Station: [241] The Neolithic Diet

Neolithic people had no potatoes, rice, maize, tomatoes or peppers to eat - All the same, they enjoyed a balanced diet.  Grain and pulses provided carbohydrates and protein.  Oil from poppy and flax seeds was used for making their meals tastier. Berries, wild fruit and nuts, wild vegetables and salads all provided a plentiful supply of vitamins and minerals. Their most valuable nourishment, however, was provided by wild and domestic animals.  Meat was their main food especially in the wintertime. They roasted their meat above an open fire or stewed it in a pot. Stews of grains and vegetables, porridge and various forms of baking, such as flat breads, would also have been on the menu. 

They drank water, tea made from herbs and fruit, and presumably alcoholic drinks such as beer and mead.  This was the first time in the history of mankind that people had cow’s milk to drink. A special enzyme called lactase is needed in order to be able to digest milk, which only babies and small children produce in sufficient amounts. Adults are normally unable to drink milk without feeling ill and getting sick.  However, the fact that we adult Europeans are capable of consuming milk is due to a chance genetic mutation.  The early farmers who had this gene mutation had a better chance of surviving the long winter months.

It’s possible that they were already turning milk into quark and cheese at this time.  We do have some fragments of sieving vessels that show milk fat traces. These sherds have holes in them, and are also on display here in the exhibition.