Go Ahead, Paleo Fans: Have a Bowl of Oatmeal

Would you believe our ancestors may have been subsisting on the first artisanal flatbread?

(Photo: Flickr)

Sep 8, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Want to be legit when it comes to adhering to the Paleo diet? Then you may do well to trade your morning eggs for a bowlful of…oatmeal?

Yep, it’s that time again. Just as regularly as it seems Apple unleashes yet another update for iOS (seriously, I have to restart my phone again), here comes more scientific evidence that the diet of legions of die-hard Paleo fans may be based more on a myth of what our ancestors ate than any sort of reality.

In a study published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team led by Marta Mariotti Lippi at the University of Florence claims that a 30,000-year-old stone tool unearthed in southern Italy shows evidence of being used to grind wild oats into flour, which Stone Age hunter-gatherers then may have boiled to make porridge or baked into “a simple flatbread,” reports New Scientist. (Alas, archaeologists failed to uncover evidence that said flatbread was topped with artisanal mozzarella or accompanied by two-for-one happy-hour drink specials.)

The study adds further weight to the growing body of evidence suggesting that rather than ignore the myriad sources of wild carbs growing all around them, Paleolithic peoples more likely exercised some of that evolutionarily hard-won intelligence to eke subsistence out of things like grasses and tubers—aka, the precursors to the cultivation of wheat and other agricultural staples, or the moment when, according to Paleo devotees, the diet of modern-day humans started going to hell in a handbasket.

It seems fitting that this most recent evidence for early carb consumption comes from Italy, pasta capital of the world. Lippi was part of a team that five years ago detailed other evidence of plant-food processing in her native country, as well as in parts of Russia and today’s Czech Republic, during the Paleolithic era. As she tells Vox: “In Central Italy they ate starch from cattail, in the Middle East, starch from wild wheat. In Russia and Moravia, they were eating starch, but we do not know which plants they processed.”

Speaking to Herald Scotland, archaeologist Matt Pope of University College London says: “We’ve had evidence of the processing of roots and cattails, but here we’ve got grain, and a grain that we’re familiar with. If we were to look more systematically for ground stone technology, we would find this is a more widespread phenomenon.”

That’s something your Paleo-diet-loving friends might just have a hard time swallowing.