Sure, astronomers have large telescopes, and oceanographers use underwater robots, but some researchers have found a lot of Venison cooks in the name of science.
In the journal Scientific Reports last month, a team of archaeologists and biological chemists described how they spent a year cooking different types of food in pottery and then examining the biological remains left behind. No one found a hearty meal outside of this lab work, but researchers found that some of the remains only traced the ingredients of the last round, while others indicated the long-term cooking history of each pot. By documenting the results of these experiments, the team hopes to help scientists reconstruct ancient culinary practices.
Although preparing and consuming food is an integral part of the human experience, culinary traditions are often lost in the archaeological record, said to be that of an archaeologist and co-authors in the Bishop Museum of Honolulu. “We end up with these very simplified views of what people were eating because it is so hard to reach that dimension.”
One way to get food preferences and practices over time is to consider what is left over after a meal. As they are used, cooking utensils naturally form organic residues such as sacral bits, thin coatings known as patinas, and absorbed fats. The sponges and dishwashers we use today to destroy these leftover remains, but they are often unearthed at archaeological sites and found in brewing equipment.
John P., an archaeologist at the New York State Museum in Albany. Hart said that much could be learned from these remaining studies, which were not included in the research. “It’s a way to get a better understanding of how people lived in the past and what they ate.”
Dr. Swift and his colleagues conducted a culinary experiment using undigested pottery from central Colombia. Clay can absorb food residues and therefore provide a record of past food, said Melanie J. Miller, an archaeologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand and another co-author. But this is the case only when the soil is uncontrolled, he said, “When you put a glaze on a pot, it acts as a barrier.”
Seven members of the research team prepared the food voluntarily. Each archaeologist-cook obtained a pot and prepared the same meal once a week for 50 weeks. Each then switched to a different meal for one to four weeks.
Preparations were based on wheat and corn. “It worked well enough that we had a representation of two foods that were actually central to the diet in major parts of the world but also look quite different chemically,” Dr. Miller said.
Venison also made an appearance in food trio. Dr. “We had a roadkill deer,” Miller said, adding that no one ate what they had cooked.
Between meals, the researchers washed their pot with water. They also used a small branch from the apple tree as an additional scrubbing tool, if necessary. Dr. “We spent a long time thinking how true we can be to the past,” Swift said.
During the experiment, the researchers collected samples from their pots for analysis. They gathered small pieces of spicy food, separated the pieces of patina and put it in the pot to collect the absorbed fat. At the laboratories of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Bristol in England, the team analyzed the carbon and nitrogen content of the samples.
They found that charas are used to reflect the most recent ingredients cooked in a pot, which was not surprising. However, Petinas had culinary memories, the researchers showed. While he strongly echoed the last meal, “we see the little things that were previously cooked in the pot,” Dr. Miller said. And the absorbed fat missed the most, the team found – the slowest they went to overwrite.
“We are getting these three different time scales of history,” Dr. Miller said.
These results may shed light on various components of the ancient diet, the researchers suggested. Like the people of today, the civilizations of the past did not always produce the same thing, Drs. “The richness of the story is often lost,” Swift said.