Friday, July 20, 2012

Iron Age olives and pampered pets

Ongoing excavations at Silchester, Hamps., (CA 250) have uncovered the first evidence that Britain's inhabitants were enlivening their meals with Mediterranean flavours before the Roman conquest – including Britain's first Iron Age olive.

Previously it was believed that only liquids such as olive oil and wine were imported across the Channel in the Iron Age. But now University of Reading archaeologists have found celery and coriander seeds – used as seasoning – and an olive stone at the bottom of a late Iron Age well, all pre-dating AD 43. Another well yielded a celery seed from the same period, and several dill seeds dating to c.AD 40-50.

'Topics such as global food trade, food security and self-sufficiency may seem like issues only for the present day, but this unique discovery shows just how sophisticated Britain's trade in food and global links were, even before the Romans colonised in the first century AD,' said project leader Prof. Mike Fulford, who has been researching Silchester for the last 40 years.
' We take these culinary treats for granted, but over 2,000 years ago trade in these foodstuffs would have been essential – at least for the wealthy tribal aristocracy of Iron Age Britain.  A journey to Britain from the Med would have taken several weeks, either by sea around the coasts of Spain, Portugal and France, or overland through France.'