3,500-year-old pumpkin spice?

Archaeologists find the earliest use of nutmeg as a food ingredient and evidence of the transition to early farming practices in Indonesia.

In a timely coincidence with the annual rise of pumpkin-spice lattes and other favorite fall foods, a new study published in the journal Asian Perspectives describes the earliest-known use of nutmeg as a food ingredient. Found at an archaeological site on Pulau Ay, a small island in the Banda Islands, central Maluku, Indonesia, the nutmeg was found as residue on ceramic potsherds and is estimated to be 3,500 years old—about 2,000 years older than previously known use of this delicious spice.

The study and two excavations in 2007 and 2009 were both led by Dr. Peter Lape, curator of archaeology at the Burke Museum and professor of anthropology at the University of Washington, in collaboration with colleagues from Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, University of New South Wales, Australia and others. The Pulau Ay archaeological site was occupied from 3,500-2,300 years ago, with animal bones, earthenware pottery, stone tools, and post molds of possible housing structures found. The variety of artifacts discovered provides evidence of changes in how people utilized marine food resources, pottery and domestic animals over time.

Over the first 500 years at the site, people shifted from a predominately fish-based diet to primarily eating domesticated pigs. In addition, pottery was initially thin-walled vessels adapted for storage of liquids that may have allowed people to survive on this water poor island. A few hundred years later, thicker-walled pottery better adapted for cooking appears along with pig bones.

Article Source: Burke Museum