Archaeologists unearthed in Austria some strange grain-based rings from the Late Bronze Age, which, they believe, were not made to be eaten.
Cereals From The Late Bronze Age
The artifacts were retrieved at the Stillfried an der March, the center of grain storage between 900 and 1000 BCE. Previous excavations in the area revealed around 100 pits which archaeologists have confirmed to be grain storage pits.
A study published in the journal PLOS One described three annular objects, each measuring about 3 centimeters across. According to researchers, analysis revealed that the rings were made from dough derived from barley and wheat.
The team also identified the process from which the curious artifacts were derived: using fine quality flour, they created a dough that they shaped into rings and dried without baking. The process was time-consuming, and it was different from how the population around the area prepared their food at the time.
This led the researchers to infer that the rings were not meant to be eaten. They served a greater purpose.
The study noted that in the same pit, archaeologists found clay rings that might have been loom weights. The team proposed that due to the artifacts' striking resemblance, the ancient cereal rings were likely created to mimic these clay loom weights.
How ancient humans used the cereal rings remain a mystery, but the researchers believe that the carefully created objects were present during rituals.
"Prehistoric bakers produced so much more than just bread," explained Andreas G. Heiss from the Austrian Archaeological Institute, the first author of the study, in a press release. "A Late Bronze Age 'odd' deposit from central European site Stillfried yielded dough rings comparable to Italian tarallini, discovered together with a larger number of clay loom weights, likewise ring-shaped — resulting in new insights into the material culture of food, symbolism, and diversity of dishes."
Heiss and colleagues hope that their recent findings could encourage other researchers to analyze samples more intensely in a case similar plant-based products were overlooked. Subsequent studies should expand the list of ways in which different cultures from the time period used cereal products.
"Another implication is also that archaeologists need to be more aware of the possibility of the preservation of such fragile objects, and that in excavations we always have to consider that some charred objects will only survive excavation if they are directly sampled, and carefully treated," Heiss added to Newsweek.