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Evidence of sophisticated, human behavior has been discovered by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers as early as 750,000 years ago -- some half a million years earlier than has previously been estimated by archaeologists.
The consumption of wild cereals among prehistoric hunters and gatherers appears to be far more ancient than previously thought, according to a University of Calgary archaeologist who has found the oldest example of extensive reliance on cereal and root staples in the diet of early Homo sapiens more than 100,000 years ago.
"This broadens the timeline for the use of grass seeds by our species, and is proof of an expanded and sophisticated diet much earlier than we believed," Mercader said. "This happened during the Middle Stone Age, a time when the collecting of wild grains has conventionally been perceived as an irrelevant activity and not as important as that of roots, fruits and nuts."
In 2007, Mercader and colleagues from Mozambique's University of Eduardo Mondlane excavated a limestone cave near Lake Niassa that was used intermittently by ancient foragers over the course of more than 60,000 years. Deep in this cave, they uncovered dozens of stone tools, animal bones and plant remains indicative of prehistoric dietary practices. The discovery of several thousand starch grains on the excavated plant grinders and scrapers showed that wild sorghum was being brought to the cave and processed systematically.
It’s long been thought that so-called modern human behavior first arose during the middle Stone Age, in “modern” humans—Homo sapiens.
But a new study suggests modern living may have originated roughly 500,000 years earlier—courtesy of one of our hairy, heavy-browed ancestor species.