Fatty residues on ancient pottery reveal meat-heavy diets of Indus Civilisation: Study – more way of life

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An analysis of fat residues in ancient ceramic vessels from settlements of the Indus Civilisation in present-day Haryana and Uttar Pradesh suggests that the prehistoric people of the time consumed meat of animals like cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, and pigs in addition to dairy products.

The study, published in the Publication of Archaeological Science, involved extraction and identification of fats and oils which were absorbed into ancient ceramic vessels all over their use previously.

Based on the analysis, the scientists, including those from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, unravelled how these ancient vessels were used and what used to be being cooked in them.

“Our study of lipid residues in Indus pottery shows a dominance of animal products in vessels, such as the meat of non-ruminant animals like pigs, ruminant animals like cattle or buffalo, and sheep or goat, in addition to dairy products,” said study co-author Akshyeta Suryanarayan former PhD student at the Branch of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. Suryanarayan, who is currently a postdoctoral researcher at CNRS, France, said her team found a predominance of non-ruminant animal fats in the vessels — although the remains of animals like pigs were not present in large quantities.

“It is conceivable that plant products or mixtures of plant and animal products were also used in vessels, creating ambiguous results,” she added.

Despite the high percentages of the remains of domestic ruminant animals found at these sites, the archeologists said there is very limited direct evidence of the usage of dairy products in the vessels.

“The products used in vessels across rural and urban Indus sites in northwest India are similar all over the Mature Harappan period (c.2600/2500-1900 BC),” said Cameron Petrie, senior creator of the study from the University of Cambridge.

“This suggests that although urban and rural settlements were distinctive and people living in them used several types of fabric culture and pottery, they may have shared cooking practices and ways of preparing foodstuffs,” Petrie said.

The scientists imagine the findings spotlight the resilience of rural settlements in northwest India all over the transformation of the Indus Civilisation, and all over a period of increasing aridity. “There may be evidence that rural settlements in northwest India exhibited a continuity in the ways they cooked or prepared foodstuff from the urban (Mature Harappan) to post-urban (Late Harappan) periods,” Petrie said.

He said this used to be especially all over a phase of climatic instability after 2100 BC, suggesting that day-to-day practices continued at small rural sites over cultural and climatic changes.

“These results illustrate that the usage of lipid residues, combined with other techniques in bioarchaeology, have the potential to open exciting new avenues for understanding the relationship between the surroundings, foodstuffs, fabric culture, and ancient society in protohistoric South Asia,” Suryanarayan concluded.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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