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Ancient Cauldrons Reveal What People Ate 5,000 Years Ago

The new study analyzed protein residues from ancient cooking cauldrons. 

Early human families feasted on deer stew dinners 5,000 years ago, reveals new research.

Detailed study of ancient metal cauldrons has given scientists vital clues about what people ate in the Bronze Age.

Archaeologists have long been drawing conclusions about how ancient tools were used by the people who crafted them based on written records and context clues.

But when it came to the diet of people thousands of years ago, they have had to make assumptions about what they ate and how it was prepared.

The new study, published in the journal iScience, analyzed protein residues from ancient cooking cauldrons.

Scientists found that the people of Caucasus ate deer, sheep, goats, and members of the cow family during the Maykop period from 3700 BC to 2900 BC.

Dr. Shevan Wilkin, of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, said: “It’s really exciting to get an idea of what people were making in these cauldrons so long ago.

Scientists have known that the fats preserved in ancient pottery and the proteins from dental calculus – the hard mineralized plaque deposits on the teeth – contain traces of the proteins ancient people consumed.

Detailed study of ancient metal cauldrons has given scientists vital clues about what people ate in the Bronze Age. PHOTO BY MAGDA EHLERS/PEXELS

The new study combines protein analysis with archaeology to explore specific details about the meals cooked in the vessels.

The research team explained that many metal alloys have antimicrobial properties, which is why the proteins have been preserved so well on the cauldrons.

They said the microbes in the dirt that would normally degrade proteins on surfaces such as ceramic and stone are held at bay on metal alloys.

The researchers collected eight residue samples from seven cauldrons recovered from burial sites in the Caucasus region. The region lies between the Caspian and Black Seas spanning from southwestern Russia to Turkey and includes the present-day countries Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

The team successfully retrieved proteins from blood, muscle tissue, and milk.

One of the proteins, heat shock protein beta-1, indicates that the cauldrons were used to cook deer or bovine – such as cow, yak, or water buffalo – tissues.

Milk proteins from either sheep or goats were also recovered, indicating that the cauldrons were used to prepare dairy.

Radiocarbon dating allowed the researchers to specifically pinpoint that the cauldrons could have been used between 3520 BC to 3350 BC.

The finding means that the vessels are more than 3,000 years older than any vessels that have been analyzed before.

Although the cauldrons show signs of wear and tear from use, they also show signs of extensive repair.

The research team says that suggests that they were valuable, requiring great skill to make and acting as important symbols of wealth or social position.

She added: “If proteins are preserved on these vessels, there is a good chance they are preserved on a wide range of other prehistoric metal artifacts.

“We still have a lot to learn, but this opens up the field in a really dramatic way.”


Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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