Abstract: There is a wealth of archaeological evidence, from bones excavated in prehistoric middens, piles of fruit stones and sea shells, that give us concrete indications of food consumed at various prehistoric sites around Europe. In addition to this information, we have pollen analysis from settlement sites and charred plant macrofossils. Wetland archaeology informs us in much more detail about not only the types of foods that were being eaten in prehistory but also, in some cases, their cooking techniques. This paper will explore whether or not a popular misconception about the daily diet in prehistory has its roots in the analysis of stomach contents of various bog bodies found in Europe.

Keywords: bog bodies, cooking techniques, ethnology, fogous, prehistoric Europe, salt production



The interpretation of cooking in the prehistoric period is not as difficult as one may imagine. There are various quotations by the Oassical historians that lead us to believe that food tastes and traditions were as varied in ancient Europe as they are today. The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus tells us, c. 50 BC, that a visit to an Iberian Celtic chief may lead to the offer of a chunk of bread and the best cut of some spit-roasted meat (Diodorus Siculus 1699: Ch. 11:212). By contrast, hospitality on ancient Cyprus at the time of Herodotus, c. 450 BC, may have taken the form of a dish containing fish cakes made of minced sun-dried fish (Herodotus 1957: Book 1, para. 200). There is also a wealth of archaeological evidence, such as the bones of animals found in ancient middens, or piles of discarded fruit stones, or sea shells (Andersen 1985:54). We can study pollen analysis from ancient sites, and charred plant macrofossils (Straker 1991:161). Also, evidence from the stomach contents of various well-preserved bog bodies provides us an insight into their last meal (Turner and Scaife 1995:81). It is important to take account of regional tastes, just as in European food studies today.


European Journal of Archaeology Vol. 3(1): 89-111 Copyright @ 2000 Sage Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi) and the European Association of Archaeologists [1461-?571(200004)3:1;8~111;010288)