Neanderthals living 50,000 ago in northern Spain apparently enjoyed flavoring their meats with herbs, namely chamomile and yarrow. While these plants are generally known for their medicinal properties, the authors of this new study, looking at previously studied dental calculus, suggest that they were likely added to flavor their food. Their argument is supported by observations of modern-day wild chimpanzees chewing on bitter herbs, among other things.
Archaeologists investigating the remains of King Richard III have obtained new data that elucidates the king's diet. According to isotope analyses, Richard III had a rich diet, which included wildfowl and fish. Moreover, he drank plenty of wine. Evidently, his meals were fit for a king.
Neanderthals may have boiled their food, this according to John Speth. He speculates that these early humans may have used skin or birch bark bags to boil their food. If this is true, then this would push back the use of fire by thousands of years.
For all you food lovers, there is some spicy news on the archaeological forefront. Researchers are suggesting that Capsicum annuum, one of the most common chili peppers sold today, was domesticated in central-east Mexico. The researchers combined a variety of methods to better understand the domestication of this small, yet potent fruit.
FIve centuries of diets is a paleoethnobotanists dream! This is what archaeologists discovered while excavating at the Great Kitchen of Durham Cathedral, United Kingdom. Thousands of bones, belonging to fish, birds, and other animals were recovered, as well as pottery sherds. Together, these elements reflect the foods consumed over various centuries.
Well-preserved mummies in northwestern China were apparently buried with cheese-- making this the oldest cheese in the world. Even more interesting is how the cheese was made. After careful studies of the cheese were undertaken, archaeologists believe that a mix of milk and a starter were used. This technique is still used today to make kefir. Researchers suggest that such an easy process of making cheese may explain the spread of herding throughout Asia.
Forty intact vessels were excavated and examined for organic residues. The results are impressive-- wine, sweetened with honey and spiced with a variety of herbs such as myrtle, mint, and juniper-- was stored in this ancient cellar, dating to 3,700 years ago. The cellar seems to have belonged to a Canaanite leader that lived in a palace at the site of Tel Kabri, Israel.
Archaeologists working in southern Mexico, at Chiapa de Corzo, are reporting that residues collected from vessels older than 2000 years, have evidence of chile peppers. Furthermore, this is the earliest example of chile pepper use documented yet. As they also mention, chile peppers are seldom found in archaeobotanical samples from Mexico and the Maya region. These results are exciting and will hopefully open doors for more such studies in the region.
Phytoliths of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) have been recovered from ceramic sherds from sites across Europe and parts of the Near East. The presence of this plant, that is not considered to be nutritional in any form, is argued to have been used to spice food. The ceramic sherds also had evidence of fish and animal residues. This study suggests that early agriculturalists were interested in spicing their food, too.
The oldest medieval cookbook has been discovered, dating back to 1140. The cookbook, considered a health book by the scholars, features recipes containing herbs and spices typical of a Mediterranean diet. The recipes will be recreated and tasted later this month.
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