The pits discovered have very few differences than the ones found in peaches today.
Researchers in China have found fossilized peach pits thought to date back over 2.5 million years, making them the oldest peaches ever found. The Washington Post reports that until now, the oldest known peaches dated back 8,000 years, according to Chinese archaeological records.
The fossilized pits were discovered by Tao Su, an associate professor at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, near a Southwest China bus station. The area is under construction, leaving rocks from thousands of years ago exposed. Tao Su’s findings were published in Scientific Reports this week.
The pits discovered have very few differences from pits found in peaches today. Researchers suspect that the ancient peaches may have been smaller than what is typically sold today, but are otherwise similar enough to be the same species.
The findings suggest that since since humanity has only been growing and harvesting plants for around 10,000 years, the peach likely evolved into the fruit we know today on its own. Peter Wilf, a professor at Penn State said in a statement, “The peach was a witness to the human colonization of China,” adding, “It was there before humans, and through history we adapted to it and it to us.”
Experts believe that this discovery confirms the peach as a fruit native to China. Peaches are naturally flavorful, and have hard, sturdy pits that would have made it easy to spread seeds all over the planet, via birds and other animals.
Since the fruit itself is not preserved in the fossil, researchers cannot accurately confirm that the ancient peach is the same as peaches around today, and therefore cannot possess the same species name. Instead, researchers have suggested the name Prunus kunmingensis, a homage to Kunming, the city the fossils were discovered in.