Early humans may have begun to move away from a largely meat-eating diet 20,000 years earlier than previously thought. A study of stone-grinding tools at sites in Italy, Russia and the Czech Republic has found evidence that humans were milling flour 30,000 years ago.

Microscopic study of starch grains at the Italian Institute of Prehistory and Early History in Florence suggests early man had a taste for cattail plants and ferns, which are a rich source of carbohydrates.

Until now, it was assumed that the diet of the Stone Age people who lived during the upper palaeolithic period consisted mostly of meat and fat, but the discovery of starch grains on grinding stones suggests that complex food processing was already taking place long before more sophisticated farming methods appeared across Europe.