4.6 Roasting or boiling?

An essential part of subsistence is food preparation. The sum of evidence obtained from the archaeological context together with the different find categories help us to comprehend and reconstruct resource management practices. A very specific aspect is how the prey has been processed as food or as a raw material resource and which analytical tools are available to explore the stages between butchering and discarding bones after food consumption.

Burnt or partially burnt bones in a faunal assemblage may signify roasting units consisting of meat and bone. Parts of the bones, such as articulations, might, after dismemberment and portioning of the prey, be partially defleshed. These bones burn to some degree when exposed to fire during roasting. The colour of burnt bones reflects the temperature to which they have been exposed (Lyman 1994). In the faunal assemblage of Neustadt, burnt or partially burnt bones display colours that vary from deep blue/black, black, black/greyish, while calcined bones were rare. All these are indications of bones exposed to intense heating (≥600°C) (Shipman et al. 1984). However, partially burnt bones in Neustadt are extremely rare, most likely indicating that boiling was the most common practice for food preparation. During boiling the bone diagenesis is low because of less intense heating (<400°C) and thus there are no obvious or recognisable traces on the bone surfaces (Shipman et al. 1984; Koon et al. 2003). Consequently, we can either assume that meat-bone units were cooked in pots, or that meat off the bone was boiled, most probably combined with other ingredients (Saul et al. 2013), since we know from a large number of bones with scraping and filleting marks that meat was removed from bone prior to cooking. Roasting and boiling of portioned units have been recorded as a common practice for food preparation in middle and late Mesolithic sites from southern Scandinavia (e.g. Noe-Nygaard 1995; Magnell 2003).

Ceramic vessels as a new element appear in archaeological contexts in southern Scandinavia during the second half of the fifth millennium BC. Neustadt represents one of the largest and well-preserved ceramic assemblages of the late Ertebølle and earliest Funnel Beaker Cultures. These vessels have been interpreted as cooking vessels because of the frequent appearance of charred deposits in the interior and exterior, and traces of soot, demonstrating that the pots were exposed to fire. The ceramic assemblage consists of pointed-based vessels, shallow oval-shaped vessels known as 'lamps' and a variety of funnel beakers (Glykou 2010; 2011a; 2011b).

Both cooking vessels and oval-shaped lamps were selected for organic residue analysis. Organic residue analysis of lipids extracted from ceramic interior surfaces and charred interior deposits or 'foodcrusts' by gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) and GC combustion isotope ratio MS (GC-c-IRMS) from Neustadt has been reported by Craig et al. (2011). Identifications were made by considering the isotope ratios of individual fatty acids (Craig et al. 2011, fig. 2) or the presence of specific biomarkers (Craig et al. 2011). A comparison of lipids recovered from pointed-based EBK and TRB Funnel Beaker pottery from Neustadt shows that marine and ruminant products were a feature in the diet during both periods (Craig et al. 2011, table 1, fig. 2). This reflects the results of a much larger sample showing continuity in the processing of marine foods after the introduction of domesticated animals (Craig et al. 2011). The technique used cannot distinguish between marine mammals and marine fish. However, a small number of lipids extracted from cooking vessels from Neustadt demonstrate isotopic characteristics that match reference values for marine mammals; therefore the processing of seal blubber in the pottery is highly likely. Additionally, similar analysis of four lamps from Neustadt revealed the presence of lipids derived from an aquatic source (Heron et al. 2013), which have been interpreted as evidence for the use of seal blubber for lighting. The ceramic assemblage at Neustadt provides extensive evidence for processing seal blubber, although about twice as many pots were used to process terrestrial as opposed to marine resources.