Experimentation with pot(s): Understanding Ancient Minoan cooking

Preparing food in replicated Minoan pottery could help archaeologists better understand the ancient culture.

“Cooking is a uniquely human experience,” says Jerolyn Morrison, an affiliated researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. “No other species does it.”

Morrison said that the process of cooking is a sensory experience, especially in the case of trying to cook like the late Bronze Age Minoans.

The Minoan culture originates on Crete, an island Southeast of Greece in the Mediterranean Sea. The Bronze Age culture lasted from approximately 3650 to 1400 B.C.

“We don’t have recipes from the Minoan time,” said Morrison. “We can guess and we have ideas, but we really don’t know.”

Despite this drawback, the culinary experiments can still help archaeologists like Morrison learn about and understand the past.

Morrison said she and her colleagues figure out what Minoans possibly ate and make their own recipes based on this.

“We aren’t Minoan, but we try to get at the experience of being Minoan,” she said. “Through this kind of learning it is possible to stand in the shoes of the Minoans, in a way.”

The event, the fifth in an eight-part series of free public lectures, was sponsored by the East Tennessee Society, a division of the Archaeological Institute of America.

As a result, over half of the medium-sized audience was composed of older archaeological enthusiasts. Students made up the other half of the audience.

During the lecture, Morrison explained how hard and time consuming it is to cook like an ancient Minoan.

“It’s a real process,” she said. “Living was labor intensive back then, compared to now.”

Morrison is a co-founder of Minoan Tastes, a group that cooks with replicated Minoan clay pots and teaches the public about Minoan cooking. For more information about the group, visit https://www.minoantastes.com/.

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