Heiss et al, 2021, PLOS ONE
People working on mining sites in the Eastern Alps during the Bronze Age had cooked, bread-based meals delivered to them during the day.
Andreas Heiss at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and his colleagues studied cooked food remains, including refined cereals and finely ground grains, obtained from Prigglitz-Gasteil in the Eastern Alps, a copper mine that was active between 1100 and 900 BC, during the Late Bronze Age.
These types of cereal-based food require preparation to make them edible, including separating grains from husks and then cooking them, but the team found no signs of this kind of work being done at the mine. There was also no evidence of harvesting nearby, suggesting the food must have come from elsewhere.
“All the early stages from processing were entirely missing and this is usually a good indicator for a consumer habit that people did not produce themselves, but they received stuff that was already pre-processed,” says Heiss.
Since wet ingredients like milk weren’t preserved, the researchers can’t say exactly which dishes the miners were being served, but they were likely to be bread based. Previous research has shown that these miners had pork delivered to them, but the new findings suggest that plant-based foods were a major part of their diet too.
Lara González Carretero at the Museum of London Archaeology says this isn’t surprising. “It would be very time-consuming and there would be clear logistical issues for them to be able to cook their own meals in such a work setting.”
Journal reference: PLOS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0248287
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