Showing posts from November, 2022

Neandertal cooking - or thin gruel?

Seeds of the Indian Pea, Lathyrus sativa . Photo by Andrew Butko, Wikimedia , CC BY-SA 3.0 .   There's a new report this week on Neandertal cooking.  Now, we've known for a long time that Neandertals hunted and used fires, but this is the first that I know of that supports the idea that they selected, processed, and mixed vegetative ingredients to make maybe a bread or cake or something like that.  I'm kind of disappointed it isn't more evidence, because I'm not really sure how excited we should be. The report comes from a team of researchers based at English institutions, primarily the University of Liverpool.  They were working with charred bits of stuff found at previous cave excavations.  Their work was mostly electron microscopy to identify the components of the charred bits.  There was only one bit from a Neandertal site, namely Shanidar in northern Iraq.  This piece contained ground up remnants of pulses , legumes of the genera Lathyrus (Indian peas, shown

Ancient hominins cooked fish

  I can't tell you how long I've been hoping that we'd find something like this.  A research team from Israel this week published their findings on the cooking of fish at a site they estimate is 780,000 years old.  Zohar and colleagues show three important "ingredients" for their argument: (1) The accumulation of fish remains differs when it's a natural fish kill vs. a cultural accumulation, (2) the culturally accumulated fish remains are found in proximity to ancient hearths, and (3) the chemical structure of the remains supports moderate heating rather than burning. The site called Gesher Benot Ya'aqov ("Daughters of Jacob Bridge," GBY) sits near the Jordan River some eight miles north of the present Sea of Galilee (yes, there's still a bridge there).  It's a well known site for many reasons, especially for the appearance of Acheulean tools, stone tools associated with Homo erectus .  There are also evidences of controlled burning in h