The course will examine the social, cultural and economic factors that have influenced consumption in the human past via a wide range of archaeological evidence from around the world. Dates: Monday 4 June – 2 July 2018 Times: 10.00 am – 12.00 pm Number of weeks: 5 Venue: Newarke Houses Museum, The Newarke, Leicester LE2 7BY Tutor: Stephanie Vann Price: £38.50 […]
A new exhibition has opened at Stonehenge which reveals what the builders of this ancient monument cooked and ate.
Feast! displays a collection of rare finds including the skull of an aurochs, a now extinct species of wild cattle. You can also see decorated Neolithic pots used in the preparation of pork and beef dishes and a rare complete bronze cauldron from 700BC that featured as a centrepiece of late Bronze Age ceremonial feasts.
To quote from this article by Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow:
Food taboos are known from virtually all human societies. Most religions declare certain food items fit and others unfit for human consumption. Dietary rules and regulations may govern particular phases of the human life cycle and may be associated with special events such as menstrual period, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and – in traditional societies – preparation for the hunt, battle, wedding, funeral, etc. On a comparative basis many food taboos seem to make no sense at all, as to what may be declared unfit by one group may be perfectly acceptable to another. On the other hand, food taboos have a long history and one ought to expect a sound explanation for the existence (and persistence) of certain dietary customs in a given culture. Yet, this is a highly debated view and no single theory may explain why people employ special food taboos.
There seem to be as many different food and drink prohibitions as there are cultures. Perhaps some of the more familiar include Kosher foods, that conform to the regulations of kashrut, and Halal, which refers to what is permissible or lawful in traditional Islamic law. There are, however, plenty of others.
Those who wish to follow up this topic may be interested in the following articles:
- Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective
- Food taboos and oddities: Q&A with Brian Stross
In our last session, we discussed the importance of trade to what ends up on our plate. This short animation from TED-ed explains the significance of the Silk Road to the global exchange of goods and ideas.
We looked at some of the food stuffs that results from this exchange, one of which was chocolate. Chocolate was considered a great Georgian luxury, with only the most fashionable drinking the rich, dark delight. George I and George II enjoyed it so much they had their own private chocolate maker preparing the King’s chocolate in a private kitchen in Hampton Court Palace.
There is also an interesting cook-along for that most luxurious of Georgian chocolate drink, Chocolate Port:
In our last session we looked at luxury and feasting as it related to food and drink, examining how this can be seen in different time periods and places, one of which was medieval and Tudor England. This video clip from Historic Royal Palaces shows Henry VIII’s kitchens at Hampton Court Palace. These are the largest surviving Renaissance kitchens in Europe. Occupying nearly one third of the ground floor of the Palace, 36,000 square feet, they have become internationally famous as the home of Tudor food.
Those who are interested in Tudor food may also enjoy watching Historic Royal Palace’s cookalong videos on Youtube including this one about how to make Sauge – a truly Tudor way to finish up those Christmas dinner leftovers:
Meanwhile those who are interested in celebratory food in the Victorian era may be interested in English Heritage’s series of videos on Youtube about ‘The Victorian Way’ including this one on how to make a Christmas cake:
What does farming have to do with invention and innovation? Permanent residences, division of labour, central government, and complex technologies — all essential for advancing civilizations — could not have been developed without the move from hunting-gathering to farming. In this short animation, Patricia Russac explores how farming was a major innovation leading to the civilization we know today.
Whilst, in this podcast, part of the BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects series, Neil MacGregor asks why our ancestors decided to grow and cook new foods, taking a pestle from Papua New Guinea as an example. The answer provides us with a telling insight into the way early humans settled on the land. Becoming farmers and eating food that was harder for other animals to digest made us a formidable force in the food chain. The impact on our environment of this shift to cookery and cultivation is still being felt.
The Open University’s World Archaeology module is available on OpenLearn and this also includes a section on the Origins of Agriculture, which may be of interest to learners.
In the last session we listened to a short podcast called ‘Chasing Down Dinner’ produced by PBS Nova. This interviewed Dan Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, to discover why evolving an ability to run long distances might have been key to survival for early humans.
We also looked at how the conception of hunting from a necessary survival skill changed to one relating to social status through time. If you are interested in reading more about this topic, you may wish to check out the links below:
– Hunter-Gatherer (Wikipedia)
– Why ‘Bushman banter’ was crucial to hunter-gatherers’ evolutionary success (Guardian)
– What a hunter-gatherer diet does to the body in just three days (CNN)
– Hunting (Wikipedia)
– Medieval Hunting (Wikipedia)
– Medieval and Renaissance Hunting (Victoria and Albert Museum)
All archaeological finds of a site add to its history, but some can capture us with the underlying story. This is the case for an aurochs bone with an embedded flint projectile point fragment discovered during excavations at Göbekli Tepe some years ago. That the aurochs was an important animal to these early Neolithic hunters […]
In the first session of this course we looked at a number of contextual and theoretical concepts which I hope will continue to inform discussion as we go through future sessions. One of these was Claude Lévi-Strauss’ Culinary Triangle. Those wishing to read more about this subject might wish to look at the following links:
Whilst it is not essential to do any background reading before the course begins, you may find it useful to do so. The reading list below contains books that you can read. You don’t have to read all of these and we don’t specify any that you must read. Instead, these are readings you can use to gain a preliminary understanding of topics, as well as to study in more depth those parts of the course you are particularly interested in. You may also want to take a look at magazines such as British Archaeology, World Archaeology and Current Archaeology.
Further suggestions about ways you can extend your understanding of topics through books, television etc may also be posted as appropriate on this blog.
Barker, G. 2009, The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory: Why did Foragers become Farmers? Oxford University Press
Black, M. 2012. The Medieval Cookbook. British Museum Press.
Coe, S.D and Coe, M.D. 2013. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson.
Collingham, L. 2006. Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors. Vintage.
Collingham, L. 2017. The Hungry Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World. Bodley Head.
Diamond, J. 1999, Guns, Germs and Steel. Vintage Press
Faas, P. 2009. Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome. Chicago University Press.
Fagan, B.M. 2006. Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and Discovery of the New World. Basic Books.
Flandrin, J-L, Montanari, M and Sonnenfeld, A. 2013. Food: A Culinary History. Columbia University Press.
Hammond, P. 1995. Food and Feast in Medieval England. Sutton Publishing.
Jones, M. 2007. Feast: Why Humans Share Food. Oxford University Press.
Milton, G. 2015. Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: Or, the True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History. Picador.
Rimas, A and Fraser, E.D.G. 2008. Beef: How Milk, Meat and Muscle Shaped the World. Mainstream Publishing.
Standage, T. 2006. A History of the World in 6 Glasses. Walker and Company.
Standage, T. 2010. An Edible History of Humanity. Atlantic Books.
Toussaint-Samat, M. 2008. A History of Food. Second Edition. Wiley-Blackwell.
Turner, J. 2011. Spice: The History of a Temptation. Harper Perennial.