Earliest use of spices on foods in Europe dated to 6,100 years ago

Aug. 21, 2013 at 7:08 PM
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YORK, England, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Humans were intentionally adding spices to meals in northern Europe by around 6,100 years ago, British researchers say.

Archaeologists at Britain's University of York, working with colleagues in Denmark, Germany and Spain, have discovered traces of garlic mustard on the charred remains of pottery dating back that far, a university release reported Wednesday.

The remains of garlic mustard were discovered through analysis of carbonized food deposits from pots found at sites in Denmark and Germany dating from the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition from hunter-gathering to agriculture, the researchers said.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) was a local plant with a strong peppery flavor.

"The traditional view is that early Neolithic and pre-Neolithic uses of plants, and the reasons for their cultivation, were primarily driven by energy requirements rather than flavor," York researcher Hayley Saul said.

"As garlic mustard has a strong flavor but little nutritional value, and the phytoliths (silicate deposits from plants) are found in pots with terrestrial and marine animal residues, our findings are the first direct evidence for the spicing of food in European prehistoric cuisine," she said.

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