The oldest leftovers ever found have been discovered in the ancient settlement of Madjedbebe, Australia.
The burnt scraps have been dated to between 65,000 and 53,000 years ago, pushing back the dates of earliest human activity in Australasia.
Anna Florin, one of the authors of the study published in the journal Nature Communications, said: "They [were] only preserved through chance.
“These specific food scraps came into contact with ancient cooking fires and turned into charcoal. They represent the earliest evidence for the use of plant foods outside of Africa and the Middle East.”
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Florin worked with local elders May Nango and Djaykuk Djandjomerr to identify the plants that might have been used for food in this area 65,000 years ago.
Microscopic analysis showed that he burned leftovers contained parts of at least the different plants, including various fruits and nuts, palm stems and "roots and tubers.”
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The meals would have required some skill in food preparation to make them edible: "The First Australians had a great deal of botanical knowledge and this was one of the things that allowed them to adapt to and thrive in this new environment," Florin said in a statement.
"They were able to guarantee access to carbohydrates, fat and even protein by applying this knowledge, as well as technological innovation and labor, to the gathering and processing of Australian plant foods."
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"It was once thought that humans moved quickly and easily through Island Southeast Asia, eating a buffet of easy-to-catch marine resources," she told Newsweek.
"However, as this and other archaeological evidence is beginning to show, human populations in this region were deploying skillful foraging strategies to survive and move into new environments.
“The voyage of early modern humans through Island Southeast Asia and into Australia and New Guinea is one of the great journeys in human history."
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