Plant foods, stone tools and food preparation in prehistoric Europe: an integrative approach in the context of ERC funded project PLANTCULT
Soultana Maria VALAMOTI, Natalia ALONSO, Tassos BEKIARIS, Maria BOFILL, Danai Chondrou, Maria IVANOVA, Sofia LAPARIDOU, Calla McNAMEE, Ismini NINOU, Harris PROCOPIOU, Antoni PALOMO, Georgina PRATS, Georgia TSARTSIDOU
Keywords: food identities, plant food processing, prehistoric grinding/pounding tools
The transformation of food ingredients into meals corresponds to complex choices resulting from the interplay of environmental and cultural factors: available ingredients, technologies of transformation, worldviews, cultural perceptions of food, taste and food taboos. Project PLANTCULT (ERC Consolidator Grant, GA 682529) aims to investigate prehistoric culinary cultures from the Aegean to Central Europe by focusing on plant foods and associated food preparation technologies spanning the Neolithic through to the Iron Age. Our presentation offers an overview of the lines of investigation pursued within the project to address plant food preparation and related stone tool technologies. The wide range of plant foods from the area under investigation (ground cereals, breads, beer etc) suggests great variability of culinary preparations. Yet, little is known of the transformation technologies involved (pounding, grinding, cooking). Changes in size and shape of grinding stones over time have been associated with efficiency of grinding, specific culinary practices and socioeconomic organisation. Informed by ethnography and experimental data, PLANTCULT integrates archaeobotanical food remains and associated stone processing equipment to address these issues. We utilize a multifaceted approach including the study of both published archaeological data and original archaeological assemblages from key sites. Our approach to ancient food processing aims to develop methodological techniques for understanding the interaction of tool type, use wear trace formation and associated plant micro- and macro- remains (starches and phytoliths) in the archaeological record. Through experimental research, we generate (a) reference material for the identification of plant processing in the archaeological record and (b) ingredients for the preparation of experimental plant foods which hold a key role to unlocking the recipes of prehistory. Plant food transformation technologies are thus investigated across space and through time, in an attempt to explore the dynamic role of culinary transformation of plant ingredients into shaping social and cultural identities in prehistoric Europe.