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Research uncovers Stone Age cooking mishaps from traces of charred food in 5,000-year-old clay pots

Analyzing the clay pot showed that accidental burning of food dates back to the Stone Age and tells us about cooking methods back then.

Research uncovers Stone Age cooking mishaps from traces of charred food in 5,000-year-old clay pots
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Adela Cristea

Ever got distracted and left your pan too long on the stove while cooking and ultimately burnt your food? If yes, you are not alone. People who cook often might know that these kitchen mishaps are common. But, the surprising part is that such mishaps were common even 5,000 years ago, roughly around the Stone Age. As per Live Science, a recent study that examined the remains of a clay pot unearthed in Germany showed that Neolithic people used to cook porridge and some had burnt it too. One might think that humans were uncivilized during that era but this study reveals some jaw-dropping facts about those times. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Matheus Alves
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Matheus Alves

In the research article published this month on Plos One, it was explained that shards of cooking pots discovered in one of Germany's oldest villages, Oldenburg LA 77 revealed some of the Neolithic cuisines and cooking practices. Lucy Kubiak-Martens, an archaeobotanist and a cooperation partner with BIAX Consult in the Netherlands who was the lead author of this paper, told the media channel, "As soon as we looked inside the person's cooking pot it was obvious that something went wrong." Apparently, this study was the first of its kind to identify burnt food particles from Neolithic remains. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

An integrated botanical and chemical analysis showed that the food crust residues in the pot were made of cereal grains like emmer wheat and barley and also starchy seeds of the wild plant, white goosefoot, as per the report published by Kiel University (CAU). "There was also emmer, which when sprouted, has a sweet flavor. It looked like someone had mixed cereal grains with the protein-rich seeds and cooked it with water. It wasn't incidental, it was a choice," said Kubiak-Martens. "The sprouted grains also tell us when they harvested them, which would have been when they sprouted sometime in the late summer. Back then they couldn't put grains on a shelf and store them for later use like we do today. They had to use what they harvested immediately."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Vie Studio
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Vie Studio

Another ceramic shard showed traces of animal fat residue that trickled into the clay and the researchers presume it to be milk. Since the animal fat residue didn't have any grain particles in it, the milk wasn't likely a part of the porridge. "This not only shows us the last step in someone's daily routine of preparing meals but also the last cooking event using this pot. This is much more than just a charred grain. We are seeing how people prepared their daily meals thousands of years ago," said Kubiak-Martens. 

As per the Kiel University's report, the Neolithic people had a lot of variety in their meal preparation and food was not bland. The Stone Age humans were able to differentiate taste and prioritize flavor too. The use of protein-rich grains and milk in their meals and porridge represented that they developed a balanced diet practice. With the inferences from this study, researchers's comprehension of agricultural practices and cooking methods during the Stone Age has improved. How early humans transformed plants into meals showed how they adopted a lifestyle that mainly involved farming and cultivation in North-Central Europe.

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