Bone analyses tell about kitchen utensils in the Middle Ages

Cortez Deacetis

Clay pots? Wooden spoons? Copper pots? Silver forks? What resources has man employed for building kitchen area utensils all over record? A new review now sheds light-weight on the use of kitchen area utensils made of copper.

At very first considered, you would not anticipate hundreds of several years old bones from a medieval cemetery to be able to convey to you pretty substantially – permit alone something about what sorts of kitchen area utensils ended up employed to put together food.

But when you put this kind of a bone in the fingers of Professor Kaare Lund Rasmussen, University of Southern Denmark, the bone begins to communicate about the earlier.

A warehouse comprehensive of bones

– For the very first time, we have succeeded in tracing the use of copper cookware in bones. Not in isolated situations, but in lots of bones more than lots of several years, and therefore we can discover tendencies in historical use of copper in the household, he explains.

The research team has analyzed bones from 553 skeletons that are amongst 1200 and 200 several years old. They all appear from 9, now deserted cemeteries in Jutland, Denmark and Northern Germany. The skeletons are today retained at Schloss Gottorf in Schleswig, Germany and at the University of Southern Denmark.

Some of the bones examined are from Danish cities this kind of as Ribe and Haderslev, though other individuals are from small rural communities, this kind of as Tirup and Nybøl.

Your overall body desires copper

The factor copper can be traced in bones if ingested. Copper is wanted for the overall body to perform it is, between other points, concerned in a quantity of metabolic procedures, this kind of as the perform of the immune technique – so without copper, the specific would not be able to are living.

The need for copper is usually achieved as a result of the food we take in and most of us most likely never ever imagine about this.

It is different with the superior concentrations of copper now discovered to have been ingested by our predecessors in the Viking Age and the Medieval Moments. Significantly of this copper ought to have appear from the kitchen area utensils with which the everyday meals ended up ready, the researchers think.

How did the copper get into the overall body?

1 chance is that the copper pots ended up scraped by metallic knives, releasing copper particles, and that these particles ended up ingested with the food.

Or it’s possible copper was dissolved and mixed with food, if the pot was employed for storing or cooking acidic foods.

– The bones present us that individuals eaten tiny portions of copper each and every day all over their life. We can also see that complete cities have been carrying out this for hundreds of several years. In Ribe, the inhabitants did this for a thousand several years, says Kaare Lund Rasmussen.

Who ate the copper?

Seemingly, the copper ingestion was at no time so fantastic that it turned toxic. But the researchers are not able to say for sure.

On the other hand, they can with certainty say that some individuals never ever ingested copper more than enough for it to be traceable in the bones. Instead, they ate food ready in pots made of other resources.

These individuals lived in the countryside. The bones reveal that inhabitants in the small villages of Tirup and Nybøl did not put together their food in copper pots.

Depend significantly less on composed resources

But how do these conclusions go with historical accounts and shots of copper cookware employed in in place kitchens?

– A copper pot in a place kitchen area could have been so strange that the owner would convey to all people about it and it’s possible even write it down. On the other hand, this kind of an account should really not lead to the summary that copper cookware was normally employed in the countryside. Our analyzes present the opposite, says Kaare Lund Rasmussen.

Opposite, the use of copper pots was apparent in the towns of Ribe, Horsens, Haderslev and Schleswig.

a thousand several years of frequent copper ingestion

– The cities ended up dynamic communities and households of wealthy individuals who could receive copper goods. Rich individuals most likely also lived in the countryside, but they did not spend their funds on copperware, concludes Kaare Lund Rasmussen.

208 of the skeletons originate from a cemetery in Ribe, masking a period of time of a thousand several years from Advertisement 800 to Advertisement 1800, spanning from the Viking Age more than the Center Ages to new situations.

– These skeletons present us there was a constant exposure of copper all over the period of time. Thus, for a thousand several years, the inhabitants eaten copper through their everyday diet regime.

Mercury in Tycho Brahe’s beard

Professor Kaare Lund Rasmussen has done several chemical analyzes of historical and archaeological artifacts.

Among other points, he has analyzed a hair from the Danish Renaissance astronomer Tycho Brahe’s beard and found that the he did not die from mercury poisoning, as hard-nosed rumors would or else know.

In switch, Tycho Brahe was uncovered to big amounts of gold right until two months in advance of his dying – probably as a result of his alchemist daily life, probably mainly because he ate and drank from gold-plated service.


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