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December 6, 2016 10:28 am

Israeli Archaeologists Reveal Prehistoric Man’s Plant-Based Diet, Countering Claims of Carnivory

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A fossil of Archaefructus liaoningensis, a prehistoric plant. (Illustrative.) Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A fossil of Archaefructus liaoningensis, a prehistoric plant. (Illustrative.) Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – Remains of plants believed to be 780,000 years old were unearthed recently during excavations at Gesher Bnot Yaakov, a Stone Age archaeological site in the Hula Valley in northern Israel. According to archaeologists, the discovery provides proof of a plant-based diet in the Paleolithic era, countering the common claim that ancient humans’ diet was based heavily on animal products.

In a study published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Prof. Naama Goren-Inbar of the Institute of Archaeology revealed that more than 20,000 remains of edible plants were discovered at the site, providing evidence of the variety of plants and vegetables available to prehistoric humans. The discovery is the “earliest known archive of food plants,” according to the study.

“In recent years, we were met with a golden opportunity to reveal numerous remains of fruits, nuts and seeds from trees, shrubs and the like, alongside the remains of animals and man-made stone tools in one locality,” said Goren-Inbar, who — along with Bar-Ilan University’s Dr. Yoel Melamed — identified 55 species of edible plants.

“Our region is known for its abundance of plants, but the real surprise was a discovery of plant-based sources in the lake (Hula Lake) itself. We found more than 10 species that grew here in prehistoric times but don’t exist today,” Melamed said.

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The excavation team also found stone tools and animal fossils on site, which Melamed explained were preserved due to unique natural conditions.

“The site was submerged underground [in the waterlogged soil of the lake] in humid conditions and lacking oxygen, aided by the fast covering of layers of sediments,” Melamed said.

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