If you thought Homo Sapiens invented cooking and Neanderthals only survived on a diet of plants and raw animal meat, you were wrong.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool have discovered remains of charred food left by our ancestors in a cave in Iraq 70,000 years ago. The finding, described in an Antiquity article, suggests that food preparation and processing techniques had already been in place thousands of years after the appearance of modern humans.
According to chris hunt professor of cultural paleoecology at Liverpool John Moores University and leader of the excavation, his “findings are the first real indication of a complex cuisine, and thus a food culture, among Neanderthals.”
The world’s oldest cooked food was recovered from the Shanidar cave, a Neanderthal dwelling 500 miles north of Baghdad in the Zagros Mountains.
It consisted of herbs, wild nuts, and legumes, such as lentils and mustard. Combined all these ingredients, the result was a kind of flat-shaped bread (like a pancake) with a nutty flavor.
Prehistoric cooks used a variety of tricks to make their food more palatable. For example, legumes, the most common ingredient identified, have a naturally bitter taste due to the tannins and alkaloids in their seed coats.
However, this flavor was removed using complex preparation techniques such as soaking and leaching, followed by crushing or crushing the seeds.
Because these hominids did not use pots, the authors suspect that our ancestors soaked all food in a fold of animal skin.
After recreating the Neanderthal recipe today, Hunt said he could “understand why Neanderthals had teeth in such a degraded state.”
The team also analyzed food remains from the Franchtchi cave in Greece, which was inhabited by the first modern humans 12,000 years ago. Taken together, all the findings suggest that Paleolithic diets were diverse and complex.
“This study points to the cognitive complexity and development of culinary cultures in which flavors were important from a very early date,” said Ceren Kabukcu, co-author of the study.
Meanwhile, Professor Eleni Asouti, co-author of the research, said that “such culinary practices have long been perceived by archaeologists and anthropologists as the hallmark of Neolithic agricultural societies and the origin of cooking as we understand it.”