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Tattoos to protect during childbirth and the sophisticated cuisine of the past

Analysis of mummified female remains with tattoo motifs from Deir el-Medina on the west bank of the Nile suggests that ancient Egyptian women were wearing decorative tattoos on their backs to protect themselves during and after childbirth by sympathetic magic. It is also possible that only midwives and/or women involved in birthing rituals were tattooed. According to Egyptian tradition, women squatted on special bricks during childbirth.

Plant material from the Shanidar caves in northern Iraq and Franchthi in Greece demonstrates the complexity and diversity of the prehistoric cuisine of Neanderthals and early modern humans. Stone Age cooks cooked in a sophisticated manner, combining a variety of ingredients and using different techniques to prepare and flavour meals. Popular choices included wild nuts, peas, vetch, legumes, beans, lentils and wild mustard. Plants were soaked, ground and crushed with stones to remove husks of them.

Evidence found in the remains of a carp-like fish attests to humans using fire for cooking as far back as 780,000 years ago. The previous earliest evidence dates back to around 170,000 BC. Tel Aviv University researchers found the remains of a two-metre-long fish, among others, at the Gesher Benot Ya’aqov archaeological site on the Jordan River. According to the researchers, “cooking may not have been limited to fish, but also included various types of animals and plants”, and “the transition from eating raw food to consuming prepared food had key consequences for human development and behaviour”.

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