Vegetables Cooking

Cooking plants in a green Sahara, reported in Science (AAAS) News and ScienceDaily 19 December 2016, BBC News 20 December 2016, and Nature Plants doi:10.1038/nplants.2016.194, published online 19 December 2016.

A group of researchers from the UK and Italy have studied 110 broken pieces of pottery from archaeological sites at Takarkori and Uan Afuda in Libyan Sahara. Scientists analysed residues of oils and waxes from the fragments in order to find what the pots had contained. Fifty six of the pieces contained plant residues from grains, leafy vegetables and aquatic plants, indicating inhabitants of the site had regularly cooked and eaten a variety of plants, and made a type of porridge from the grains. This fits with previous finds in the same region where archaeologists have found remains of plants, along with stones that could be used to grind plants and seeds into flour, with a rock art picture of a human figure gathering plants.

This new analysis provides direct evidence that the inhabitants of this region cooked plants. The site is dated as 8,200–6,400 BC, making it the “earliest direct evidence for plant processing in pottery globally” according to the report in Nature Plants. Julie Dunne, of the University of Bristol School, who lead the study, commented: “Until now, the importance of plants in prehistoric diets has been under-recognised but this work clearly demonstrates the importance of plants as a reliable dietary resource. These findings also emphasise the sophistication of these early hunter-gatherers in their utilisation of a broad range of plant types, and the ability to boil them for long periods of time in newly invented ceramic vessels would have significantly increased the range of plants prehistoric people could eat”.

The Libyan Sahara is now a hot arid wilderness, where very few plants grow, but at the time this site was occupied it was well vegetated savannah with lots of rivers and lakes. Evidence for this “Green Sahara” has also been confirmed by another study of leaf waxes collected from marine sediments off the coast of West Africa carried out by scientists from USA and Sweden, published in Science Advances, 2017; 3 (1): e1601503 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601503 and reported in ScienceDaily 18 January 2017. The chemistry of leaf waxes in land plants varies depending on how dry or wet the climate was when the plant was growing, so researchers could get an idea of what the rainfall was as well as what types of plants were growing. According to Jessica Tierney of the University of Arizona, the lead author of the report, “It was 10 times as wet as today”.

BBC, Science, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: The usual evolutionary story of the origin of cooking is that primitive hunter-gatherers went from living on a meat diet with maybe some root vegetables cooked on a fire, to slowly progressing to cultivating crop plants along with the invention of pottery. However, none of these theories explain how supposed ape-like human ancestors worked out how to control fire and cook in the first place.

This new evidence of sophisticated people living in a lush environment, and gathering and cooking a variety of plants in pottery fits far better with the Biblical history of the world which informs us that firstly man started as a farmer and soon developed pottery, then 1600 years later, immediately after Noah’s Flood, the world was a moist, well vegetated place, and remained so for quite a while. After God’s judgement at Babel, people moved into the already lush northern Africa, bringing the knowledge of growing crops, cooking and making pottery. After all, they had just left a city where the main technology was baking bricks, and grand-daddy Noah was a grape farmer. As the North African climate became hotter and drier, the lakes and rivers dried up, and it was no longer possible to gather green plants or grow crops for food, so the people migrated elsewhere, leaving behind the evidence of their technology and of the previously lush environment. Climate change and environmental degradation are real, but they are part of the degeneration of the environment that started with human sin and accelerated after Noah’s Flood, and have been going on for thousands of years.

Evidence News vol. 17, No.1
1 February 2017
Creation Research Australia

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