have helped hunter-gatherers survive changes in the climate, from chilly winters to parched summers.
So, why were Palaeolithic humans thought to have subsisted on a diet of wild meat free from starches? Apparently, previously existing plant evidence was washed away by archaeologists as they cleaned the tools at dig sites. "This is the first time anybody has tried to find vegetable material on them," Revedin told New Scientist.