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Direct morpho-chemical characterization of elusive plant residues from Aurignacian Pontic Steppe ground stones

By G. Birarda, C. Cagnato, I. Pantyukhina, C. Stani, N. Cefarin, G. Sorrentino, E. Badetti, A. Marcomini, Carmine Lubritto, G. Khlopachev, S. Covalenco, T. Obada, N. Skakun, L. Vaccari, Laura Longo

Posted 23 Jul 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.07.23.212324

Direct evidence for the intentional processing of starch-rich plants during the Paleolithic is scant, and that evidence is often compromised by concerns over preservation and contamination. Our integrated, multimodal approach couples wear-trace analysis with chemical imaging methods to identify the presence of genuine ancient starch candidates (ASC) on ground stones used in the Pontic Steppe starting around 40,000 years ago. Optical and electron microscopy coupled with infrared spectromicroscopy and imaging provide morphological and chemical profiles for ASCs, that partially match the vibrational polysaccharide features of modern reference starches, highlighting diagenetic differences ranging from partial oxidation to mineralization. The results suggest the intentional processing of roots and tubers by means of mechanical tenderization and shed light on the role of dietary carbohydrates during Homo sapiens ′ (HS) colonization of Eurasia, demonstrating a long acquaintance with predictable calorific foods, crucial to maintain homeostasis during the harsh conditions of the Late MIS 3 (40-25 ky). ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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