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Earliest direct evidence of plant processing in prehistoric Saharan pottery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Julie Dunne
  • Anna Maria Mercuri
  • Richard P. Evershed
  • Silvia Bruni
  • Savino Di Lernia
Original languageEnglish
Article number16194
Number of pages6
JournalNature Plants
Volume3
DOIs
DateAccepted/In press - 20 Oct 2016
DatePublished (current) - 19 Dec 2016

Abstract

The invention of thermally resistant ceramic cooking vessels around 15,000 years ago was a major advance in human diet and nutrition, opening up new food groups and preparation techniques. Previous investigations of lipid biomarkers contained in food residues have routinely demonstrated the importance of prehistoric cooking pots for the processing of animal products across the world. Remarkably, however, direct evidence for plant processing in prehistoric pottery has not been forthcoming, despite the potential to cook otherwise unpalatable or even toxic plants. In north Africa, archaeobotanical evidence of charred and desiccated plant organs denotes Early Holocene hunter gatherers routinely exploited a wide range of plant resources. Here, we reveal the earliest direct evidence for plant processing in pottery globally, from the sites of Takarkori and Uan Afuda in the Libyan Sahara, dated to 8200-6400 calBC. Characteristic carbon number distributions and δ13C values for plant wax-derived n-alkanes and alkanoic acids indicate sustained and systematic processing of C3/C4 grasses and aquatic plants, gathered from the savannahs and lakes in the Early to Middle Holocene green Sahara.

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    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Nature at http://www.nature.com/articles/nplants2016194. Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 670 KB, PDF document

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