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Archaeologists find evidence that our Stone Age ancestors ate spicy food
11:13am Friday 23rd August 2013 in News
MODERN cooks wouldn’t think twice about adding a few spices to liven up a boring dish.
But now research led by archaeologists at the University of York has found that our early ancestors also had a taste for spicy food – in 5,000 BC.
The archaeologists, working with colleagues in Denmark, Germany and Spain, have discovered traces of garlic mustard on the charred remains of pottery dating back almost 7,000 years.
A spokesman said the silicate remains of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) were discovered through microfossil analysis of carbonised food deposits from pots found at sites in Denmark and Germany. “The pottery dated from the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition from hunter-gathering to agriculture.”
Lead researcher Dr Hayley Saul, of York’s BioArCH research centre, said: “The traditional view is that early Neolithic and pre-Neolithic uses of plants, and the reasons for their cultivation, were primarily driven by energy requirements rather than flavour.
“As garlic mustard has a strong flavour but little nutritional value, and the phytoliths are found in pots with terrestrial and marine animal residues, our findings are the first direct evidence for the spicing of food in European prehistoric cuisine.
“Our evidence suggests a much greater antiquity to the spicing of foods in this region than is evident from the macrofossil record, and challenges the view that plants were exploited by hunter-gatherers and early agriculturalists solely for energy requirements, rather than taste.”
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