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Prehistoric Spice Roundup

August 30, 2013

Did prehistoric humans spice up their meals with mustard?



Stone Age cuisine. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Garlic mustard. (Sannse/Wikipedia)

Over 6000 years ago, hunter gatherers in Northern Europe seasoned their foods with spices, according to University of York researchers, reporting in the journal PLOS One. On the inside surfaces of pottery shards the team found microscopic plant structures called phytoliths. These particular phytoliths resemble those found in the seeds of modern day garlic mustard. There were also traces of meat and starchy vegetables. Since garlic mustard seeds have no nutritional value, chances are the seeds were used to add spice to the stew.

In other food chemistry news, scientists have found a clear antibacterial residue sticking to the surface of containers that held green tea. From it, they developed an antibacterial coating that sticks to most surfaces, including teflon. The researchers say it could be used to coat everything from medical implants to cookware. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.