Cooking plant foods in the northern Aegean: Microbotanical evidence from Neolithic Stavroupoli (Thessaloniki, Greece)
Juan José García-Granero, Dushka Urem-Kotsou, Amy Bogaard & Stavros Kotsos Quaternary International 496 (2018): 140-151
Intensive archaeobotanical research in northern Greece and other circum-Mediterranean regions over the last two decades has demonstrated an extensive spectrum of domestic and wild plants consumed by Neolithic communities. However, macrobotanical remains are seldom associated with the artefact in which they were cooked, and therefore we know the list of ingredients but not what ingredients were cooked together or how were they cooked. By focusing on remains recovered from cooking vessels, this paper explores the culinary practices of the inhabitants of the Neolithic settlement at Stavroupoli (Thessaloniki, Greece) through combined starch grain and phytolith analyses from charred food crusts adhering to the inner walls of 17 late Middle and early Late Neolithic vessels (ca. 5600-5000 cal. BC). The results show that the food represented by burnt remains included domestic wheat(s) and lentils, as well as weedy Setaria sp. and other wild plants. The presence of Setaria weeds suggests high soil fertility and disturbed growing conditions. These results further indicate that the inhabitants of different areas of the settlement had differential access to food resources (more vs. less valued food), which might be related to a) different types of meals being prepared in separated areas of the site, or b) different preferences or economic status of its inhabitants expressed through culinary practices. Further research at Stavroupoli and other contemporary sites will help to unravel the role of food in shaping social identity and human-environment interactions in the Neolithic northern Aegean.