A new study looks a protein residues on pots and vessels from one of the earliest farming sites in Anatolia to figure out what these early farmers ate. There are no huge surprises, but this data paints a more vivid sense of the early Neolithic diet.
[R]esearchers analyzed vessel sherds from the West Mound of Çatalhöyük, dating to a narrow timeframe of 5900-5800 BC towards the end of the site's occupation. The vessel sherds analyzed came from open bowls and jars, as shown by reconstructions and had calcified residues on the inside surfaces. In this region today, limescale residue on the inside of cooking pots is very common. The researchers used state-of-the-art protein analyses on samples taken from various parts of the ceramics, including the residue deposits, to determine what the vessels held.
Food proteins left behind in ceramic bowls and jars
The analysis revealed that the vessels contained grains, legumes, meat and dairy products. The dairy products were shown to have come mostly from sheep and goats, and also from the bovine (cattle) family. While bones from these animals are found across the site and earlier lipid analyses have identified milk fats in vessels, this is the first time researchers have been able to identify which animals were actually being used for their milk. In line with the plant remains found, the cereals included barley and wheat, and the legumes included peas and vetches. The non-dairy animal products, which might have included meat and blood, came primarily from the goat and sheep family, and in some cases from bovines and deer. Interestingly, many of the pots contain evidence of multiple food types in a single vessel, suggesting that the residents mixed foods in their cuisine, potentially as porridges or soups, or that some vessels were used sequentially for different food items, or both.
One particular vessel however, a jar, only had evidence for dairy products, in the form of proteins found in the whey portion of milk. "This is particularly interesting because it suggests that the residents may have been using dairy production methods that separated fresh milk into curds and whey. It also suggests that they had a special vessel for holding the whey afterwards, meaning that they used the whey for additional purposes after the curd was separated," states Jessica Hendy, lead author, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. These results show that dairying has been ongoing in this area since at least the 6th millennium BC, and that people used the milk of multiple difference species of animal, including cow, sheep and goat.From here citing:
Jessica Hendy, et al., "Ancient proteins from ceramic vessels at Çatalhöyük West reveal the hidden cuisine of early farmers." 9(1) Nature Communications (2018) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06335-6