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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Sep 29;112(39):12075-80. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1505213112. Epub 2015 Sep 8.

Multistep food plant processing at Grotta Paglicci (Southern Italy) around 32,600 cal B.P.

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Dipartimento di Biologia, University of Florence, 50121 Florence, Italy;
Dipartimento di Biologia, University of Florence, 50121 Florence, Italy;
Soprintendenza Archeologia della Toscana, 50121 Florence, Italy;
Unità di Ricerca di Preistoria e Antropologia, Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiche, della Terra e dell'Ambiente, University of Siena, 53100 Siena, Italy;
Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Protostoria, 50122 Florence, Italy.


Residue analyses on a grinding tool recovered at Grotta Paglicci sublayer 23A [32,614 ± 429 calibrated (cal) B.P.], Southern Italy, have demonstrated that early modern humans collected and processed various plants. The recording of starch grains attributable to Avena (oat) caryopses expands our information about the food plants used for producing flour in Europe during the Paleolithic and about the origins of a food tradition persisting up to the present in the Mediterranean basin. The quantitative distribution of the starch grains on the surface of the grinding stone furnished information about the tool handling, confirming its use as a pestle-grinder, as suggested by the wear-trace analysis. The particular state of preservation of the starch grains suggests the use of a thermal treatment before grinding, possibly to accelerate drying of the plants, making the following process easier and faster. The study clearly indicates that the exploitation of plant resources was very important for hunter-gatherer populations, to the point that the Early Gravettian inhabitants of Paglicci were able to process food plants and already possessed a wealth of knowledge that was to become widespread after the dawn of agriculture.


Avena; Early Gravettian; flour; pestle-grinder; starch grains

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