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Home » Burnt food residues reveal diverse Neolithic diet in Eastern Holstein

Burnt food residues reveal diverse Neolithic diet in Eastern Holstein

In a groundbreaking conducted by researchers from the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1266 at Kiel University, a fascinating glimpse into the culinary practices of Eastern Holstein 5,000 years ago has emerged. This pioneering study, featured in PLOS ONE, marks the first archaeobotanical of charred food residues on ceramic vessels, shedding light on the diverse range of meals prepared in this region.

The focal point of the analysis was ceramic vessels originating from Oldenburg LA 77, a Neolithic settlement in Ostholstein, Schleswig-Holstein, recognized as one of the oldest villages in the area. Leveraging scanning electron microscopy and , the researchers unveiled intricate details of the sophisticated preparation methods involved in crafting plant-based food.

Within the “food crusts” discovered on these vessels, the researchers identified tissue remnants of emmer and barley grains, indicating a substantial reliance on cereals. Additionally, seeds from the white goosefoot, a wild plant with prolific starchy seeds that grows as a weed and ruderal plant, featured prominently in the culinary repertoire of this ancient community.

Professor Wiebke Kirleis, who spearheaded the study within CRC 1266, elaborates on the findings: “The ‘food crusts' contained tissue remnants of emmer and barley grains, as well as seeds from the white goosefoot, a wild plant that grows as a weed and ruderal plant and produces many starchy seeds.”

Dr. Dragana Filipović, a research associate at CRC 1266, underscores the significance of the study by noting that similar charred grains and chaff from emmer and barley, along with white goosefoot seeds, had been previously identified through archaeobotanical analyses of soil samples from the Neolithic settlement.

This meticulous examination of burnt food residues not only enhances our understanding of ancient dietary practices but also provides valuable insights into the agricultural and culinary sophistication of the Neolithic inhabitants of Eastern Holstein. The utilization of advanced scientific techniques has allowed researchers to peel back the layers of time and uncover the rich tapestry of flavors that characterized the meals prepared in Oldenburg LA 77 millennia ago.

Milky ripe cereals and wild plants provided variety

The recent revelations underscore the pivotal role of cereals in the dietary habits of early farmers in the northern regions, with wild plants adding a diverse dimension to their culinary repertoire. Barley, harvested in its milky ripe state, was prepared akin to the green spelt tradition in Baden-Württemberg. On the other hand, emmer underwent processing in a sprouted state, imparting a sweet flavor to the porridge.

Contrary to the notion of blandness often associated with the Neolithic Age diet, these findings highlight a rich and varied gastronomic experience. It appears that individuals from this era possessed a refined palate, placing a premium on good flavor.

Previous chemical analyses of the had already revealed traces of dairy products within the vessels. However, a closer examination of the burnt food crusts on the cooking pots now suggests that cereals and dairy products were likely combined to create porridge in the same containers, forming a well-rounded dietary foundation for everyday consumption.

Dr. Lucy Kubiak-Martens, the primary author of the study and a collaborator with BIAX Consult in the Netherlands, emphasizes the importance of a multi-method approach in deciphering Neolithic recipes that incorporate a variety of ingredients. This approach unveils the intricacies of plant-to-meal transformation during the epoch following the introduction of and cultivated plants in north-central Europe.

The significance of these findings extends beyond mere culinary insights, offering a deeper understanding of the complex processes involved in crafting meals from diverse ingredients during the transformative period of the Neolithic era.

Source: Kiel University

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