This was revealed by an analysis of protein residues from ancient cauldrons. What was the diet in the Bronze Age? Deer, sheep, goats and cattle were eaten. The time studied is the Maykop period (3700-2900 BC).
“It’s really exciting to get a sense of what people were preparing in these cauldrons so long ago.” Says Shevan Wilkin of the University of Zurich, Switzerland. “It’s the first evidence we have of preserved proteins from a feast: it’s a big cauldron. Clearly they were making big meals, not just for individual families.”
Remains in cauldrons
In fats preserved in ancient pottery and dental calculus proteins lie the clues. The new study was published in iScience. It combines protein analysis with archaeology to explore specific details about those foods. Many metal alloys have antimicrobial properties. That’s why proteins have been preserved so well in the cauldrons.
The researchers collected eight residue samples from seven cauldrons. They were recovered from burials in the Caucasus region, from southwestern Russia to Turkey. They were able to recover proteins from blood, muscle tissue and milk. The cauldrons were used to cook deer or bovine tissues. Proteins were also recovered from sheep or goat milk. Dairy products were prepared there.
Dating indicates an age of between 3520 and 3350 B.C. They are more than 3,000 years older than any others that have been analyzed before. They show signs of wear from use, they also show signs of extensive repairs. “These metal vessels would have taken a long time and a lot of skill to make. They were used and cared for over a long period of time. Perhaps for more than a generation,” explains Peter Hommel of the University of Liverpool (UK).
Diet in the Bronze Age can be better studied with these new approaches. “Proteins are preserved in these pots. There is a good chance that they are preserved in a wide range of other prehistoric metal artifacts. Much remains to be learned, but this opens up the field in a really dramatic way.”