Plant foods likely affected our evolutionary history, but we know surprisingly little about this aspect of early hominin diets. Plants are known to be important aspects of modern human diets. Hunter-gatherers acquire up to 80% of their calories from plant foods. Several researchers have suggested that the introduction of new plant foods, or the development of new plant food processing technology, may have caused speciation events in the hominin lineage. However, we have almost no direct information on the plant foods our ancestors and relatives consumed.
The Max Planck Research Group on Plant Foods in Hominin Dietary Ecology seeks to explore some of the complex relationships between the biology and behavior of humans, and the plant foods they consumed. Knowing more about plant foods throughout hominin evolution allows us to better understand our relationship with the environment, and helps us to develop better-informed models of hominin behavioral ecology.
Our research falls into three broad categories:
- Reconstructing diets of individuals and groups
- Establishing costs and benefits of consuming plant foods
- Improving methods for studying ancient use of plants
We are located within the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and are closely affiliated with the Department of Human Evolution.