Early Europeans chewed on seaweed superfood 8,000 years ago, ‘definitive’ evidence reveals

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GLASGOW, Scotland — Early Europeans consumed seaweed 3,000 years earlier than it was acknowledged as a delicacy within the Far East, a brand new research reveals. From areas stretching from Orkney to Spain, historic Europeans consumed freshwater crops and the now-popular superfood as early as 8,000 years in the past, in line with researchers in Scotland.

Whereas seaweed has gained trendy acclaim as a “superfood” for its well being and sustainability benefits, the research notes that our ancestors have been really pioneers when it got here to its consumption.

Researchers have uncovered “definitive” archaeological proof exhibiting that throughout the Mesolithic interval, extending by the Neolithic shift to agriculture and into the Early Center Ages, seaweeds and different native freshwater plants have been a part of the common human’s food regimen. These findings recommend that such meals, now seldom consumed by Europeans, solely started to decrease in reputation comparatively not too long ago.

The analysis emphasizes that though aquatic assets have been utilized, proof for seaweed consumption stays rare. Sometimes, seaweed’s historic significance is tied to non-edible functions, like gasoline, meals packaging, or fertilizers.

The stone building is Isbister in Orkney,
The stone constructing is Isbister in Orkney, also called Tomb of the Eagles the place a few of the seaweed samples analyzed within the research got here from. (credit score: Professor Karen Hardy)

Historic data word legal guidelines concerning seaweed assortment in locations like Iceland, Brittany, and Eire from the tenth Century. The Roman creator Pliny even talked about sea kale as a treatment in opposition to scurvy for sailors.

By the 18th century, seaweed grew to become a last-resort meals throughout famines. Though it stays economically vital in elements of Asia for its dietary and medicinal benefits, its consumption in Europe is minimal.

The investigative staff, comprising archaeologists from the Universities of Glasgow and York, analyzed biomarkers from the dental calculus of 74 people from 28 European archaeological websites, starting from north Scotland to southern Spain. Their findings present “direct proof of widespread consumption of seaweed and submerged aquatic and freshwater crops.” Biomolecular proof from the samples revealed consumption of varied seaweeds or freshwater crops, with one pattern from Orkney exhibiting indicators of a Brassica, possible sea kale.

“Our research additionally highlights the potential for rediscovery of different, native, sustainable meals assets that will contribute to addressing the destructive well being and environmental results of over-dependence on a small variety of mass-produced agricultural merchandise that may be a dominant characteristic of a lot of as we speak’s western food regimen, and certainly the worldwide long-distance meals provide extra typically,” says Professor Karen Hardy from the College of Glasgow, the Principal Investigator of the Highly effective Crops venture, in a media release.

The researchers hope their research underscores the advantages of incorporating extra seaweeds and native freshwater crops into trendy diets.

“At this time, seaweed and freshwater aquatic crops are just about absent from conventional, western diets and their marginalization as they progressively modified from meals to famine assets and animal fodder, in all probability occurred over an extended time frame, as has additionally been detected elsewhere with some crops,” says Professor Hardy.

Of the roughly 10,000 seaweed species globally, solely 145 are consumed as we speak, predominantly in Asia.

“The biomolecular proof on this research is over three thousand years sooner than historic proof within the Far East. Not solely does this new proof present that seaweed was being consumed in Europe throughout the Mesolithic Interval round 8,000 years in the past when marine assets have been identified to have been exploited, however that it continued into the Neolithic when it’s often assumed that the introduction of farming led to the abandonment of marine dietary assets,” concludes Dr. Stephen Buckley from the College of York, a co-author of the research. “This strongly means that the dietary advantages of seaweed have been sufficiently properly understood by these ancient populations that they maintained their dietary hyperlink with the ocean.”

The analysis is printed within the journal Nature Communications.

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South West Information Service author Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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