ANNALEE NEWITZ – How cooking vegetables changed humanity 10,000 years ago

When you imagine Neolithic hunter-gatherers, you probably think of people eating hunks of meat around an open fire. But the truth is that many humans living 10,000 years ago were eating more vegetables and grains than meat. Researchers discovered this after an extensive chemical analysis of 110 pottery fragments found in the Libyan Sahara Desert, a region that was once a humid savannah full of lakes, herd animals, and lush plant life.

The pottery was excavated at two archaeological sites: Uan Afuda cave and the Takarkori rock shelter. People inhabited these spots on-and-off for several thousand years, between 8200–6400 BCE. Both sites were occupied shortly after the invention of heat-resistant pottery in Africa 10,000 years ago (pottery was independently invented 4,000 years earlier in Asia). Remains in these places reveal the emergence of a key cultural innovation: cooking and preparing vegetables in clay pots.

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