Ancient Andean People Had A Plant-Based Diet And Were Not Hunter-Gatherers
Jan Bartek – AncientPages.com – Have scientists used the wrong term when referring to early humans as hunter-gatherers?
According to new groundbreaking research, the answer is “yes,” at least when discussing people living in the Andes of South America who had a plant-based diet.
Ancient Andean people had a plant-based diet, a new study reveals. Credit: Adobe Stock – SL-Photography
Archaeologists long thought that early human diets were meat-based. However, when assistant Professor Randy Haas at the University of Wyoming analyzed the remains of 24 individuals from the Wilamaya Patjxa and Soro Mik’aya Patjxa burial sites in Peru, he discovered early human diets in the Andes Mountains were composed of 80% plant matter and 20% meat.
There is evidence that people who lived in the Andes 9,000 to 6,500 years ago hunted and ate large mammals, but this was not their main food source. Analysis of the isotopic composition of the human bones shows that plant foods made up the majority of individual diets, with meat playing a secondary role.
Additionally, burnt plant remains from the sites, and distinct dental-wear patterns on the individuals’ upper incisors indicate that tubers—or plants that grow underground, such as potatoes—likely were the most prominent subsistence resource.
“Conventional wisdom holds that early human economies focused on hunting—an idea that has led to a number of high-protein dietary fads such as the Paleodiet.
Our combination of isotope chemistry, paleoethnobotanical and zooarchaeological methods offers the clearest and most accurate picture of early Andean diets to date.
These findings update our understanding of earliest forager economies and the pathway to agricultural economies in the Andean highlands,” Haas says.
Haas explained that archaeologists do not have the tools to understand early human diets, and their results are not what they had anticipated. This case study demonstrates for the first time that early human economies, in at least one part of the world, were plant-based.
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“Given that archaeological biases have long misled archaeologists—myself included—in the Andes, it is likely that future isotopic research in other parts of the world will similarly show that archaeologists have also gotten it wrong elsewhere,” he says.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE
Written by Jan Bartek – AncientPages.com Staff Writer