Study sheds light on unique culinary traditions of prehistoric hunter-gatherers – sciencedaily


Groups of hunter-gatherers living in the Baltic seven thousand years ago and six thousand years ago had culturally distinct kitchens, analysis of ancient pottery fragments revealed.

An international team of researchers has analyzed more than 500 hunter-gatherer ships from 61 archaeological sites in the Baltic region.

They found stark contrasts in food preferences and cooking practices between different groups, even in areas where there was a similar availability of resources. The jars were used to store and prepare foods ranging from saltwater fish, seal and beaver to wild boar, bear, deer, freshwater fish nuts and plants.

The results suggest that the culinary tastes of ancient people were not only dictated by the foods available in a particular region, but also influenced by the traditions and habits of cultural groups, according to the study’s authors.

A lead author of the study, Dr Harry Robson from the Department of Archeology, University of York, said: “People are often surprised to learn that hunter-gatherers used pottery to store, process and cook. food, as it seems that carrying bulky ceramic containers seems incompatible with a nomadic lifestyle.

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

Researchers also identified unexpected evidence of dairy products in some of the pottery vessels, suggesting that some hunter-gatherer groups were interacting with early farmers to obtain this resource.

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

Lead author of the study, Dr Blandine Courel of the British Museum, added: ‘Despite a common biota that provided many marine and terrestrial resources for their livelihood, the hunter-gatherer communities around the Baltic Sea basin did not use pottery for the same purpose. .

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

The study, led by the Department of Scientific Research at the British Museum, the University of York and the Center for Baltic and Scandinavian Archeology (Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen, Germany), used molecular and isotopic techniques to analyze the pottery fragments.

Lead author Professor Oliver Craig of the Department of Archeology, University of York, said: “The chemical analysis of leftover foods and natural products prepared in pottery has already revolutionized our understanding of early agricultural societies. , we now see these methods being deployed to study the pottery of prehistoric hunter-gatherers. The results suggest that they also had complex and culturally distinct cuisines. “

Analysis of organic residues shows sub-regional patterns in the use of pottery by hunter-gatherers in northern Europe is published in Royal Society Open Science. The research was funded by the European Research Council through a grant awarded to the British Museum.

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