Prehistoric Humans Spiced Up Their Food
Archaeologists have just completed an analysis of 6,000-year-old cooking pots still containing food residues found at sites in northern Europe. The finding indicates that prehistoric humans were using seasoning to spice up their meals thousands of years before the global spice trade.
The ancient cooking pots were recovered at archaeological sites in Denmark and Germany, and date back to the Neolithic Period, roughly 6,200 to 5,900 years ago, said study lead author Hayley Saul, an archaeologist at the BioArCH research centre at the University of York in the United Kingdom.
The researchers analysed residues inside ancient charred cooking pots and found microscopic remains similar to the modern-day plants that produce garlic mustard seeds, which have a potent, peppery flavour. By analysing the pottery shards, the researchers also uncovered residues of fish and animal fat, as well as the remains of plants, which could indicate that garlic mustard was used to marinate these items. The mustard seeds were native in the area but contained no nutritional value which indicates that the seeds were used only for flavour.
The finding has two main implications. Firstly, it shows that flavouring food with spices was occurring much earlier than previously believes and even predates agriculture, and secondly it contradicts the view that hunter-gatherers were driven primarily by caloric intake and made decisions about food based on how much energy they could obtain by eating. Rather, it suggests that people understood the value of what they were cooking with and were more creative with their food. This further supports the idea that our ancient ancestors were not as primitive as some like to believe.