Baltic pottery reveals ancient culinary traditions •


Chemical analysis of ancient pottery from the Baltic region has revealed that hunter-gatherer groups in northern Europe had a culturally distinct cuisine 7,000 years ago.

The study’s co-lead author, Dr. Harry Robson, is an expert in the Department of Archeology at the York University.

“People are often surprised to learn that hunter-gatherers used pottery to store, process and cook food, because carrying bulky ceramic vessels seems incompatible with a nomadic lifestyle,” Dr Robson said.

“Our study examined how this pottery was used and found evidence of a rich variety of foods and cooking traditions in different hunter-gatherer groups.”

The survey focused on more than 500 hunter-gatherer vessels from 61 archaeological sites in the Baltic region.

The researchers found evidence of strikingly different food preferences and distinctive cooking practices between different communities, even in regions that had the same resources.

Ceramic pots were used to store and prepare a diverse range of foods including fish, beaver, wild boar, bear, deer, freshwater fish nuts and plants.

According to the study authors, the findings suggest that the culinary tastes of ancient people were not solely dictated by the foods available in a particular region, but were also influenced by the traditions and habits of cultural groups.

The researchers were surprised to find traces of dairy products in some pottery. This means that some hunter-gatherers interacted with early farmers.

“The presence of dairy fat in several hunter-gatherer vessels was an unexpected example of culinary ‘cultural fusion’. The discovery has implications for our understanding of the transition from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to early farming lifestyles and demonstrates that this product was either traded or possibly even plundered from neighboring farmers,” said explained Dr. Robson.

The co-lead author of the study, Dr Blandine Courel, is an expert in archaeological sciences at the British Museum.

“Despite a common biota that provided many marine and terrestrial resources for their livelihoods, hunter-gatherer communities around the Baltic Sea basin did not use pottery for the same purpose,” Dr Courel said.

“Our study suggests that cooking practices were not influenced by environmental constraints, but rather were embedded in certain long-standing cooking traditions and cultural habits.”

Experts used molecular and isotopic techniques to analyze the pottery fragments.

from the Department of Archeology at the University of York, said:

“The chemical analysis of food remains and natural products prepared in pottery has already revolutionized our understanding of early agricultural societies, we now see these methods being deployed to study prehistoric hunter-gatherer pottery. The findings suggest that they, too, had complex and culturally distinct cuisines,” concluded the study’s lead author, Professor Oliver Craig.

The study is published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Through Chrissy Sexon, Personal editor


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