The Surprising Paleolithic Diet


The analysis of the oldest remains of charred food shows that preparing tasty and varied dinners  is a habit that dates back at least 70,000 years ago


When one thinks of Paleolithic men, the stereotype is the one that sees people eating raw ingredients or maybe just cooking pieces of meat on the fire. But the new study by the University of Liverpool has shown that both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens followed complex diets that involved several stages of preparation and were committed to seasoning and using plants with bitter and pungent flavors.

This degree of culinary complexity has never been documented before for Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. The earliest remains of plant food from a hunting site in Jordan, dates to approximately 14,400 years ago, as reported in 2018. The evidence is based on fragments of prepared plant food (think burnt pieces of bread) found in two caves . To the naked eye, or with a low power microscope, they look like crumbs or charred chunks, with seed fragments. But a powerful scanning electron microscope made it possible to see the details of the plant cells, including wild mustard and terebinth ( wild pistachio ) mixed with food.

The paleolithic recipe

According to the researchers, the people who lived in these caves added the seeds to a mixture that was heated with water while grinding, tamping or crushing the soaked seeds.


Most wild legume blends were characterized by bitter tasting blends . In modern cooking, these legumes are often soaked, heated, and dehulled to reduce their bitterness and toxins. The ancient remains we’ve found suggest that humans have been doing this for tens of thousands of years. Therefore, we can safely speak of the use of pounded legumes as a commonly used ingredient in cooked vegetable foods combined with the use of plants with a bitter and astringent taste as a key element of the Paleolithic cuisines of southwestern Asia and the eastern Mediterranean.

  • Cooking in caves: Palaeolithic carbonised plant food remains from Franchthi and Shanidar. (




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