Florence, Italy – A recent archeological discovery showed that around 32,000 years ago people ground up oats, and may have ingested them as oatmeal or even as a basic flour.

Professor Marta Mariotti Lippi from the University of Florence and her team analyzed a stone pestle, which was a tool used for grinding food, found in the Grotta Paglicci, Apulia, in southern Italy. They discovered that some of the debris on the stone turned out to be oatmeal. The stone belonged to the Gravettian era, a late Paleolithic culture, recognized for their tool making. The stone was recovered in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until recently when Lippi and colleagues found the oat fragments.

Credits: Wikipedia.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the stone pestle dates back to 32,600 years ago, making this finding the oldest known evidence that humans actually processed oats thousands of years before the development of agriculture.

The team also reported that the cave’s population used the pestle to grind whole oats turning it into flour before cooking and eating it. However, Lippi remains unclear about what exactly the ancient people did with the oats. “Presumably they mixed the flour with water and cooked (it)” and that they “surely used grains,” she told NPR.

Different ancient hunter-gatherers cultures used the Paglicci cave as home between 34,000 to 32,000 years ago. The site includes Paleolithic mural paintings, depicting horses and hand prints. Images of goats, cows, a serpent, a nest with eggs, and a hunting scene have also been found engraved on bone. Moreover, Lippi claims that she and her team will continue to examine the debris to understand what other prehistoric cultures had for meals.

Source: PNAS