Lonely Planet Writer

Excavations in Turkey shine a light on 12,000 years of Anatolian eating habits

Excavations at the ancient city of Tlos in southwest Turkey have provided insight into 12,000 years of Anatolian food culture.

The excavations started ten years ago and have produced findings from the early neolithic age, including cookers with remains of food such as rabbit, chevrotain, deer and wild boar still in them. “But in later times, they started choosing agricultural products,” excavation leader Professor Taner Korkut, who specialises in eating habits since ancient times, told Hürriyet Daily News.
Barley and wheat were popular products, as well as a variety of plants that are still eaten today: Korkut said that inhabitants of mountainous regions in Seydikemer in the western province of Muğla still follow these eating traditions. Interviews showed that 130 species of edible plants are consumed in these areas. The excavations have also led to discoveries from Ancient Roman times. “Starting from the Roman era, we saw that double basket and pressure steam cookers were used to cook dishes. These cookers, called kerotakis, were first used in the first and second centuries,” said Korkut.

Maza, which is a kind of filo dough made up of barley meal, was always on the table. Also, einkorn flour was used to make filo bread in the Roman era… it was called puls. They ate onion, garlic and cheese along with puls. A bread… called ortos was first made with barley and then with wheat,” he explained.

As well as meat dishes, Korkut said that Ancient Romans ate fish dishes accompanied with sauces. Vegetables including cabbage, spinach, chard, hibiscus, asparagus, leeks, onions, beans, sweet peas, lentils and broad beans were popular in this era. They were consumed raw or boiled, and legumes were mashed. As it is to this day, olive oil was a constituent of most dishes. Apples, grapes and figs were popular fruits, with grapes used to make wine as well as being eaten.