1,600-Year-Old Untouched Meal Still in Roasting Pit Unearthed in Alberta
Archaeologists have discovered an ancient feast, still intact, in a 1,600-year-old roasting pit at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada. The exact contents of the meaty meal are yet to be determined but will be revealed following a detailed analysis.
CBC News reports that the finding was made at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump on Blackfoot First Nation territory, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buffalo jump was used for nearly 6,000 years by the indigenous peoples of the plains to kill buffalo by driving them off the 11 metre (36 foot) high cliff by dressing up as coyotes and wolves.
Archaeologists said the roasting pit was perfectly intact with a meal sealed inside. Earth ovens have been used in many civilizations around the world, and the presence of such cooking pits is a key sign of human settlement often sought by archaeologists.
At its most basic, a roasting pit is a hole in the ground used to trap heat and bake, smoke or steam food. In the latest finding, the pit was also lined with rocks and willows. Fire-heated rocks would have been placed into the pit, followed by the meat, and then covered with dirt and vegetation. The food can take from several hours to a full day to cook.
“When it was dismantled, the meat would just be falling-off-the-bone tender,” said archaeologist Bob Dawe [via CBC News]. “It would be a very delicious meal … and this is probably no exception. It would have been a wonderful feast."
A Paiute agave roasting pit near Willow Spring, Red Rock Canyon, southern Nevada (public domain)
The roasting pit was first discovered by Rob Dawe in 1990 but was covered back over until the opportunity arose to fully excavate it. Archaeologists described it as a very delicate process as they had to dig through layers and layers of bones, artifacts, and soil that had gathered there over 1,600 years.
When they finally reached the centre of the pit, they found a completely intact meal.
“After a traditional blessing by a local elder, the kitchen-table sized artifact was carefully enveloped in layers of plaster, burlap and foil before being hoisted out of the ground with a crane,” reported CBC.
The artifact has been taken to Royal Alberta Museum, where the protective layers will slowly be peeled back to reveal the contents inside.
It remains a mystery as to why the roasting pit was abandoned with a large and fully cooked feast still inside.
Top image: Main: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta where the ancient meals was found (Harry NL / Flickr).