Hunter-gatherers had distinct culinary traditions

Hyperaxion April 28, 2020 1:01 am

The hunter-gatherer groups that lived in the Baltic between 7500 and 6000 years ago already had distinct culinary traditions, a study reveals.

According to the Europa Press agency, an international team of researchers analyzed more than 500 containers used by hunter-gatherers from 61 archaeological sites in the Baltic region.

Map showing locations of hunter–gatherer (filled circles) and early agricultural sites (open circles). Also shown is the extent of different hunter–gatherer cultural groups (red, Ertebølle; blue, Dąbki; yellow, Southeastern Baltic and Neman; green, Narva).
Map showing locations of hunter–gatherer (filled circles) and early agricultural sites (open circles). Also shown is the extent of different hunter–gatherer cultural groups (red, Ertebølle; blue, Dąbki; yellow, Southeastern Baltic and Neman; green, Narva). (Credit: University of York).

The team found significant differences in food preferences and cooking practices between different groups, including in areas where there was a similar availability of resources. The containers were used to store and prepare food ranging from saltwater and freshwater fish, seals and beavers, to wild boar, bears, deer, hazelnuts and plants.

The researchers also identified evidence of dairy products in some of these containers, which suggests that some groups of hunter-gatherers were interacting with the first farmers to obtain this resource.

The findings, published in the scientific journal Royal Society Open Science, suggest that the culinary tastes of ancient people were not only dictated by the foods available in a given area, but also influenced by their traditions and habits.

“Despite a common biota that provided lots of marine and terrestrial resources for their livelihoods, hunter-gatherer communities around the Baltic Sea Basin did not use pottery for the same purpose,” says researcher Blandine Courel, from the British Museum, and one of the authors of the study, in a statement.

Pottery fragments found in Havnø, Denmark.
Pottery fragments found in Havnø, Denmark. (Credit: Harry Robson, University of York).

“Our study suggests that culinary practices were not influenced by environmental constraints but rather were likely embedded in some long-standing culinary traditions and cultural habits,” she adds.

Oliver Craig, the lead author of the study and a researcher in the Department of Archeology at York University, considers that these results “revolutionized our understanding of early agricultural societies” and “suggest that they too had complex and culturally distinct cuisines.”

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