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Old Spice: spices found on pottery reveal prehistoric cuisine


Researchers found traces of garlic mustard on 6,000-year-old pottery in Denmark and Germany - the earliest traces of spices ever found.


Sean Gallup

The earliest evidence of spices to flavor food have been found in Denmark and Germany.

Hunter-gatherer tribes from as far back as 6,000 years ago were using garlic mustard seeds to spice-up their tasteless grub, say researchers.

The traces of the spices were found on cookware and pottery fragments from the pre-Neolithic and early Neolithic eras.

Researchers say that the cookware also had residues of animal fats and starchy plants, leading them to believe that the spice was used to enhance the flavor.

Bad chefs, the archaeologists say, are what helped to find the evidence.

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“We like dirty pots. People who can’t cook very well," said study author Hayley Saul at the University of York. "They burn food onto their pots, that’s what we’re after.”

The findings add to the notion that rather than simply looking for flavorless calories, hunter-gatherers were concerned about their taste buds.

"Until now it has been widely accepted that the calorific content of foods was of primary importance in the decisions by hunter-gatherers about what to eat," said Saul.

To get their findings, the researchers scraped off plant silica deposits and compared them against those found in 120 modern day European and Asian spices.

The findings were published in the journal PLOS One.