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Plant Foods of Greece: A Culinary Journey to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages

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by Soultana Maria Valamoti
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This detailed scholarly work distills more than thirty years of research investigating the cereals, pulses, oils, fruits, and the foods made from them, during a nearly 7,000 year span of prehistory in what is now Greece.

Soultana Maria Valamoti, professor of archaeology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, is also the leader of PlantCult, a program funded by the EU, which examines the role of plant foods in prehistoric cuisines throughout Europe. 

Her work has focused on charred seeds found in Greek archaeological deposits; from those and other surrounding evidence, she has sought to create a picture of the early farmers in the region, exploring not only what they cultivated and how, but also the ways the foods were used, including preservation through fermentation, their use in medicine, and in formal and ritual practices.

The book is extensively illustrated with photographs of recovered crops, such as grape pips charred during what Valamoti calls a ’conflagration episode” in about 4300 BC, recovered grinding tools and and storage vessels, and current processing techniques used by farmers which could also have been used by their Neolithic counterparts. There are also maps showing the known distribution of various crops.

There is also a very brief chapter of recipes attempting to demonstrate how some foods might have been prepared using tools and methods available at the time.

Valamoti is alert to many possible further explorations without leaping to dramatic conclusions: did millet arrive along with Bronze Age tin technology? There are gaps in that story which must be researched. Thankfully, she provides an extensive bibliography.

At nearly 500 pages, Plant Foods of Greece is detailed but jargon-free, an enticing entry in the field of archaeobotany.

Hardcover. Color photographs and maps throughout.

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