We humans cannot stop playing with our food. Just think of the different ways to serve potatoes – entire books have been written just about potato recipes.
The restaurant industry was born out of our love for flavoring food in new and exciting ways.
Analysis of my collection of the oldest fossilized foods found shows that eating dinner is a human habit dating back 70,000 years.
Imagine ancient people eating together. You could be forgiven for describing people ripping up produce or roasting meat on fire because that’s what happens.
But our new research showed both Neanderthals and A wise man they had complex dishes including several preparation methods, and they made efforts with spices and used bitter and sharp seeds.
This level of culinary complexity has never been recorded for Paleolithic hunter-gatherers.
Before our study, the oldest food remains in Southwest Asia came from a hunting site in Jordan about 14,400 years ago, which was reported in 2018.
We looked at food remains from two late Paleolithic sites, which span about 60,000 years, to see the diet of early hunter-gatherers.
Our evidence is based on fragments of prepared plant foods (think burnt pieces of bread, patties, and porridge) found in two caves.
To the eye, or under a low-power microscope, they appear as carbonized flakes or small particles, with fragments of interspersed grains. But high-energy electron microscopes allowed us to see the details of plant cells.
We found pieces of carbonized food in Franchthi Cave (Aegean, Greece) about 13,000-11,500 years ago. In the Franchthi cave we found one piece from a well-cooked food that could be bread, batter, or some type of porridge, in addition to the food containing many seeds, which is not good.
In the Shanidar cave (Zagros, Iraqi Kurdistan), associated with the first modern humans 40,000 years ago and Neanderthals 70,000 years ago, we also found ancient pieces of food. This included wild mustard and terebinth (wild pistachio) ingredients in the diet.
We found wild grass seeds mixed with pulses in burnt remains from Neanderthal sites. Previous studies at Shanidar found grass seeds in tartar on Neanderthal teeth.
In all these places, we often found seeds or trampled plants such as bitter vetch (Ervil’s evil), grass and peas (Lathyrus spp) and wild peas (Pisum spp). The people who lived in the caves poured the seeds into a mixture that they heated with water by grinding, stomping or trampling the wet seeds.
Many wild herbs contain bitter ingredients. In modern cooking, these pulses are often soaked, heated, and dehulled (removing the seed coat) to reduce their bitterness and toxicity.
The fossils we have found show that people have been doing this for thousands of years. But the grain flavors were not completely removed, indicating that these people wanted to retain a little of the bitter taste.
What previous studies have shown
The presence of wild mustard, with its distinctive taste, is a well-documented spice in the Aceramic period (the beginning of village life in southwest Asia, 8500 BCE) and later Neolithic sites in the region.
Plants such as wild almonds (bitter), terebinth (rich in tannin and oil) and wild fruits (sharp, sometimes bitter, sometimes rich in tannin) spread in the remains of southwest Asia and Europe during the Paleolithic (40,000). – 10,000 years ago).
Their inclusion in grass-based foods, tubers, meat, and fish, would give a unique flavor to the finished food. So these plants were eaten for thousands of years in a very remote area. These foods may be the beginning of human culinary activities.
Based on the evidence from the plants found at this time, there is no doubt that the diet of Neanderthals and modern humans consisted of a variety of plants.
Previous research has found traces of food encased in tartar on the teeth of Neanderthals from Europe and southwest Asia, indicating that they cooked and ate grasses and tubers such as wild barley, and medicinal plants. Carbonized plant remains show that they collected nuts and pine nuts.
Plant remains found on grinding or rolling tools from Europe’s later Palaeolithic period indicate that modern humans crushed and roasted the seeds of wild grasses. Remains from Upper Palaeolithic sites in the Pontic steppe, in eastern Europe, show that ancient people crushed the tubers before eating them.
Archeological evidence from South Africa 100,000 years ago shows A wise man use crushed wild grass.
Although both Neanderthals and early modern humans ate plants, this does not seem to be consistent with the stable isotope evidence from bones, which tells us about the main sources of protein in the diet during human life.
Recent studies show that Neanderthals in Europe were the most advanced animals. Studies show that Homo sapiens seem to have had a more varied diet than Neanderthals, who have more plants.
But we are sure that our evidence of ancient cooking is the beginning of many things that have been found from the hunting grounds of the area.
Ceren KabukcuResearch Assistant in Archaeology, University of Liverpool
This article is reprinted from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the first article.