25th March 2019
A Level Chemistry students at York College have been actively involved in the Melting Pot project in York, helping archaeologists to answer questions about the eating habits of Vikings.
Using Viking cooking techniques in replica pots, the students analysed the residues to compare them with archaeological samples. The Melting Pot project has been instrumental in the creation of a new exhibition at DIG in St Saviourgate in York and has revealed how oil and wax remnants in cooking pots hold vital diet clues.
Ian Martin, Head of Science at York College was delighted to see students getting hands-on with the Project: “The students really enjoyed seeing their science applied to a practical problem and taking an active role in an archaeological investigation. Their research will feed into a much larger analysis of pots, which a team from the University of York will use to compare the patterning of residues according to time, location and social context.”
Dr Steve Ashby from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York hopes the work will help to answer questions about our heritage: how changes in vessels relate to changes in cooking techniques; how cuisines varied between town and country; how food culture in the ‘Scandinavian' north of England differed from the ‘Saxon' south; and how both compare to contemporary Scandinavia. He says: "We're already starting to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge about Viking age cooking and eating habits by tying together two sets of data which have frequently been considered in isolation: faunal and botanical remains, and ceramic collections. It was great to work alongside such bright A Level students, to introduce them to the ways in which archaeologists use chemistry to answer questions about past society. Their help with the cooking work was very important in connecting what we see in the lab and on the finds bench, to what must have happened on the Viking-Age hearth, Projects like this are a fantastic way of introducing young people to bioarchaeology."
YourDIG: Melting Pot explores a different aspect of archaeology; not just looking at finding artefacts today but also trying to understand how people made and used them in the past.
The YourDIG: Melting Pot exhibition at DIG is free to enter.