Stone Age sandwiches? Signs of baked bread and cooked meat could rewrite history of Neolithic diets


LONDON — Early people in what’s now the Arabian desert had been baking bread and cooking meat 1000’s of years in the past, in keeping with new analysis. Superior analyses of historic grinding instruments reveal proof of plant, pigment, and bone processing in Northern Saudi Arabia through the Neolithic interval — often known as the New Stone Age.

Research point out that the now-desert area was significantly wetter and greener up to now, permitting Neolithic communities entry to water and recent recreation. Nonetheless, the area’s present dryness preserves minimal natural matter, difficult reconstructions of Neolithic existence.

A workforce of researchers, together with scientists from College School London, performed an in depth use-wear evaluation on grinding instruments excavated from Jebel Oraf within the Nefud desert of Saudi Arabia. Their findings make clear a comparatively unknown section of human historical past.

The research decided that these tools had been used to course of bone, pigment, and vegetation. They had been additionally repurposed for numerous duties all through their lifespan earlier than finally being shattered and positioned on hearths.

Plant, pigment, and bone processing in the Neolithic of northern Arabia–New evidence from Use-wear analysis of grinding tools at Jebel Oraf.
Fig 2. Hearths from ORF2 and ORF115. ORF2 hearths (prime 3) are close to the floor and are proven earlier than (left) and after (proper) excavation. Software 4 was present in fireside 136, and gear 5 in fireside 63. Hearths at ORF115 had been embedded in a stratified deposit seen on the sting of a looting gap and subsequently excavated. (credit score: Giulio Lucarini, Maria Guagnin, Michael Petraglia)

By utilizing high-powered microscopes, the researchers in contrast use-wear patterns on the archaeological instruments to these on experimental ones. By experimentation, they discovered that grinding completely different supplies, comparable to grains, bone, or pigment, left distinctive macro and micro traces on the software’s floor. These traces, together with fractures, edge roundings, leveled areas, striations, and numerous polish varieties, had been additionally current on the Neolithic instruments. This allowed the workforce to discern the supplies being processed.

Though prior proof confirmed meat consumption at Jebel Oraf, the newly found put on patterns recommend that meat and bones underwent preliminary processing on grindstones. This means the probability that bones had been cracked open to extract the marrow.

The instruments had been additionally used to course of vegetation. Though no indicators of domesticated grains have been present in northern Arabia from that period, the researchers imagine wild vegetation had been milled and doubtlessly baked into primary bread.

Microscopic images of grinding tools and surface from Neolithic era
Fig 10. Grinding software 4: Prime grinder from ORF2 Trench 10 (152).
WS: working floor; White letters on black dots: Low magnification pictures; Black letters on white dots: Excessive magnification pictures; Black letters/numbers on gray dots: Duplicate pictures. (A) Quick, shallow, and parallel striations (white arrows); (B) Reasonably reflective, granular polish; (C) Shallow, parallel, and slender micro-striations (white arrow); (R1) Experimental reproduction used for grinding dry einkorn wheat for 600 minutes; (R2) Experimental reproduction used for grinding dry emmer wheat for 600 minutes; (R3) Experimental reproduction used for grinding dry sorghum for 360 minutes. (R1, R2) Micrographs of the particular instruments. Reference assortment of the Laboratory for Materials Tradition Research, Leiden College; (R3) Micrograph of Provil Novo® mould. Reference assortment of the Institute of Heritage Science, Nationwide Analysis Council of Italy, Rome.
(credit score: Giulio LucariniMaria Guagnin, Michael Petraglia)

“The hearths the place we discovered the grinding instruments had been extraordinarily short-lived, and other people might have been very cellular – breads would have made a great and simply transportable meals for them,” says Dr. Maria Guagnin, co-lead creator from the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology in Germany, in a media release. “Breads would have been a handy, transportable meals supply for them.”

Moreover, the workforce recognized proof of pigment processing, which they theorize could possibly be related to Neolithic artworks. The dimensions of pigment grinding found signifies a risk of extra Neolithic-painted rock art than what has been discovered so far.

“It’s clear grinding instruments had been necessary for the Neolithic occupants of Jebel Oraf. Many had been closely used, and a few even had holes in them that recommend they had been transported,” says co-lead creator Dr. Giulio Lucarini, from the Nationwide Analysis Council of Italy. “Which means individuals carried heavy grinding instruments with them and their performance should have been an necessary aspect in every day life.”

The research is printed within the journal PLoS ONE.

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

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