Dinner Party Discovered 12,000 Years Later
We humans love excuses to gather for a rousing
evening of community—featuring lots of food. Now researchers have evidence for the earliest known group feasting.
At a 12,000-year-old burial
site in northern Israel, archaeologists found the remains of at least 71 tortoises and two wild cattle in specially built hollows in a cave. The tortoise shells surrounded the remains of individuals who the scientists say were shamans. And there’s evidence that the animals were cooked and eaten. Based on the bones, the researchers estimate that the meat could have supported about 35 people, maybe more.
The discovery was published by researchers from the University of Connecticut and Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The feast would have taken place right around the time that people were going from tribes of hunter-gatherers to settlements of farmers—the transition to early agriculture. As the region’s local population grew, competition increased for existing food sources. Settling down also meant that our ancestors were forced into contact with more people in a smaller area.
So, large community meals might have served to lubricate
social connections and alleviate
tensions. Much like dinner parties today.