Indus civilization food: How scientists are figuring out what curry was like 4,500 years ago. – Slate Magazine


Extent and major sites of the Indus Valley Civ...
Extent and major sites of the Indus Valley Civilization in pre-modern Pakistan and India 3000 BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Working with other Indian and American archaeologists, the two applied new methods for pinpointing the elusive remains of spices that don’t show up in flotation tanks. Instead of analyzing dirt from Indus kitchens, they collected cooking pots from the ancient town of Farmana, a modest settlement that prospered in the late third millennium B.C. (Today, it’s a two-hour drive west of Delhi.) They also obtained human teeth from the nearby cemetery from the same era.

Back in their lab, Kashyap used what is known as starch grain analysis. Starch is the main way that plants store energy, and tiny amounts of it can remain long after the plant itself has deteriorated. If a plant was heated—cooked in one of the tandoori-style ovens often found at Indus sites, for example—then its tiny microscopic remains can be identified, since each plant species leaves its own specific molecular signature. To a layperson peering through a microscope, those remains look like random blobs. But to a careful researcher, they tell the story of what a cook dropped into the dinner pot 4,500 years ago.

Examining the human teeth and the residue from the cooking pots, Kashyap spotted the telltale signs of turmeric and ginger, two key ingredients, even today, of a typical curry.

 

via Indus civilization food: How scientists are figuring out what curry was like 4,500 years ago. – Slate Magazine.

 

 

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