Archaeologists discover ancient spice in 6,000-year-old pot

By analyzing the contents of an ancient pot, archaeologists have shown that that neolithic chefs prepared their food with a bit of spice — and a delicious one at that.

According to a new study published in PLoS, it's the first direct evidence for the spicing of food in prehistoric European cuisine. And the spice of choice?

Garlic mustard.

Prior to this new discovery, the best evidence we had for ancient spicing practices were poppy seeds and dill recovered from a 5,000 year-old site. For archaeologists, prehistoric plant tissue is hard to find. And even if it is found, it's tough to prove that it was consumed by prehistoric humans and not just brought there by animals.

But in this case, the evidence is pretty incontrovertible.

Researchers at the University of York analyzed burnt food remains left at the bottom of clay cooking pots found in German and Danish Neolithic dwellings. The spices were discovered along with traces of meat fats, likely from deer, and bits of fish. Oyster shells and fish bones were also found near the site.

Sounds like a feast!

Read the entire study at PLoS: "Phytoliths in Pottery Reveal the Use of Spice in European Prehistoric Cuisine."

Image: Hayley Saul / BioArCh at the University of York