December 2, 2022

Prehistoric humans were surprisingly creative cooks

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Stone Age cooks were surprisingly sophisticated, combining an array of them Using ingredients and different techniques to prepare and flavor their food, analysis of some of the oldest burnt food remains is suggested.

Plant material found in Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq. which is famous for Neanderthal burials surrounded by flowers. – and the Franchithe Cave in Greece revealed that prehistoric cooking by Neanderthals and early modern humans was complex, involving several stages, and that the foods used were diverse, according to a new study published In Journal Ancient.

Wild nuts, peas, vetch, a legume containing edible seed pods, and grass were often mixed with pulses. such as beans or lentils, the most commonly identified ingredient, and sometimes wild mustard. To make the plants more palatable, the pulses, which have a naturally bitter taste, were soaked, coarsely ground or pounded with stones to remove their husks.

(From left) A bread-like food found in the Franchithe cave in Greece.  Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq has revealed a rich diet of lentils with wild peas.

At Shanidar Cave, researchers studied plant remains from 70,000 years ago, when space Neanderthals, an extinct species of man, and 40,000 years ago when it was home to early modern humans (Homo sapiens).

Charred food dates back to 12,000 years ago at Franchithi Cave, when it was also occupied by predatory Homo sapiens.

Despite the distance in time and space, similar plants and cooking techniques were identified in both places – possibly Suggesting a shared cooking tradition, said study lead author Dr Seren Kaboko, an archaeologist at the University of Liverpool in the UK.

Based on food remains analyzed by the researchers, Neanderthals, heavy-bearded hominins who disappeared about 40,000 years ago, and Homo sapiens appeared to use similar ingredients and techniques, he added. He added, however, that wild mustard was found only in Shanidar Cave Occupied by Homo sapiens.

A bread-like substance was found in a Greek cave, although it was not clear what it was made of. According to Kabukcu, evidence of ancient humans dumping and soaking pulses in Shanidar Cave 70,000 years ago is the earliest direct evidence of plant processing for food outside of Africa.

Kabuku She said she was surprised to find that prehistoric people were combining plant ingredients in this way, indicating that taste was clearly important. He expected to find only starchy plants such as roots and tubers, which at face value are more nutritious and easier to prepare.

Much research on prehistoric diets has focused on whether early humans were primarily meat eaters, but Kabuko said it’s clear they weren’t just dining on woolly mammoth steaks. Our ancient ancestors ate different diets depending on where they lived, and likely included a wide range of plants.

A Neanderthal hearth was discovered in Shanidar Cave, where burnt plant remains were also found.

Such were the creative cooking techniques. Once thought has just emerged With the shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to humans’ focus on agriculture – known as the Neolithic transition – that occurred between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

What’s more, he said, the research suggested that life in the Stone Age wasn’t just a brutal fight for survival, at least at these two sites, and that prehistoric humans selectively cultivated different types of plants. Foraged and understood their different tastes.

Professor John McNab of the Center for the Archeology of Human Origins at the University of Southampton in the UK said the scientific understanding of Neanderthal diets has changed significantly “because we’ve moved away from the idea that they only ate hunting.” used in large quantities. meat.”

“Further data are needed from Shanidar, but if these findings are supported, then Neanderthals were eating pulses and some species of the grass family that required caution before consumption. The latest in food preparation. The techniques had a much deeper history than previously thought,” McNabb, who was not involved in the research, said via email.

“Even more interesting is that they didn’t intentionally extract all the offending toxins. Some were left in the food, as indicated by the presence of the seed coatings—the part of the seed where the bitterness is especially pronounced.” Located on. A Neanderthal taste of choice.”

A separate study on prehistoric diets also published Tuesday in Analyzing Ancient Humans The oral microbiome – the fungi, bacteria and viruses that live in the mouth – by using ancient DNA from dental plaque.

Researchers led by Andrea Coglierello, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Comparative Biomedicine and Food The University of Padua in Italy examined the oral microbiomes of 76 people who lived in prehistoric Italy over a 30,000-year period, as well as microscopic food residues found in calcified plaque.

A human jaw bone was excavated from a Neolithic site in southern Italy.

Quagliariello and his team were able to identify trends in food and cooking techniques, such as the introduction of fermentation and milk, and the shift toward greater reliance on carbohydrates associated with an agricultural diet.

McNabb said it’s impressive that researchers have been able to make chart changes over such a long period of time.

“What the study does do is support the growing idea that the Neolithic was not the sudden arrival of new survival methods and new cultures as once thought. It seems to have been a slow transition,” McNabb, who was not involved in the study, said via email.

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