The archaeology of Neolithic cooking traditions: archaeobotanical approaches to baking, boiling and fermenting
The Neolithic was not only a shift in how food was obtained, through farming, but it also set up long-lasting traditions in how foods were prepared and cooked. Archaeologists have increasingly recognized regionally distinctive emphases on cereal preparations, such as baked breads or boiled porridges that characterize different Neolithic traditions. While these can be inferred through features, such as ovens on archaeological sites, it has become possible to recognize the charred crumbs of past breads, batters or porridges from typical charred archaeobotanical assemblages. We illustrate recent developments in micro-structural analysis of such remains, including wheat breads from Neolithic and pre-Neolithic western Asia, and sorghum breads and porridges from Early Historic (Meroitic) Sudan. The study of such archaeobotanical remains has great potential to help map the distribution of cereal cooking practices in time and space.