Analysis of prehistoric bread/porridge remains from Central Europe regarding their ingredients and production methods

The ERC-project PLANTCULT is exploring prehistoric culinary traditions in Europe; one of the focal points is dedicated to cereal products. At the OeAI archaeological cereal products – bread in the broadest sense – are being studied in terms of its components and production methods.

Culinary traditions reflect a wide range of aspects of human society and are part of an area of tension between sensory analysis, practicability, and nutritional value on the one hand and tradition, identity, status, and cult on the other hand. The project »PLANTCULT: Identifying the food cultures of ancient Europe: an interdisciplinary investigation of plant ingredients, culinary transformation, and evolution through time« (principal investigator S. M. Valamoti) began in April 2016 and is focused on the study of culinary traditions and innovations in Europe’s prehistory. At the center of interest are plant-based foods in central and southeastern Europe.

Objectives 


In this project a new understanding for decision-making processes will be developed that motivate the choice in ingredients and the applied processing techniques. The transdisciplinary approach combines bioarchaeological and food analytical methods with micro-wear and micro-fossil analyses of archaeological records for the used tools in combination with a wide range of experimental archaeological approaches. Cereal products (bread, porridge, bulgur, etc.) are a focus of the material wine, olive oil, and beer are another focus.

Study of the preparation of grains


One part of the project has been based at the OeAI since October 2016 and deals with the structural analysis of Neolithic to Iron Age finds of cereal products (completely charred ›breads‹ in the broadest sense) from central Europe. In addition to the already established electron-microscopic identification of the plant components, additional processes are being explored in order to also advance structural elucidation, for example to draw conclusions about the fermentation of doughs.