The first Australian plant foods at Madjedbebe, 65,000–53,000 years ago

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2020-02-17

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-14723-0

Affiliations: 10

Authors: 9

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Research Highlight

The first Australians ate meat and ten veg

© Auscape/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

© Auscape/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Charred leftovers of food cooked 65,000 years ago have revealed that humans had a more plant-based diet than previously thought.

It is generally thought that early humans wandered wherever there was plenty of high-calorie and convenient food, such as meat. In Australia, there is little evidence that plant foods, particularly those requiring preparation, were very important until farming emerged.

A team that included researchers from the University of Queensland analysed charred plant remains from the Madjedbebe rock shelter in northern Australia, preserved during a period of dense human occupation 65,000 to 53,000 years ago. They identified ten different edible plants, including forest fruits and nuts, but also seeds that needed grinding and stem vegetables such as palm that must be peeled and cooked before eating.

The findings show that early Australians got important carbohydrates, fats and proteins from foraged plant foods as well as meat.

Supported content

  1. Nature Communications 11, 924 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-14723-0
Institutions Share
Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC), Australia 0.22
School of Social Science, UQ, Australia 0.19
Department of Anthropology, UW, United States of America (USA) 0.11
Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS), UOW, Australia 0.11
University of Wollongong (UOW), Australia 0.07
Department of Archaeology, MPI-SHH, Germany 0.07
College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University, Australia 0.06
National Museum of Australia (NMA), Australia 0.06
Nulungu Research Institute, UNDA, Australia 0.06
Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University, Australia 0.06