The plant component of an Acheulian diet at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel

Yoel Melamed, Mordechai E. Kislev, Eli Geffen, Simcha Lev-Yadun, Naama Goren-Inbar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Diet is central for understanding hominin evolution, adaptation, and environmental exploitation, but Paleolithic plant remains are scarce. A unique macrobotanical assemblage of 55 food plant taxa from the Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel includes seeds, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and plants producing underground storage organs. The food plant remains were part of a diet that also included aquatic and terrestrial fauna. This diverse assemblage, 780,000 y old, reflects a varied plant diet, staple plant foods, environmental knowledge, seasonality, and the use of fire in food processing. It provides insight into the wide spectrum of the diet of mid-Pleistocene hominins, enhancing our understanding of their adaptation from the perspective of subsistence. Our results shed light on hominin abilities to adjust to new environments, facilitating population diffusion and colonization beyond Africa. We reconstruct the major vegetal foodstuffs, while considering the possibility of some detoxification by fire. The site, located in the Levantine Corridor through which several hominin waves dispersed out of Africa, provides a unique opportunity to study mid-Pleistocene vegetal diet and is crucial for understanding subsistence aspects of hominin dispersal and the transition from an African-based to a Eurasian diet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14674-14679
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number51
StatePublished - 20 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the GBY Hebrew University of Jerusalem team, G. Hivroni for computerized graphics, Dr. Y. Langsam and Dr. O. Simchoni for the SEM photography, and S. Gorodetsky for her editorial work. We also thank three reviewers for their constructive comments. The GBY botanical remains are stored at the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, with the macrobotanical remains stored at the National Natural History Collection (seeds). The German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development and three grants from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem supported the various stages of research. This research was also conducted in the framework of a Center of Excellence supported by Israel Science Foundation Grant 300/06 and three previous Israel Science Foundation grants (to M.E.K. and N.G.-I.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.


  • Acheulian
  • Food plants
  • Paleo diet
  • Seasonality
  • Use of fire


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