Now, new archaeological research from the University of Utah shows that prehistoric inhabitants of the Escalante Valley could have been nourishing themselves with this tuber for thousands of years, long before potatoes were known to have been domesticated into one of world’s most widespread and vital crops.
“Our study has found the earliest evidence of potato use in North America,” said Lisbeth Louderback, the Natural History Museum of Utah’s archaeology curator.
Her research interest drew her to the smooth stones ancient people used for grinding plant fibers into something edible.
“Grinding plant tissues with manos and metates releases granules that get lodged in the tiny cracks of stone, preserving them for thousands of years.
“We have found wild potatoes growing from which the valley takes its name,” wrote Capt. Griffin’s wife was a history buff who was curious why Escalante residents didn’t know why the area had been called Potato Valley.