Stone Age hunters liked their carbs
Analyses of Stone Age settlements reveal that the hunters were healthy and would gladly eat anything they could get their hands on, including carbohydrates – contrary to the modern definition of the Paleolithic, or Stone Age diet.
The Stone Age hunter's food contained large amounts of protein from fish, lean mean, herbs and coarse vegetables and has formed the basis of one of today's hottest health trends: the paleo diet.
The modern version of the Stone Age diet excludes foods rich in carbohydrates. This exclusion of carbs is based on the idea that Stone Age hunters didn't have access to bread, rice or pasta.
But is it true that Stone Age hunters and gatherers didn't eat any carbohydrates at all?
Sabine Karg, an external lecturer at Copenhagen University's Saxo Institute, specialises in archaeobotany. She says that Stone Age hunters, unlike many followers of the modern Stone Age diet, joyfully munched away at carbs when the opportunity presented itself.
"Carbohydrates have been part of their diet. In flooded settlements from the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods, traces of roots and seeds from various aquatic plants and wild grasses have been found."
Stone Age hunters were not picky
The modern version of the paleo diet forsakes everything that's reminiscent of bread, rice, pasta, legumes and milk.
But according to Karg, the Stone Age hunters were nowhere near that fastidious about their food.
Easily digestible food with high energy content is a welcome feature if you have to make the effort of finding the next meal yourself, and traces of foods containing carbohydrates have also been found in the old settlements.
"What archaeologists find in their excavations is dependent on both the preservation conditions and how the people had prepared their food," says Karg. "For us, the conditions are particularly good in flooded settlements where organic material is well preserved, or in burn layers or fireplaces where we can find charred plant residues," she says, giving an example:
"We have found seeds of wild grasses, aquatic plants and root vegetables, all of which have formed part of the hunters' diet. Especially after an unsuccessful hunt, they had to go out and dig up roots."
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