Institute of Archaeology


Lara Gonzalez Carretero

On the origins of bread cultures in the Near East: a new archaeobotanical study of charred meals and cooking practices from Neolithic Çatalhöyük (Turkey) and Jarmo (Iraq)


Email: lara.carretero.13@ucl.ac.uk
Section: Archaeological Sciences



On the origins of bread cultures in the Near East: a new archaeobotanical study of charred meals and cooking practices from Neolithic Çatalhöyük (Turkey) and Jarmo (Iraq)

My PhD project integrates unstudied plant evidence from the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük East (Turkey) and Jarmo (Iraq), such as charred residues and amorphous charred organic material which were originally identified as "food" and "bread," combined with the study of artefact assemblages (clay balls, pots and grinding stones), ethnographical studies and experimental food preparation and charring experiments. My main aim is to assess the extent to which these early sites can be characterised as a bread culture (e.g. Fuller & Rowlands 2011) near the origins of European bread cultures, and how much diversity of cereal preparation techniques were employed in the past and how these diversified over time. These can be compared and potentially contrasted with ethnographic observations of bread making to answer the question: how stable have cereal preparation practices been since the Neolithic in Western Asia? The methods developed in this research will provide a new means of characterising archaeobotanical assemblages with charred food fragments as representative of Neolithic "recipes," the chaîne opératoire, which links harvested cereals to cooked products for consumption. The intention of this study is to characterise how these recipes changed over time and might have varied across the Neolithic Çatalhöyük and Jarmo communities, shedding light on social differences.

The relevance for investigating past culinary traditions, and the more specific significance of this research lies on the possibility of identifying the forms in which early Neolithic people consumed the plant species commonly recovered from archaeological sites. Through the study of charred archaeological foods combined with the analysis of tools directly related with food preparation, archaeologists can further our understanding of culinary daily routines, and how these and food products contributed to Neolithic cultural and economic developments as well as diet and health.




    • BA , Prehistory and Archaeology, University Complutense of Madrid, 2006-2010
    • MA, Research in Environmental Archaeology, University of Reading, 2011

    Gonzalez Carretero, L., Wollstonecroft, M. and Fuller, D.Q., 2017. A methodological approach to the study of archaeological cereal meals: a case study at Çatalhöyük East (Turkey). Vegetation history and archaeobotany, 26(4), pp.415-432.

    Gonzalez Carretero, L. (2014). The genesis of bread cultures at Çatalhöyük: an archaeobotanical perspective on changing cuisine. Heritage Turkey, 3.

    Arranz-Otaegui, A., Gonzalez Carretero, L., Roe, J. and Richter, T., 2018. "Founder crops" v. wild plants: Assessing the plant-based diet of the last hunter-gatherers in southwest Asia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 186, pp.263-283.

    Stroud, E., Kabuku, C., Tuntas, T., Gonzalez Carretero, L., Filipovic, D., Fuller, DQ., Charles, M., Bogaard, A. (2017) Macrobotanical Remains. In Çatalhöyük 2017 Archive Report by members of the Çatalhöyük Research Project.

    Antolin, F., Alonso, N., Berihuete, M., Brombacher, C., Chondrou, D., Ertug, F., García-Granero, J.J., González-Carretero, L., Hamon, C., Heiss, A.G. and Jacomet, S., 2016. Grütze, Bulgur, Mehl und Griess. Bericht zum internationalen Arbeitstreffen „Archäobotanische Identifikation von Getreidespeisen "(Basel, 2./3. Uni 2015), mit einem praktischen Leitfaden zu ihrer integrativen Untersuchung. Jahrbuch Archäologie Schweiz, 99, pp.143-151.

    Wengrow, D., Carter, R., Brereton, G., Shepperson, M., Hamarashi, S.J., Saber, S.A., Bevan, A., Fuller, D., Himmelman, H., Sosnowska, H. and Gonzalez Carretero, L., 2016. GURGA CHIYA AND TEPE MARANI: NEW EXCAVATIONS IN THE SHAHRIZOR PLAIN, IRAQI KURDISTAN 1. Iraq, 78, pp.253-284.