Mozambican Grass Seed Consumption During the Middle Stone Age

Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada.
Science (Impact Factor: 33.61). 12/2009; 326(5960):1680-3. DOI: 10.1126/science.1173966
Source: PubMed


The role of starchy plants in early hominin diets and when the culinary processing of starches began have been difficult to track archaeologically. Seed collecting is conventionally perceived to have been an irrelevant activity among the Pleistocene foragers of southern Africa, on the grounds of both technological difficulty in the processing of grains and the belief that roots, fruits, and nuts, not cereals, were the basis for subsistence for the past 100,000 years and further back in time. A large assemblage of starch granules has been retrieved from the surfaces of Middle Stone Age stone tools from Mozambique, showing that early Homo sapiens relied on grass seeds starting at least 105,000 years ago, including those of sorghum grasses.

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    • "The increased use of stone tools enabled access to richer carbohydrate sources through both retrieval and processing, for instance through digging up roots, which led to a wider spectrum of plant species utilized (Hillman and Wollstonecroft, 2014). A quickening of the direct interaction between hominins and plants is apparent at 100 kya (thousands of years ago), with grass seed consumption by early Homo sapiens in Mozambique (Mercader, 2009). Later evidence comes from Neanderthals up to 50 kya where plant material enshrined in the calculus matrix of teeth shows the consumption of plants later associated with domestication, such as Hordeum, Phoenix, and members of the Faboideae (Henry et al., 2011, 2014). "
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    • "Ngalue Cave w42e105 ka generic MSA (Mercader et al., 2009) "
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    ABSTRACT: a b s t r a c t Together with the disciplines of palaeoanthropology and genetics, archaeological finds and studies on material dating to the Middle Stone Age of sub-Saharan Africa have changed the way scholars think about ancient Africans and the later stages of human evolution. In general, it shows that anatomically modern humans have evolved by w200 ka in the region, and that relatively high levels of symbolic behaviour, and behavioural and cognitive complexity were achieved long before the previous 40e50 ka benchmark. The main focus of the paper is on aspects of post-100 ka archaeological material and how it can assist in the reconstruction of hypotheses and models regarding human cognitive and behavioural evolution. Some of the explored topics include fire as engineering tool, the manufacture and use of technologies such as compound adhesives, composite tools, bow-and-arrow sets and snares, and Middle Stone Age housekeeping. Although not central to the paper, an updated list of most Middle Stone Age stone tool assemblages is presented in Appendix A as context for sites, regions and topics mentioned throughout the text. On a theoretical level, the ratchet analogy as blanket explanation for behavioural and cognitive evolution is critiqued. Instead, the rugged fitness landscape model is brought to mind and combined with a mountaineering analogy to better explain human cognitive and behavioural flexibility as reflected in the Middle Stone Age record of sub-Saharan Africa.
    Quaternary International 08/2012; 270:140-155. DOI:10.1016/j.quaint.2012.02.033 · 2.06 Impact Factor
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    • "Recibido: 6-V-2011; aceptado: 6-VII-2011. al. 2007; Aceituno y Loaiza 2008; Piperno 2009), África (Mercader 2009 "
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