Cereals are a central resource for the human diet and are traditionally assumed to have evolved from wild grasses at the onset of the Neolithic under the pressure of agriculture. Here we demonstrate that cereals may have a significantly longer and more diverse lineage, based on the study of a 0-2.3 Ma, 601 m long sedimentary core from Lake Acgol (South-West Anatolia). Pollen characteristic of cereals is abundant throughout the sedimentary sequence. The presence of large lakes within this arid bioclimatic zone led to the concentration of large herbivore herds, as indicated by the continuous occurrence of coprophilous fungi spores in the record. Our hypothesis is that the effects of overgrazing on soils and herbaceous stratum, during this long period, led to genetic modifications of the Poaceae taxa and to the appearance of proto-cereals. The simultaneous presence of hominins is attested as early as about 1.4 Ma in the lake vicinity, and 1.8 Ma in Georgia and Levant. These ancient hominins probably benefited from the availability of these proto-cereals, rich in nutrients, as well as various other edible plants, opening the way, in this region of the Middle East, to a process of domestication, which reached its full development during the Neolithic.