Oldest cooked meal found: Unearthed remains of food show how complex Neanderthals were able to cook

The oldest cooked leftovers that have ever been found - what initially sounds particularly unappetizing provides new insights into the eating habits of Neanderthals.

Oldest cooked meal found: Unearthed remains of food show how complex Neanderthals were able to cook

The oldest cooked leftovers that have ever been found - what initially sounds particularly unappetizing provides new insights into the eating habits of Neanderthals. A team of researchers from the University of Liverpool has found and examined burnt remains of food in the Shanidar Cave in northern Iraq. They are believed to be around 70,000 years old. It should be leftovers in the style of flatbread or pancakes. The finds are an indication that Neanderthals already had a proper food culture, said Chris Hunt, coordinator of the expedition.

Her research showed that Neanderthals already ate dishes made with more than one ingredient, prepared in multiple steps, said archaeobotanist Ceren Kabukcu, who led the research. Neanderthals could have used it to prepare complex dishes - they are also said to have used specific techniques to change the taste to their liking.

For example, we know that the Stone Age people soaked, washed and then crushed legumes - but the shell was often not completely removed. According to the researchers, they could have done this on purpose to preserve natural bitter substances and thus achieve a certain taste. The combination of different seeds would also indicate that there were already certain taste preferences back then. The finds are also another indication that - contrary to what was long assumed - Neanderthals not only ate meat, but also plants.

The University of Liverpool team even attempted to replicate bread from the Iraqi site using seeds grown near the site. According to Chris Hunt, it should have tasted nutty.

Sources: The Guardian, Spectrum

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