Monday, 26 February 2018

A taste of prehistory: feasting and science in Belfast

I spent a very enjoyable evening on Friday (23 February 2018) at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I was participating in a Northern Ireland Science Week event, where I was part of the team bringing archaeological science to the public. The event, "A taste of prehistory", invited people to feast on a three-course special dinner in the Museum, inspired by ingredients and objects from prehistoric Ireland. Before dinner, attendees heard the call of ancient musical horns played at feasts and explored the science behind investigating ancient foods.

I was equipped with a (replica) saddle quern stone, rubbing stone and grain, and I encouraged people to try their hand at grinding grain to make flour. Most people were surprised at how hard it can be to produce flour! The activity helped me explain how archaeobotany can provide exciting insights into what people ate in the past. I also brought along some archaeobotanical specimens, including Bronze Age emmer wheat and barley, and outlined the long history of these crops in Ireland.

As well as the quern stone, a great variety of other demonstrations took place on the evening, including willow weaving and eel fishing, stone tool and palaeoecological analyses, ceramic reconstructions and analyses, tracing the history of animals in Ireland, and more. The event sold out in advance and was a great success. Well done to Dr Greer Ramsey and the team at the Ulster Museum for organising a very enjoyable event. 

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