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Oats and Prehistoric: Very Early Breakfast?

Sep 09, 2015 05:00 PM EDT
30,000-year-old oat grains found in a cave in southeastern Italy were treated similarly to how oatmeal is made today.
(Photo : Flickr: Daniella Segura)

Prehistoric means way, way earlier than the Saturday-morning cartoons and their accompanying breakfast, right? In southeastern Italy, researchers have found traces of oat grains in a cave area called Grotta Paglicci. These findings suggest that cave men and women ate a similar version of today's oatmeal 32,000 years ago.

According to a recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of Florence discovered starch grains on a 30,000-year-old stone grinding tool (a pestle) found in this southern Italy cave. The most common among the grains was wild oats.

The researchers note that this illustrates the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers' important use of plants. From further analysis of the oat grains, the researchers also concluded that the grains were exposed to heat before being ground up. This is most likely similar to how grains are dried before processed today. This might also indicate that Italy's climate was chillier then than now, as the journal article on the research noted. So is this an example of the world's oldest oatmeal?

"On the surface of the mill we found starch grains of oats, Avena barbata L., most likely, and this is when the first evidence of the use of this plant. The particular condition of the starch grains has led us to believe that the grains (kernels) have been subjected to a heat treatment before being crushed," said Marta Mariotti Lippi, lead researcher from the University of Florence, said in a statement.

While there was also no direct evidence that the grains were mixed with water and cooked after being ground, this study provides insight on how cave men and women made advancements prior to farming, as the statement noted. 

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN). 

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