4

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Earliest evidence of human consumption of tubers and grains from 105,000 years ago?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created November 12, 2011 at 5:42 AM

So I was reading an article on WholeHealthSource.com about the importance of fiber in the human diet (which I highly recommend everyone here read: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2009/12/butyric-acid-ancient-controller-of.html) and one of the comments provided a link to an anthropological study that provided evidence that humans began consuming tubers and grains as early as 105,000 years ago. I didn't read the actual study except for the abstract because I didn't have access to it, but it definitely challenges one of the fundamental principles of the modern understanding of the Paleo diet and lifestyle. So what is your opinion? Bogus research or Paleo game changer? Here is the link to the ScienceDaily article describing the study: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091217141312.htm

If anyone can access the actual study please provide a link, it will be much appreciated.

6cca02352c216b4ca8325fda7d83832c

(1042)

on November 14, 2011
at 12:22 AM

Yes, gluten is definitely not in every type of seed, just certain varieties of cereal grains like wheat, rye, barley, etc. From my impressions of Paleo blog posts, the book Wheat Belly contains the answer to your question thhq. From my research, gelatin has health promoting properties, while casein may be either beneficial or harmful to an individual based on the individual's genes, biochemistry, and lifestyle.

A141571ee2453db572c9d3222657bf6b

(756)

on November 13, 2011
at 11:38 PM

to my knowledge casein is considered almost as problematic as gluten. I don't know anything about gelatin. gluten is not in every seed. many other seeds have proteins that are similar to gluten, but they are not gluten.

6cca02352c216b4ca8325fda7d83832c

(1042)

on November 13, 2011
at 08:28 PM

I agree completely. I don't think grain consumption caused disease and reduced longevity until humans made them staple foods and genetically modified them.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on November 13, 2011
at 04:53 PM

It continues to puzzle me that gluten is demonized while the animal versions - gelatin and casein - are lauded. They're all similar sticky soluble proteins. Can someone explain the metabolic difference?

Medium avatar

(10601)

on November 13, 2011
at 04:47 PM

Seasonality = forced moderation.

D45e43b08cd99a04f5d4294a871e1078

(1010)

on November 13, 2011
at 04:23 PM

gluten is in every seed, "gluten-free" industry tells you it's only in some, but gluten is just the casing of any seed.

Medium avatar

on November 13, 2011
at 01:02 AM

One hypothesis is that we evolved larger brains as an adaptation to the heat stress caused by hunting http://www.jstor.org/pss/2742893. Something to think about.

Medium avatar

on November 13, 2011
at 01:02 AM

As you mentioned eating meat more than the high fiber plants today's apes still eat allowed our guts to be smaller since less processing of the undigestible parts of the plant was needed, freeing up energy for the brain. Making the meat more digestible by cooking it did this too. Plus there may have been other benefits to the brain from hunting for meat since it required us to learn directions and have the more complex social interactions that teamwork and vocalization required.

Medium avatar

on November 13, 2011
at 12:50 AM

Meat is more rewarding in terms of the net energy output you get from it compared to grains, and it provided the fat and protein our brains needed to get bigger. When you cook grains they're easier to digest but still don't provide the raw materials our brains thrive on. I'm not sure the argument is against cooked grains, it's usually against eating grains in any form, although as melissa said I think they're fine in small amounts if fermented.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 13, 2011
at 12:11 AM

I think the main contention of many paleo-hacks is that grain is a marginal source of nutrients even with the best possible processing-there are better sources available.

6cca02352c216b4ca8325fda7d83832c

(1042)

on November 13, 2011
at 12:07 AM

It seems common sense to me that they would let their saliva and bacteria do the work of digesting and fermenting the grains to make alcohol instead of rendering them digestible by more laborious means like making bread, soaking, etc. Personally I consume soaked and sprouted non-gluten grains occasionally and they give me no digestive troubles whatsoever.

6cca02352c216b4ca8325fda7d83832c

(1042)

on November 12, 2011
at 11:24 PM

Keep in mind that I am new to the Paleo lifestyle when reading this question, as I realize there may be a very obvious answer to it for someone who has studied this subject extensively.

6cca02352c216b4ca8325fda7d83832c

(1042)

on November 12, 2011
at 11:23 PM

Thanks for the link JS, I definitely need a primer on archaeological evidence. A related question I still haven't answered though is how can the Paleo community argue in favor of cooked meat consumption (correctly) based on the premise that the cooking process rendered the meat more easily digestible and thus enabled our brains to grow much more than they would have otherwise and our intestines to shrink by the same degree, while arguing against cooking and other means of processing grains to render them more digestible?

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 12, 2011
at 05:24 PM

Or, if they did eat grains they felt crummy but didn't know what caused it and ate the grains because they didn't know any better.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 12, 2011
at 05:22 PM

Hey, JS! Why am I always so hungry? :-))

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 12, 2011
at 05:21 PM

Perfectly said. It doesn't matter when humans started eating wheat; today's wheat makes me sick so it's out of my menus.

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7 Answers

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6
Medium avatar

on November 12, 2011
at 08:15 AM

We should keep in mind that if they did eat grains they probably took steps to make them more digestible by fermenting them. Also, what the researchers call "grains" aren't the grains that the agricultural revolution started mass producing many years ago and not even remotely close to the genetically engineered grains we eat today http://huntgatherlove.com/node/418. For more on that read Dr. Davis's book Wheat Belly or check out his blog. Loren Cordain isn't too convinced by these findings http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2009/12/loren-cordains-responds-to-mercader.html. Just because there were seeds found and tools to grind them doesn't mean grains became a staple of their diet. They may have tried to eat them a few times and gave up, realizing the energy required to process the grains wasn't worth the energy the grains provide when they could just find a fruit tree and pick fruit instead. Mark Sisson also isn't buying the conclusions of this research http://www.marksdailyapple.com/stone-age-grains/. Eating the non-gluten grains won't hurt you in moderation, but there's plenty of other sources of carbs for the people who wanna avoid grains altogether.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 12, 2011
at 05:24 PM

Or, if they did eat grains they felt crummy but didn't know what caused it and ate the grains because they didn't know any better.

15
00c8eb3f6e6a1884216044ca29cf868a

on November 12, 2011
at 08:31 AM

It's neither bogus research nor a game changer.

Sorghum residue in one cave, found 70,000 years previous to any other evidence of regular seed processing and among many other plant residues, could be a trace of a thriving culture of grass-eaters; it could be a temporary response to a drought or a crash in prey population; or it could be the final meals of a family that starved to death.

???Early homo sapiens relied on grass seeds??? is, in my opinion, a transparently silly assertion to make from such limited evidence. The first evidence we have of regular seed harvesting and consumption by any group of humans is from Ohalo II in Israel, 19,400 years ago. It took over 8,000 more years before deliberate agriculture was practiced anywhere, and many more thousands of years before it spread beyond a small region of the Middle East.

Most importantly, as Dr. Cordain points out in his response, there???s no evidence of all the other technologies necessary to make sorghum edible to humans.

I think you'll have a much better idea of the issues and context of archaeological evidence in general after reading this article.

JS

6cca02352c216b4ca8325fda7d83832c

(1042)

on November 12, 2011
at 11:23 PM

Thanks for the link JS, I definitely need a primer on archaeological evidence. A related question I still haven't answered though is how can the Paleo community argue in favor of cooked meat consumption (correctly) based on the premise that the cooking process rendered the meat more easily digestible and thus enabled our brains to grow much more than they would have otherwise and our intestines to shrink by the same degree, while arguing against cooking and other means of processing grains to render them more digestible?

6cca02352c216b4ca8325fda7d83832c

(1042)

on November 12, 2011
at 11:24 PM

Keep in mind that I am new to the Paleo lifestyle when reading this question, as I realize there may be a very obvious answer to it for someone who has studied this subject extensively.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 12, 2011
at 05:22 PM

Hey, JS! Why am I always so hungry? :-))

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 13, 2011
at 12:11 AM

I think the main contention of many paleo-hacks is that grain is a marginal source of nutrients even with the best possible processing-there are better sources available.

Medium avatar

on November 13, 2011
at 12:50 AM

Meat is more rewarding in terms of the net energy output you get from it compared to grains, and it provided the fat and protein our brains needed to get bigger. When you cook grains they're easier to digest but still don't provide the raw materials our brains thrive on. I'm not sure the argument is against cooked grains, it's usually against eating grains in any form, although as melissa said I think they're fine in small amounts if fermented.

Medium avatar

on November 13, 2011
at 01:02 AM

One hypothesis is that we evolved larger brains as an adaptation to the heat stress caused by hunting http://www.jstor.org/pss/2742893. Something to think about.

Medium avatar

on November 13, 2011
at 01:02 AM

As you mentioned eating meat more than the high fiber plants today's apes still eat allowed our guts to be smaller since less processing of the undigestible parts of the plant was needed, freeing up energy for the brain. Making the meat more digestible by cooking it did this too. Plus there may have been other benefits to the brain from hunting for meat since it required us to learn directions and have the more complex social interactions that teamwork and vocalization required.

9
A141571ee2453db572c9d3222657bf6b

(756)

on November 12, 2011
at 06:32 AM

it's a common misunderstanding of the ideological paleo mindset that all grains were verboten to our ancestors. here is the study you're referring to: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5960/1680

the bottom line is largely that the grains consumed by pre-agricultural man were not gluten-containing, wheat remaining one of the earliest domesticated crops. obviously this means some people consumed wheat as soon as they were in its proximity (and hungry enough), but most did not.

ultimately in my opinion what this should mean to you, in the 21st century, is that there is no "one way of eating" that fits everyone. evaluate your situation, test and experiment, and do what works for you.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 12, 2011
at 05:21 PM

Perfectly said. It doesn't matter when humans started eating wheat; today's wheat makes me sick so it's out of my menus.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on November 13, 2011
at 04:53 PM

It continues to puzzle me that gluten is demonized while the animal versions - gelatin and casein - are lauded. They're all similar sticky soluble proteins. Can someone explain the metabolic difference?

6cca02352c216b4ca8325fda7d83832c

(1042)

on November 14, 2011
at 12:22 AM

Yes, gluten is definitely not in every type of seed, just certain varieties of cereal grains like wheat, rye, barley, etc. From my impressions of Paleo blog posts, the book Wheat Belly contains the answer to your question thhq. From my research, gelatin has health promoting properties, while casein may be either beneficial or harmful to an individual based on the individual's genes, biochemistry, and lifestyle.

D45e43b08cd99a04f5d4294a871e1078

(1010)

on November 13, 2011
at 04:23 PM

gluten is in every seed, "gluten-free" industry tells you it's only in some, but gluten is just the casing of any seed.

A141571ee2453db572c9d3222657bf6b

(756)

on November 13, 2011
at 11:38 PM

to my knowledge casein is considered almost as problematic as gluten. I don't know anything about gelatin. gluten is not in every seed. many other seeds have proteins that are similar to gluten, but they are not gluten.

5
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 12, 2011
at 11:05 PM

There is better more current research where they found the plant microfossils on hominid fossil teeth that I've blogged about. I guess if all you read is Gary Taubes and Cordain it might seen shocking, but a lot of paleo bloggers and writers enjoy tubers and certain grains in small seasonal amounts.

Medium avatar

(10601)

on November 13, 2011
at 04:47 PM

Seasonality = forced moderation.

6cca02352c216b4ca8325fda7d83832c

(1042)

on November 13, 2011
at 12:07 AM

It seems common sense to me that they would let their saliva and bacteria do the work of digesting and fermenting the grains to make alcohol instead of rendering them digestible by more laborious means like making bread, soaking, etc. Personally I consume soaked and sprouted non-gluten grains occasionally and they give me no digestive troubles whatsoever.

2
52f3419dd9a757b529ec3aac96588b42

on November 13, 2011
at 04:01 PM

I always understood that archeologists could tell when humans started to actually cultivate grain by the increased incidence of arthritis. My bet is that before agriculture, humans ate wild grains, but not in the quantities that would qualify them as a staple.

6cca02352c216b4ca8325fda7d83832c

(1042)

on November 13, 2011
at 08:28 PM

I agree completely. I don't think grain consumption caused disease and reduced longevity until humans made them staple foods and genetically modified them.

1
3eca93d2e56dfcd768197dc5a50944f2

(11697)

on November 12, 2011
at 06:29 AM

Maybe it's true, I don't know. But we should not forget that modern wheat is very mutated, to the point that it's dangerous (its gluten makes holes in our guts). Maybe if we were to eat less of it, and more ancient varieties (like einkorn, which its gluten has 12 chromosomes instead of 48), we wouldn't have the problems many of us have today (that lead us to Paleo). So it's not exactly black and white either...

0
9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on November 12, 2011
at 10:51 PM

Even if they did consume grains, that doesn't change humans' current physiological response to them i.e. reaction to problematic proteins, phytate's nutrient stripping properties, etc. The anthropological lens is just way one to approach current food choices. Additionally, they probably weren't consuming mass quantities. For the sake of argument, let's say they were eating large amounts. They still had to work infinitely harder than we do for similar foods today.

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