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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Dec 20;113(51):14674-14679. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1607872113. Epub 2016 Dec 5.

The plant component of an Acheulian diet at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel.

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The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel;
The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel.
Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel.
Department of Biology and Environment, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa-Oranim, Tivon 36006, Israel;
Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel


Diet is central for understanding hominin evolution, adaptation, and environmental exploitation, but Paleolithic plant remains are scarce. A unique macrobotanical assemblage of 55 food plant taxa from the Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel includes seeds, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and plants producing underground storage organs. The food plant remains were part of a diet that also included aquatic and terrestrial fauna. This diverse assemblage, 780,000 y old, reflects a varied plant diet, staple plant foods, environmental knowledge, seasonality, and the use of fire in food processing. It provides insight into the wide spectrum of the diet of mid-Pleistocene hominins, enhancing our understanding of their adaptation from the perspective of subsistence. Our results shed light on hominin abilities to adjust to new environments, facilitating population diffusion and colonization beyond Africa. We reconstruct the major vegetal foodstuffs, while considering the possibility of some detoxification by fire. The site, located in the Levantine Corridor through which several hominin waves dispersed out of Africa, provides a unique opportunity to study mid-Pleistocene vegetal diet and is crucial for understanding subsistence aspects of hominin dispersal and the transition from an African-based to a Eurasian diet.


Acheulian; food plants; paleo diet; seasonality; use of fire

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