Washington, Dec 23 (ANI): Two new studies have revealed that ancient rock piles were used by early Native Americans in the Stone Age as earth ovens for cooking their own version of tortillas.
According to a report in Discovery News, the fire-cracked rock piles were used to cook smoky, sweet camas bulbs, which was a favorite food staple of the early native Americans.
Based on charred remains of plant material found at hot rock oven sites, cooked versions of this root vegetable, somewhat like a cross between an onion and a potato, is thought to have been the tortilla of the Stone Age.
The bulbs required up to two days to bake, due to a complex carbohydrate called inulin that is otherwise indigestible.
Alston Thoms, an associate professor of anthropology at Texas A and M University, who conducted both studies, told Discovery News that "camas consumption preceded corn consumption everywhere in the U.S. by thousands of years."
"Camas was mashed and pounded with a mortar and pestle into a thick dough that was then shaped into loaves that were later broken apart and cooked," he said.
He analyzed the fire-cracked rock assemblages and food remains throughout North America, with a particular focus on northwestern and southwestern sites.
Thoms found that fire-cracked rock cooking dates to anywhere from 9,000 years ago to as recent as 400 years ago, with some sites up to 9 feet in diameter containing stones weighing more than 2,000 pounds.
According to Thoms and his research team, early Native Americans dug a pit and lined it with firewood and rocks, which they burned.
Moist, green plants then went over the hot rocks. Vegetable fiber sacks full of fresh bulbs went over the plants and were covered with additional greenery. Sometimes, a second fire was then built over the mound.
After a day or two, dinner was served.
Although the bulbs are about as nutritious as sweet potatoes, they fell out of favor not only because of long cooking times, but also because they take longer to grow and provide fewer calories per pound than wheat, corn, rice and other starches. (ANI)