It seems that the eating habits of ancient hunter-gatherers living in Europe prior to the advent of farming was far more sophisticated than previously believed.
The Archaeological Institute of America has recently reported the surprising results of tests conducted by scientists at the University of Florence. The tests involved a stone pestle recovered in the Apulia region of Southern Italy.
Apulia is home to the archaeological site knows as the Paglicci Cave that was used by Paleolithic hunter-gatherers of the Gravettian culture between 32,000 and 34,000 years ago. These stone age humans painted murals on cave walls and engraved images of goats, cows, a serpent, and a nest with eggs. They also painted hunting scenes on bones.
The stone pestle was originally discovered in the cave back in the 1950s, but tests have only now revealed the composition of the stone’s starchy debris.
The tests revealed that the stone pestle had been used to grind none other than dried oats! The oats were first gathered and then heated which likely served as a primitive form of food preservation in the cool, damp climate. The heating also helped to dry out the oats, making them easier to grind.
Researchers suggest that the oat powder that resulted from the grinding process was boiled into a porridge-like gruel or even made into bread. The powder would have been easier for the nomadic culture to carry too.
This isn’t the first grinding stone that has been discovered in that area. Archaeologists have unearthed other stones that were tested and found to process roots and cattails.
Matt Pope, an archaeologist at the University College of London, said in an interview with the Scotland Herald that “If we were to look more systematically for ground stone technology we would find this is a more widespread phenomenon.” He added that this discovery is of particular importance because it sheds light on the diet of ancient humans prior to the dawn of farming and civilization itself. It also involves a popular, grain based food that is still widely consumed today.
Porridge a Traditional Scottish Dish
It makes sense that the Scottish media seized upon this story with gusto given that a simple bowl of oatmeal porridge is proudly regarded as a national dish dating back centuries.
In fact, evidence of porridge consumption in Scotland dates back to 4,000 B.C. when oats along with other crops began to be cultivated by the country’s first farmers. Its use by the traditional, vibrantly healthy Gaelic culture was written about in the nutritional classic Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.
While a bowl of oatmeal has now been found to be not only a traditional, but in fact an ancient dish, be sure you are preparing it correctly to deactivate all anti-nutrients to maximize assimilation of nutrients. This recipe plus video will show you how to enjoy the benefits of paleo oatmeal in much the same way our stone age ancestors did.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sources and More Information
Paleolithic Hunter-Gatherers Ground Oats
Ancient Tool Reveals Secrets of Stone Age Porridge
How to Adjust to the Taste of Soaked Oatmeal
I still don’t believe humans should be eating grains. Especially modern grains that are hybridized and very different from what humans ate even 1,000 years ago.
Been grain free and low carb for 3 months now! 40lbs lost!
Patrick, I sincerely hope the low carb diet works for you long term. But be prepared…everyone I personally know, including me, reached a point where our bodies figured out what we were up to and began slowing our metabolism. No matter HOW low our carbs were, that scale wouldn’t budge anymore, and we became fatigued and sluggish. Hopefully that won’t happen for you. But IF it does, may I suggest that you check into Trim Healthy Mama. They encourage the eating of the traditional foods talked about by Sarah and Wise Traditions, but in a way that helps those of us with slower metabolisms to burn the excess fat. Hundreds of thousands of testimonies are pouring in of healthy steady weight loss that sustains over the years. I’m one of them and love the awesome food freedom…no more giving up any food groups God gave to us (I’ve been raw vegan to paleo, low fat to low carb), just giving a little thought to when to have which foods.
SO happy for your 40 lbs lost! Congrats!!!
I have to confess to being a complete food nerd when it comes to discovering old recipes and traditional practice. So little was writen down given that food knowledge and how to cook was largely an oral, as opposed to a written, medium. I’ve been trying really hard to find evidence of soaking oats in acid (buttermilk) in Scotland and Ireland but no one I know recollects this ever being done. Water yes. Buttermilk no. Do you know of any writen recipes, other than Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s, which require this? Having said all of that I soak my oats in buttermilk overnight and the transformation is amazing – the best porridge I’ve ever eaten. The creamy texture of the oats is second to none.
Is there any added benefit to soaking if you use sprouted oats?
I think soaking on top of sprouted makes for a softer texture to the oatmeal. No need to do it … but if it improves the texture for you, then it is fine to do.
I know this has nothing to do with your post today, but I am just watching Dr. OZ and and he has Dr. Andrew Weil on who believes that eating soy products lowers your risk of breast cancer by 30%! I can’t believe he is recommending soy!
I collect antique cookbooks and recently came across one that contains traditional Scottish fare. The oatmeal recipe contains kail (kale in today’s spelling). It was cut into fine slices and cooked with the oats. For breakfast it was made with water, and when it was served for supper it was made with broth. I guess that’s why all the elders I know who are over 100 years old are of Scottish descent. They ate kale regularly.
I watched video on paleo oatmeal and my question is, if soaking the oatmeal overnight in an acid to break down the toxins, why do you not rinse away the toxins before cooking and eating?
The toxins are deactivated already by the soaking so no need to rinse them away.
One of the toxins is phytic acid, not properly a toxin but rather a chelating agent for a number of minerals.
Phytase is also contained in cereals and nuts. It is an enzyme which activates in presence of water and destroys phytic acid, thus releasing the minerals.
If you wash your grains you’ll wash away also those minerals that now would have been ready for absorption, like: making the whole soaking process worthless 😉