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Researchers find 6,000-year-old fossil evidence

is suggests that these groups might have had some type of contact with each other," Pearsall said.

Loma Alta and Real Alto, the sites in southwestern Ecuador studied by Pearsall, turned up the oldest starch of domesticated chili peppers, at approximately 6,000 years old. Starch of the peppers in other sites ranged from approximately 5,600 years to 500 years old. Under a microscope, the starch grains appeared as large, flattened disks with shallow central depressions, different from the appearance of starch grains from other foods.

This discovery enables researchers to gain a better picture of ancient diets. By analyzing the grains on cooking tools, they were able to determine that people used the same grinding stones to grind corn, chili peppers and a root crop called manioc, and they probably combined these ingredients to make soups, stews and other dishes. Pearsall found evidence of this diet on grinding stones from four ancient households at Real Alto, leading her to conclude that these foods were eaten by everyone, not just the commoners or the elites.


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Source:University of Missouri-Columbia


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