Prehistoric cereal foods of southeastern Europe: An archaeobotanical exploration

Publication date: April 2019

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 104

Author(s): Soultana Maria Valamoti, Elena Marinova, Andreas G. Heiss, Ivanka Hristova, Chryssa Petridou, Tzvetana Popova, Stavroula Michou, Lambrini Papadopoulou, Panagiotis Chrysostomou, Pascal Darcque, Dimitrios Grammenos, Stanislav Iliev, Stavros Kotsos, Chaido Koukouli-Chrysanthaki, Krassimir Leshtakov, Dimitria Malamidou, Nikos Merousis, Vassil Nikolov, Krassimir Nikov, Κrastina Panayotova


This paper addresses for the first time a large body of archaeobotanical data from prehistoric Southeastern Europe, mostly published for the first time, that correspond to cereal food preparations. The evidence presented here comes from 20 sites situated in Greece and Bulgaria, spanning the Early Neolithic through to the Iron Age (7th millennium B.C.-1st millennium B.C.). The remains correspond to cereal fragments or agglomerations of fragments that resulted from ancient food preparation steps such as grinding, boiling, sprouting/malting, mixing in bread-like or porridge-like foodstuffs. The article builds on previous pilot studies and with the aid of stereomicroscopy and scanning electron microscopy offers a first classification and possible interpretations of the finds leading to the recipes that might have generated them. At the same time the article highlights the significance of retrieving and studying in depth such rare archaeobotanical finds, points out the interpretative problems stemming from such material and suggests ways forward to address similar archaeological finds in different parts of the world. The paper demonstrates the potential of the systematic study of cereal-based food remains, in our case prehistoric Southeastern Europe, to reveal a wide variability in cereal food transformation practices, suggestive of the interplay between available ingredients, cultural traditions and the complex interaction between society and environment.