Traces of ingredients in cooking vessels between 5300 and 4000 years old studied by archaeologists

How to recreate the cooking stoves of people who lived thousands of years ago? Plant bones and remains can tell us what kind of ingredients are available. But to reconstruct how ingredients are combined and cooked, scientists need to study ancient cooking circuits.

Research on ancient human cooking utensils.

Dr Akshyeta Suryanarayan, a researcher at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, ​​said: “Fat molecules and microorganisms left over from plants such as starch granules and phytoliths – silica structures deposited in many tissues plants – are attached to vessels and can survive for long periods of time. Spain, and co-author of a new study in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.


In the new study, Suryanarayan and co-authors analyzed such ‘leftovers’ left in Bronze and Bronze vessels – including pots, jars, cups, jars and plates – from Gujarat, India nowadays.

“Our study is the first to combine starch granules and lipid residue analysis of tableware in South Asia,” said Suryanarayan. “Our results show how prehistoric people built these items to prepare different foods and mix them together, turning them into meals.”

Analyze leftovers.

The authors sampled 11 vases between 4200 and 4000 years old unearthed at Shikarpur, an archaeological site from the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization that flourished between 2600 and 2000 BC. in present-day Pakistan and northwestern India, the third oldest urban civilization in the world. To study the effects of cultural change, they also sampled 17 ships between 5300 and 4300 years old from two nearby sites, Datrana and Loteshwar. The latter was created by semi-nomadic farmers and herders, during the Bronze Age.

“Our results show that during both the Bronze and Bronze Ages of northern Gujarat, people acquired ingredients in a variety of ways: some were forage locally from the wild, some were others are cultivated or raised, and some are traded from elsewhere,” said first author Dr. Juan José García-Granero, a researcher from the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona, Spain.

For example, in ships from Datrana, 99% of the starch grains were from grasses in the Hordeeae tribe, including wheat, barley and rye and their wild relatives. But they are not native to Gujarat, which suggests that they were imported from other regions.

Vessels from Loteshwar and Shikarpur contain mainly (67% to 73% starch granules) starch from beans. The researchers also found traces of ginger, which may have first been ground on a whetstone and then used in cooking. This is an extremely interesting discovery, showing that ancient people knew.


Fats in the vessels from all three sites are mainly fatty acids characteristic of decomposing tallow. For the majority (78%) of these circuits, the relative abundances of the 13C to 12C carbon isotopes of the fatty acid suggest that the fat is omnivorous, e.g. pigs, birds or rabbits. . This was unexpected, as the animal bones reported from the Bronze and Bronze Age sites in Gujarat in previous studies to date were mostly from ruminants: cattle, water buffalo, sheep , goats, wild deer and nilgai antelope. However, only 22% of the vessels analyzed here had isotopic signatures consistent with that of ruminant fat. No trace of fish or milk.

No phytoliths were found. Because these occur mainly in the inedible plant parts, their absence indicates that the seeds and grains have been thoroughly cleaned prior to being placed in the jar, with less palatable parts. removed.

Ancient people knew how to use spices in cooking.

To their surprise, the authors found no evidence that the profound cultural shift from the Bronze Age to the Indus Valley Civilization had any effect on the way animals and plants prepared before and during cooking.

“Our results show that different ingredients are also used in different cooking methods. The virtual absence of small millet grains (predominantly found in prehistoric Gujarat) in ceramic jars suggests that millet was used only for meals made from flour, bread-like products, while Other ingredients (such as beans) will also be used more widely than García-Granero says.

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