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Australia’s 65,000-Year-Old Meals Analyzed

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Australia Plant FoodsBRISBANE, AUSTRALIA—According to a report in Cosmos Magazine, scientists including S. Anna Florin, Andrew Fairbairn, and Chris Clarkson of the University of Queensland, and Mirarr Traditional Owners May Nango and Djaykuk Djandjomerr, have identified some of the foods gathered, processed, and eaten by Australia’s earliest inhabitants. Florin, Fairbairn, and Clarkson analyzed charred plant remains recovered from cooking hearths at Madjedbebe, a sandstone rock shelter in northeastern Australia’s Arnhem Land inhabited as early as 65,000 years ago. The plant remains included fruit pips, nut shells, tuber peelings, and fragments of palm stem thought to have been discarded from cooked meals. Florin, Fairbairn, and Clarkson then partnered with Nango and Djandjomerr to identify the modern versions of these plants, such as canarium, pandanus nuts, and cheeky yam, and the multistage cooking techniques required to make them edible. The researchers note that adapting to this diet would have required the first Australians to develop new technologies, including axes with ground edges and grinding stones, which have also been uncovered at the Madjedbebe rock shelter. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Nature Communications. To read about a kangaroo roast prepared 20,000 years ago, go to "World Roundup: Australia."

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