Archaeological finds of prepared meals, as biogenic artefacts, contain information about their ingredients as well as about the technique of their preparation. In this manner they play a key role in the examination of the material culture of nutrition, although their analysis involves numerous challenges based on preservation conditions. Methodological approaches to their decipherment have nonetheless been in development for a number of years, amongst others also at the OeAI.
The focus of this ERC-Projekts is directed towards the investigation of archaeological finds of processed foodstuffs. Within the project, a new understanding for the decision-making processes should be developed that lie behind the choice of ingredients and the applied techniques for their processing. A transdisciplinary approach combines bioarchaeological methods and methods of analysis of foodstuffs, with analyses of microwear and microfossils on archaeological coatings of the tools employed, and a broad experimental archaeological approach.
The section of the project housed at the OeAI is dedicated diachronically to all grain-based foodstuffs in their broad spectrum – from bread to beer. Based on concrete objects from a great variety of epochs, standardised methodological foundations for the analysis and interpretation of charred archaeological grain products will be developed. Many earlier analyses could be confirmed or expanded with new information, whereas the interpretation of certain finds has also been completely revised. Numerous new identifications could already be carried out, from flatbread to pastry rings up to brewing remains.
The diffusion of Roman agricultural and culinary culture throughout Europe brought numerous technological innovations with it. Many of these, for example the system of the villae rusticae, the introduction of Pompeian-type mills, or the installations of large-scale bakeries, were geared towards pre-industrial standardisation of chains of production and delivery in order to supply the army and the civil population of the constantly growing imperium.
The variability – frequently only climatically argued – of grain ingredients within the empire is known, for example the importance of durum wheat for the Mediterranean climate in contrast to the British isles, where dinkel wheat (spelt) dominated. The incorporation of local culinary traditions and methods of processing in this new system is until now, in contrast, still broadly unexplored. The project is dedicated to the remains of Roman period grain products from a variety of regions of the empire. Against the background of the written sources and the data from archaeobotanical ensembles of seeds and fruits, the microstructural investigation of such finds should now enable conclusions about regional diversity in eating.
Since the beginning of research into the lakeshore pile dwellings in the mid-19th century, finds of actual and supposed charred ›loaves‹, found during excavations of lakeside settlements, have captured attention. The variety of methods, constantly increasing since the early 2000s, of analysis and interpretation of even extremely reduced plant parts, and the culinary objects produced from them, today enable considerably more detailed insights into the choice of ingredients and techniques of preparation. The project is dedicated to such biogenic artefacts from a variety of findspots of the UNESCO World Heritage »Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps« with the assistance of contemporary techniques of analysis. Above all, key roles are played by electron microscopy and 3D structural clarification via µCT.
Roman Baked Goods in Europe
Bread from pile dwellings