Plant residues recovered from prehistoric stone artifacts can be used to help explain tool function and plant use. At the Changning site in Qinghai Province, Northwest China, dating from 4000 yr BP, we examined starch granules extracted from three slate stone knives. A total of 153 starch grains were retrieved from three stone knives, from which we identified starches from legumes, the Triticeae tribe, foxtail millet (Setaria italica), broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum), roots and tubers. These results indicate that the stone knives may have been used for a variety of activities that included reaping grasses and food processing. The species of starch grains retrieved from the study sample reveal that diverse crops were cultivated at the Changning site 4000 years ago.