Bistro MD: Does This Very Popular Diet Really Work?

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One of the most common constituents of a medieval meal, either as part of a banquet or as a small snack, were sops , pieces of bread with which a liquid like wine , soup , broth , or sauce could be soaked up and eaten. Another common sight at the medieval dinner table was the frumenty , a thick wheat porridge often boiled in a meat broth and seasoned with spices.

Porridges were also made of every type of grain and could be served as desserts or dishes for the sick, if boiled in milk or almond milk and sweetened with sugar. Pies filled with meats, eggs, vegetables, or fruit were common throughout Europe, as were turnovers , fritters , doughnuts , and many similar pastries. By the Late Middle Ages biscuits cookies in the U. Grain, either as bread crumbs or flour, was also the most common thickener of soups and stews, alone or in combination with almond milk.

The importance of bread as a daily staple meant that bakers played a crucial role in any medieval community. Bread consumption was high in most of Western Europe by the 14th century. Estimates of bread consumption from different regions are fairly similar: Among the first town guilds to be organized were the bakers', and laws and regulations were passed to keep bread prices stable.

The English Assize of Bread and Ale of listed extensive tables where the size, weight, and price of a loaf of bread were regulated in relation to grain prices. The baker's profit margin stipulated in the tables was later increased through successful lobbying from the London Baker's Company by adding the cost of everything from firewood and salt to the baker's wife, house, and dog. Since bread was such a central part of the medieval diet, swindling by those who were trusted with supplying the precious commodity to the community was considered a serious offense.

Bakers who were caught tampering with weights or adulterating dough with less expensive ingredients could receive severe penalties. This gave rise to the " baker's dozen ": While grains were the primary constituent of most meals, vegetables such as cabbage , chard , onions , garlic and carrots were common foodstuffs.

Many of these were eaten daily by peasants and workers and were less prestigious than meat. The cookbooks, which appeared in the late Middle Ages and were intended mostly for those who could afford such luxuries, contained only a small number of recipes using vegetables as the main ingredient.

The lack of recipes for many basic vegetable dishes, such as potages , has been interpreted not to mean that they were absent from the meals of the nobility, but rather that they were considered so basic that they did not require recording. Various legumes , like chickpeas , fava beans and field peas were also common and important sources of protein , especially among the lower classes. With the exception of peas, legumes were often viewed with some suspicion by the dietitians advising the upper class, partly because of their tendency to cause flatulence but also because they were associated with the coarse food of peasants.

The importance of vegetables to the common people is illustrated by accounts from 16th-century Germany stating that many peasants ate sauerkraut from three to four times a day. Fruit was popular and could be served fresh, dried, or preserved, and was a common ingredient in many cooked dishes.

The fruits of choice in the south were lemons , citrons , bitter oranges the sweet type was not introduced until several hundred years later , pomegranates , quinces , and, of course, grapes. Farther north, apples , pears , plums , and strawberries were more common. Figs and dates were eaten all over Europe, but remained rather expensive imports in the north. Common and often basic ingredients in many modern European cuisines like potatoes , kidney beans , cacao , vanilla , tomatoes , chili peppers and maize were not available to Europeans until after , after European contact with the Americas, and even then it often took considerable time, sometimes several centuries, for the new foodstuffs to be accepted by society at large.

Milk was an important source of animal protein for those who could not afford meat. It would mostly come from cows, but milk from goats and sheep was also common.

Plain fresh milk was not consumed by adults except the poor or sick, and was usually reserved for the very young or elderly. Poor adults would sometimes drink buttermilk or whey or milk that was soured or watered down. On occasion it was used in upper-class kitchens in stews, but it was difficult to keep fresh in bulk and almond milk was generally used in its stead.

Cheese was far more important as a foodstuff, especially for common people, and it has been suggested that it was, during many periods, the chief supplier of animal protein among the lower classes. There were also whey cheeses , like ricotta , made from by-products of the production of harder cheeses. Cheese was used in cooking for pies and soups, the latter being common fare in German-speaking areas.

Butter , another important dairy product, was in popular use in the regions of Northern Europe that specialized in cattle production in the latter half of the Middle Ages, the Low Countries and Southern Scandinavia.

While most other regions used oil or lard as cooking fats, butter was the dominant cooking medium in these areas. Its production also allowed for a lucrative butter export from the 12th century onward. While all forms of wild game were popular among those who could obtain it, most meat came from domestic animals.

Domestic working animals that were no longer able to work were slaughtered but not particularly appetizing and therefore were less valued as meat. Beef was not as common as today because raising cattle was labor-intensive, requiring pastures and feed, and oxen and cows were much more valuable as draught animals and for producing milk. Mutton and lamb were fairly common, especially in areas with a sizeable wool industry, as was veal.

Domestic pigs often ran freely even in towns and could be fed on just about any organic waste, and suckling pig was a sought-after delicacy. Just about every part of the pig was eaten, including ears, snout, tail, tongue , and womb. Intestines, bladder and stomach could be used as casings for sausage or even illusion food such as giant eggs.

Among the meats that today are rare or even considered inappropriate for human consumption are the hedgehog and porcupine , occasionally mentioned in late medieval recipe collections. In England, they were deliberately introduced by the 13th century and their colonies were carefully protected.

They were of particular value for monasteries, because newborn rabbits were allegedly declared fish or, at least, not-meat by the church and therefore they could be eaten during Lent. A wide range of birds were eaten, including swans , peafowl , quail , partridge , storks , cranes , larks , linnets and other songbirds that could be trapped in nets, and just about any other wild bird that could be hunted.

Swans and peafowl were domesticated to some extent, but were only eaten by the social elite, and more praised for their fine appearance as stunning entertainment dishes, entremets , than for their meat. As today, geese and ducks had been domesticated but were not as popular as the chicken , the fowl equivalent of the pig.

But at the Fourth Council of the Lateran , Pope Innocent III explicitly prohibited the eating of barnacle geese during Lent, arguing that they lived and fed like ducks and so were of the same nature as other birds.

Meats were more expensive than plant foods. Though rich in protein , the calorie -to-weight ratio of meat was less than that of plant food.

Meat could be up to four times as expensive as bread. Fish was up to 16 times as costly, and was expensive even for coastal populations. This meant that fasts could mean an especially meager diet for those who could not afford alternatives to meat and animal products like milk and eggs. It was only after the Black Death had eradicated up to half of the European population that meat became more common even for poorer people. The drastic reduction in many populated areas resulted in a labor shortage, meaning that wages dramatically increased.

It also left vast areas of farmland untended, making them available for pasture and putting more meat on the market. Although less prestigious than other animal meats, and often seen as merely an alternative to meat on fast days, seafood was the mainstay of many coastal populations.

Also included were the beaver , due to its scaly tail and considerable time spent in water, and barnacle geese , due to the belief that they developed underwater in the form of barnacles. The Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II examined barnacles and noted no evidence of any bird-like embryo in them, and the secretary of Leo of Rozmital wrote a very skeptical account of his reaction to being served barnacle goose at a fish-day dinner in Especially important was the fishing and trade in herring and cod in the Atlantic and the Baltic Sea.

The herring was of unprecedented significance to the economy of much of Northern Europe, and it was one of the most common commodities traded by the Hanseatic League , a powerful north German alliance of trading guilds. Kippers made from herring caught in the North Sea could be found in markets as far away as Constantinople.

Stockfish , cod that was split down the middle, fixed to a pole and dried, was very common, though preparation could be time-consuming, and meant beating the dried fish with a mallet before soaking it in water.

A wide range of mollusks including oysters , mussels and scallops were eaten by coastal and river-dwelling populations, and freshwater crayfish were seen as a desirable alternative to meat during fish days. Compared to meat, fish was much more expensive for inland populations, especially in Central Europe, and therefore not an option for most.

Freshwater fish such as pike , carp , bream , perch , lamprey and trout were common. While in modern times, water is often drunk with a meal, in the Middle Ages, however, concerns over purity, medical recommendations and its low prestige value made it less favored, and alcoholic beverages were preferred. They were seen as more nutritious and beneficial to digestion than water, with the invaluable bonus of being less prone to putrefaction due to the alcohol content.

Wine was consumed on a daily basis in most of France and all over the Western Mediterranean wherever grapes were cultivated. Further north it remained the preferred drink of the bourgeoisie and the nobility who could afford it, and far less common among peasants and workers. The drink of commoners in the northern parts of the continent was primarily beer or ale.

Juices , as well as wines, of a multitude of fruits and berries had been known at least since Roman antiquity and were still consumed in the Middle Ages: Medieval drinks that have survived to this day include prunellé from wild plums modern-day slivovitz , mulberry gin and blackberry wine.

Many variants of mead have been found in medieval recipes, with or without alcoholic content. However, the honey -based drink became less common as a table beverage towards the end of the period and was eventually relegated to medicinal use. This is partially true since mead bore great symbolic value at important occasions.

When agreeing on treaties and other important affairs of state, mead was often presented as a ceremonial gift. It was also common at weddings and baptismal parties, though in limited quantity due to its high price. In medieval Poland , mead had a status equivalent to that of imported luxuries, such as spices and wines. Plain milk was not consumed by adults except the poor or sick, being reserved for the very young or elderly, and then usually as buttermilk or whey.

Fresh milk was overall less common than other dairy products because of the lack of technology to keep it from spoiling. However, neither of these non-alcoholic social drinks were consumed in Europe before the late 16th and early 17th century.

Wine was commonly drunk and was also regarded as the most prestigious and healthy choice. According to Galen 's dietetics it was considered hot and dry but these qualities were moderated when wine was watered down. Unlike water or beer, which were considered cold and moist, consumption of wine in moderation especially red wine was, among other things, believed to aid digestion, generate good blood and brighten the mood. The first pressing was made into the finest and most expensive wines which were reserved for the upper classes.

The second and third pressings were subsequently of lower quality and alcohol content. Common folk usually had to settle for a cheap white or rosé from a second or even third pressing, meaning that it could be consumed in quite generous amounts without leading to heavy intoxication.

For the poorest or the most pious , watered-down vinegar similar to Ancient Roman posca would often be the only available choice. The aging of high quality red wine required specialized knowledge as well as expensive storage and equipment, and resulted in an even more expensive end product. Judging from the advice given in many medieval documents on how to salvage wine that bore signs of going bad, preservation must have been a widespread problem.

Even if vinegar was a common ingredient, there was only so much of it that could be used. In the 14th century cookbook Le Viandier there are several methods for salvaging spoiling wine; making sure that the wine barrels are always topped up or adding a mixture of dried and boiled white grape seeds with the ash of dried and burnt lees of white wine were both effective bactericides , even if the chemical processes were not understood at the time.

Wine was believed to act as a kind of vaporizer and conduit of other foodstuffs to every part of the body, and the addition of fragrant and exotic spices would make it even more wholesome. Spiced wines were usually made by mixing an ordinary red wine with an assortment of spices such as ginger , cardamom , pepper , grains of paradise , nutmeg , cloves and sugar.

These would be contained in small bags which were either steeped in wine or had liquid poured over them to produce hypocras and claré. By the 14th century, bagged spice mixes could be bought ready-made from spice merchants. While wine was the most common table beverage in much of Europe, this was not the case in the northern regions where grapes were not cultivated.

Those who could afford it drank imported wine, but even for nobility in these areas it was common to drink beer or ale , particularly towards the end of the Middle Ages. In England , the Low Countries , northern Germany , Poland and Scandinavia , beer was consumed on a daily basis by people of all social classes and age groups. For most medieval Europeans, it was a humble brew compared with common southern drinks and cooking ingredients, such as wine, lemons and olive oil.

Even comparatively exotic products like camel 's milk and gazelle meat generally received more positive attention in medical texts. Beer was just an acceptable alternative and was assigned various negative qualities. In , the Sienese physician Aldobrandino described beer in the following way:. But from whichever it is made, whether from oats, barley or wheat, it harms the head and the stomach, it causes bad breath and ruins the teeth , it fills the stomach with bad fumes, and as a result anyone who drinks it along with wine becomes drunk quickly; but it does have the property of facilitating urination and makes one's flesh white and smooth.

The intoxicating effect of beer was believed to last longer than that of wine, but it was also admitted that it did not create the "false thirst" associated with wine. Though less prominent than in the north, beer was consumed in northern France and the Italian mainland. Perhaps as a consequence of the Norman conquest and the travelling of nobles between France and England, one French variant described in the 14th century cookbook Le Menagier de Paris was called godale most likely a direct borrowing from the English "good ale" and was made from barley and spelt , but without hops.

In England there were also the variants poset ale , made from hot milk and cold ale, and brakot or braggot , a spiced ale prepared much like hypocras. That hops could be used for flavoring beer had been known at least since Carolingian times, but was adopted gradually due to difficulties in establishing the appropriate proportions. Before the widespread use of hops, gruit , a mix of various herbs , had been used.

Gruit had the same preserving properties as hops, though less reliable depending on what herbs were in it, and the end result was much more variable.

Another flavoring method was to increase the alcohol content, but this was more expensive and lent the beer the undesired characteristic of being a quick and heavy intoxicant. Hops may have been widely used in England in the tenth century; they were grown in Austria by and in Finland by , and possibly much earlier. Before hops became popular as an ingredient, it was difficult to preserve this beverage for any time, and so, it was mostly consumed fresh. Quantities of beer consumed by medieval residents of Europe, as recorded in contemporary literature, far exceed intakes in the modern world.

For example, sailors in 16th century England and Denmark received a ration of 1 imperial gallon 4. Polish peasants consumed up to 3 litres 0. In the Early Middle Ages beer was primarily brewed in monasteries , and on a smaller scale in individual households. By the High Middle Ages breweries in the fledgling medieval towns of northern Germany began to take over production.

Though most of the breweries were small family businesses that employed at most eight to ten people, regular production allowed for investment in better equipment and increased experimentation with new recipes and brewing techniques. These operations later spread to the Netherlands in the 14th century, then to Flanders and Brabant , and reached England by the 15th century.

Hopped beer became very popular in the last decades of the Late Middle Ages. When perfected as an ingredient, hops could make beer keep for six months or more, and facilitated extensive exports. In turn, ale or beer was classified into "strong" and "small", the latter less intoxicating, regarded as a drink of temperate people, and suitable for consumption by children. As late as , John Locke stated that the only drink he considered suitable for children of all ages was small beer, while criticizing the apparently common practice among Englishmen of the time to give their children wine and strong alcohol.

By modern standards, the brewing process was relatively inefficient, but capable of producing quite strong alcohol when that was desired. One recent attempt to recreate medieval English "strong ale" using recipes and techniques of the era albeit with the use of modern yeast strains yielded a strongly alcoholic brew with original gravity of 1.

The ancient Greeks and Romans knew of the technique of distillation , but it was not practiced on a major scale in Europe until some time around the 12th century, when Arabic innovations in the field combined with water-cooled glass alembics were introduced. Distillation was believed by medieval scholars to produce the essence of the liquid being purified, and the term aqua vitae "water of life" was used as a generic term for all kinds of distillates. Alcoholic distillates were also occasionally used to create dazzling, fire-breathing entremets a type of entertainment dish after a course by soaking a piece of cotton in spirits.

It would then be placed in the mouth of the stuffed, cooked and occasionally redressed animals, and lit just before presenting the creation. Aqua vitae in its alcoholic forms was highly praised by medieval physicians. In Arnaldus of Villanova wrote that "[i]t prolongs good health, dissipates superfluous humours, reanimates the heart and maintains youth.

By the 13th century, Hausbrand literally "home-burnt" from gebrannter wein, brandwein ; "burnt [distilled] wine" was commonplace, marking the origin of brandy. Towards the end of the Late Middle Ages, the consumption of spirits became so ingrained even among the general population that restrictions on sales and production began to appear in the late 15th century.

In the city of Nuremberg issued restrictions on the selling of aquavit on Sundays and official holidays. Spices were among the most luxurious products available in the Middle Ages, the most common being black pepper , cinnamon and the cheaper alternative cassia , cumin , nutmeg , ginger and cloves.

They all had to be imported from plantations in Asia and Africa , which made them extremely expensive, and gave them social cachet such that pepper for example was hoarded, traded and conspicuously donated in the manner of gold bullion. The value of these goods was the equivalent of a yearly supply of grain for 1.

Sugar , unlike today, was considered to be a type of spice due to its high cost and humoral qualities. Even when a dish was dominated by a single flavor it was usually combined with another to produce a compound taste, for example parsley and cloves or pepper and ginger.

Common herbs such as sage , mustard , and parsley were grown and used in cooking all over Europe, as were caraway , mint , dill and fennel. Many of these plants grew throughout all of Europe or were cultivated in gardens, and were a cheaper alternative to exotic spices. Mustard was particularly popular with meat products and was described by Hildegard of Bingen — as poor man's food.

While locally grown herbs were less prestigious than spices, they were still used in upper-class food, but were then usually less prominent or included merely as coloring. Anise was used to flavor fish and chicken dishes, and its seeds were served as sugar-coated comfits. Surviving medieval recipes frequently call for flavoring with a number of sour, tart liquids.

Wine, verjuice the juice of unripe grapes or fruits vinegar and the juices of various fruits, especially those with tart flavors, were almost universal and a hallmark of late medieval cooking. In combination with sweeteners and spices, it produced a distinctive "pungeant, fruity" flavor. Equally common, and used to complement the tanginess of these ingredients, were sweet almonds. They were used in a variety of ways: This last type of non-dairy milk product is probably the single most common ingredient in late medieval cooking and blended the aroma of spices and sour liquids with a mild taste and creamy texture.

Salt was ubiquitous and indispensable in medieval cooking. Salting and drying was the most common form of food preservation and meant that fish and meat in particular were often heavily salted. Many medieval recipes specifically warn against oversalting and there were recommendations for soaking certain products in water to get rid of excess salt.

The richer the host, and the more prestigious the guest, the more elaborate would be the container in which it was served and the higher the quality and price of the salt. Wealthy guests were seated " above the salt ", while others sat "below the salt", where salt cellars were made of pewter, precious metals or other fine materials, often intricately decorated.

The rank of a diner also decided how finely ground and white the salt was. Salt for cooking, preservation or for use by common people was coarser; sea salt, or "bay salt", in particular, had more impurities, and was described in colors ranging from black to green. Expensive salt, on the other hand, looked like the standard commercial salt common today. The term " dessert " comes from the Old French desservir , "to clear a table", literally "to un-serve", and originated during the Middle Ages.

It would typically consist of dragées and mulled wine accompanied by aged cheese , and by the Late Middle Ages could also include fresh fruit covered in sugar, honey or syrup and boiled-down fruit pastes.

Sugar , from its first appearance in Europe, was viewed as much as a drug as a sweetener; its long-lived medieval reputation as an exotic luxury encouraged its appearance in elite contexts accompanying meats and other dishes that to modern taste are more naturally savoury. There was a wide variety of fritters , crêpes with sugar, sweet custards and darioles , almond milk and eggs in a pastry shell that could also include fruit and sometimes even bone marrow or fish. Marzipan in many forms was well known in Italy and southern France by the s and is assumed to be of Arab origin.

The English chefs also had a penchant for using flower petals such as roses , violets , and elder flowers. An early form of quiche can be found in Forme of Cury , a 14th-century recipe collection, as a Torte de Bry with a cheese and egg yolk filling.

The ever-present candied ginger, coriander , aniseed and other spices were referred to as épices de chambre "parlor spices" and were taken as digestibles at the end of a meal to "close" the stomach. Just like Montpellier , Sicily was once famous for its comfits , nougat candy torrone , or turrón in Spanish and almond clusters confetti. From the south, the Arabs also brought the art of ice cream making that produced sorbet and several examples of sweet cakes and pastries; cassata alla Siciliana from Arabic qas'ah , the term for the terra cotta bowl with which it was shaped , made from marzipan, sponge cake and sweetened ricotta and cannoli alla Siciliana , originally cappelli di turchi "Turkish hats" , fried, chilled pastry tubes with a sweet cheese filling.

Research into medieval foodways was, until around , a much neglected field of study. Misconceptions and outright errors were common among historians, and are still present in as a part of the popular view of the Middle Ages as a backward, primitive and barbaric era. Medieval cookery was described as revolting due to the often unfamiliar combination of flavors, the perceived lack of vegetables and a liberal use of spices. The preservation techniques available at the time, although crude by today's standards, were perfectly adequate.

The astronomical cost and high prestige of spices, and thereby the reputation of the host, would have been effectively undone if wasted on cheap and poorly handled foods. The common method of grinding and mashing ingredients into pastes and the many potages and sauces has been used as an argument that most adults within the medieval nobility lost their teeth at an early age, and hence were forced to eat nothing but porridge, soup and ground-up meat.

The image of nobles gumming their way through multi-course meals of nothing but mush has lived side by side with the contradictory apparition of the "mob of uncouth louts disguised as noble lords who, when not actually hurling huge joints of greasy meat at one another across the banquet hall, are engaged in tearing at them with a perfectly healthy complement of incisors, canines, bicuspids and molars".

The numerous descriptions of banquets from the later Middle Ages concentrated on the pageantry of the event rather than the minutiae of the food, which was not the same for most banqueters as those choice mets served at the high table. Banquet dishes were apart from mainstream of cuisine, and have been described as "the outcome of grand banquets serving political ambition rather than gastronomy ; today as yesterday" by historian Maguelonne Toussant-Samat.

Cookbooks , or more specifically, recipe collections, compiled in the Middle Ages are among the most important historical sources for medieval cuisine. The first cookbooks began to appear towards the end of the 13th century. The Liber de coquina , perhaps originating near Naples , and the Tractatus de modo preparandi have found a modern editor in Marianne Mulon, and a cookbook from Assisi found at Châlons-sur-Marne has been edited by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat.

Few in a kitchen, at those times, would have been able to read, and working texts have a low survival rate. The recipes were often brief and did not give precise quantities. Cooking times and temperatures were seldom specified since accurate portable clocks were not available and since all cooking was done with fire. At best, cooking times could be specified as the time it took to say a certain number of prayers or how long it took to walk around a certain field. Professional cooks were taught their trade through apprenticeship and practical training, working their way up in the highly defined kitchen hierarchy.

A medieval cook employed in a large household would most likely have been able to plan and produce a meal without the help of recipes or written instruction. Due to the generally good condition of surviving manuscripts it has been proposed by food historian Terence Scully that they were records of household practices intended for the wealthy and literate master of a household, such as the Ménagier de Paris from the late 14th century.

Over 70 collections of medieval recipes survive today, written in several major European languages. The repertory of housekeeping instructions laid down by manuscripts like the Ménagier de Paris also include many details of overseeing correct preparations in the kitchen. Towards the onset of the early modern period , in , the Vatican librarian Bartolomeo Platina wrote De honesta voluptate et valetudine "On honourable pleasure and health" and the physician Iodocus Willich edited Apicius in Zurich in High-status exotic spices and rarities like ginger , pepper , cloves , sesame , citron leaves and "onions of Escalon" [] all appear in an eighth-century list of spices that the Carolingian cook should have at hand.

It was written by Vinidarius , whose excerpts of Apicius [] survive in an eighth century uncial manuscript. Vinidarius' own dates may not be much earlier. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Regional cuisines of medieval Europe. Food portal Middle Ages portal. The Example of Europe" in Food in Change , pp.

Peter Damian Die in ? A New Perspective on his Final Days". Archived from the original on Depending on the size and weight of the meat, the cook chose a heavy or light spit of various lengths. Diversions of a Naturalist. Campbell, Mark Overton , Land, labour, and livestock: By comparison, the estimated population of Britain in , right before the Black Death , was only 5 million, and was a mere 3 million by ; see J.

The Middle Ages , p. See also The Appetite and the Eye: Visual aspects of food and its presentation within their historic context. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh. Sicily" in Regional Cuisines of Medieval Europe , pp. Medieval Food — academic articles and videos The History Notes website tells the story about the food and drink in the Middle Ages Le Viandier de Taillevent — An online translation of the 14th century cookbook by James Prescott Medieval cookery books at the British Library — Learning resources on the medieval kitchen How to Cook Medieval — A guide on how to make medieval cuisine with modern ingredients The Forme of Cury — A late 14th-century English cookbook, available from Project Gutenberg Cariadoc's Miscellany — A collection of articles and recipes on medieval and Renaissance food MedievalCookery.

There were glaciers in New Zealand and Tasmania. Glaciers existed in the mountains of Ethiopia and to the west in the Atlas mountains. In the northern hemisphere, many glaciers fused into one.

The Cordilleran ice sheet covered the North American northwest; the Laurentide covered the east. Scattered domes stretched across Siberia and the Arctic shelf.

The northern seas were frozen. During the late Upper Paleolithic Latest Pleistocene c. According to Mark Lynas through collected data , the Pleistocene's overall climate could be characterized as a continuous El Niño with trade winds in the south Pacific weakening or heading east, warm air rising near Peru , warm water spreading from the west Pacific and the Indian Ocean to the east Pacific, and other El Niño markers.

The Paleolithic is often held to finish at the end of the ice age the end of the Pleistocene epoch , and Earth's climate became warmer. This may have caused or contributed to the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna , although it is also possible that the late Pleistocene extinctions were at least in part caused by other factors such as disease and overhunting by humans.

The small populations were then hunted out by Paleolithic humans. The Wrangel Island population became extinct around the same time the island was settled by prehistoric humans. Nearly all of our knowledge of Paleolithic human culture and way of life comes from archaeology and ethnographic comparisons to modern hunter-gatherer cultures such as the!

Kung San who live similarly to their Paleolithic predecessors. Human population density was very low, around only one person per square mile. At the beginning of the Paleolithic, hominins were found primarily in eastern Africa, east of the Great Rift Valley. Most known hominin fossils dating earlier than one million years before present are found in this area, particularly in Kenya , Tanzania , and Ethiopia.

Southern Caucasus was occupied by c. By the end of the Lower Paleolithic, members of the hominin family were living in what is now China, western Indonesia, and, in Europe, around the Mediterranean and as far north as England, southern Germany, and Bulgaria. Their further northward expansion may have been limited by the lack of control of fire: East Asian fossils from this period are typically placed in the genus Homo erectus.

Very little fossil evidence is available at known Lower Paleolithic sites in Europe, but it is believed that hominins who inhabited these sites were likewise Homo erectus. There is no evidence of hominins in America, Australia, or almost anywhere in Oceania during this time period. Fates of these early colonists, and their relationships to modern humans, are still subject to debate.

According to current archaeological and genetic models, there were at least two notable expansion events subsequent to peopling of Eurasia c.

In the Middle Paleolithic, Neanderthals were present in the region now occupied by Poland. Both Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis became extinct by the end of the Paleolithic. Descended from Homo Sapiens , the anatomically modern Homo sapiens sapiens emerged in eastern Africa c.

Multiple hominid groups coexisted for some time in certain locations. Homo neanderthalensis were still found in parts of Eurasia c. DNA studies also suggest an unknown degree of interbreeding between Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo sapiens denisova. Hominin fossils not belonging either to Homo neanderthalensis or to Homo sapiens species, found in the Altai Mountains and Indonesia, were radiocarbon dated to c.

For the duration of the Paleolithic, human populations remained low, especially outside the equatorial region. Paleolithic humans made tools of stone, bone, and wood. Excavations in Gona, Ethiopia have produced thousands of artifacts, and through radioisotopic dating and magnetostratigraphy , the sites can be firmly dated to 2. Evidence shows these early hominins intentionally selected raw materials with good flaking qualities and chose appropriate sized stones for their needs to produce sharp-edged tools for cutting.

The earliest Paleolithic stone tool industry, the Oldowan , began around 2. It was completely replaced around , years ago by the more complex Acheulean industry, which was first conceived by Homo ergaster around 1. Lower Paleolithic humans used a variety of stone tools, including hand axes and choppers. Although they appear to have used hand axes often, there is disagreement about their use. Interpretations range from cutting and chopping tools, to digging implements, to flaking cores, to the use in traps, and as a purely ritual significance, perhaps in courting behavior.

Calvin has suggested that some hand axes could have served as "killer Frisbees " meant to be thrown at a herd of animals at a waterhole so as to stun one of them. There are no indications of hafting , and some artifacts are far too large for that. Thus, a thrown hand axe would not usually have penetrated deeply enough to cause very serious injuries. Nevertheless, it could have been an effective weapon for defense against predators.

Choppers and scrapers were likely used for skinning and butchering scavenged animals and sharp-ended sticks were often obtained for digging up edible roots. Fire was used by the Lower Paleolithic hominins Homo erectus and Homo ergaster as early as , to 1.

The Lower Paleolithic Homo erectus possibly invented rafts c. However, this hypothesis is disputed within the anthropological community. In addition to improving tool making methods, the Middle Paleolithic also saw an improvement of the tools themselves that allowed access to a wider variety and amount of food sources. Harpoons were invented and used for the first time during the late Middle Paleolithic c.

During the Upper Paleolithic , further inventions were made, such as the net c. Archaeological evidence from the Dordogne region of France demonstrates that members of the European early Upper Paleolithic culture known as the Aurignacian used calendars c.

This was a lunar calendar that was used to document the phases of the moon. Genuine solar calendars did not appear until the Neolithic. The social organization of the earliest Paleolithic Lower Paleolithic societies remains largely unknown to scientists, though Lower Paleolithic hominins such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus are likely to have had more complex social structures than chimpanzee societies.

Similarly, scientists disagree whether Lower Paleolithic humans were largely monogamous or polygynous. Human societies from the Paleolithic to the early Neolithic farming tribes lived without states and organized governments. For most of the Lower Paleolithic, human societies were possibly more hierarchical than their Middle and Upper Paleolithic descendants, and probably were not grouped into bands , [50] though during the end of the Lower Paleolithic, the latest populations of the hominin Homo erectus may have begun living in small-scale possibly egalitarian bands similar to both Middle and Upper Paleolithic societies and modern hunter-gatherers.

Middle Paleolithic societies, unlike Lower Paleolithic and early Neolithic ones, consisted of bands that ranged from 20—30 or 25— members and were usually nomadic. Bands sometimes joined together into larger "macrobands" for activities such as acquiring mates and celebrations or where resources were abundant.

Much evidence exists that humans took part in long-distance trade between bands for rare commodities such as ochre , which was often used for religious purposes such as ritual [51] [52] and raw materials, as early as , years ago in Middle Paleolithic. Some sources claim that most Middle and Upper Paleolithic societies were possibly fundamentally egalitarian [3] [22] [38] [53] and may have rarely or never engaged in organized violence between groups i.

Like contemporary egalitarian hunter-gatherers such as the Mbuti pygmies, societies may have made decisions by communal consensus decision making rather than by appointing permanent rulers such as chiefs and monarchs. Each member of the group was skilled at all tasks essential to survival, regardless of individual abilities.

Theories to explain the apparent egalitarianism have arisen, notably the Marxist concept of primitive communism. Kelly speculates that the relative peacefulness of Middle and Upper Paleolithic societies resulted from a low population density, cooperative relationships between groups such as reciprocal exchange of commodities and collaboration on hunting expeditions, and because the invention of projectile weapons such as throwing spears provided less incentive for war, because they increased the damage done to the attacker and decreased the relative amount of territory attackers could gain.

Anthropologists have typically assumed that in Paleolithic societies, women were responsible for gathering wild plants and firewood, and men were responsible for hunting and scavenging dead animals.

Men may have participated in gathering plants, firewood and insects, and women may have procured small game animals for consumption and assisted men in driving herds of large game animals such as woolly mammoths and deer off cliffs. Early examples of artistic expression, such as the Venus of Tan-Tan and the patterns found on elephant bones from Bilzingsleben in Thuringia , may have been produced by Acheulean tool users such as Homo erectus prior to the start of the Middle Paleolithic period.

Lower Paleolithic Acheulean tool users, according to Robert G. They decorated themselves with beads and collected exotic stones for aesthetic, rather than utilitarian qualities. Fallio interprets Lower and Middle Paleolithic marking on rocks at sites such as Bilzingsleben such as zigzagging lines as accounts or representations of altered states of consciousness [73] though some other scholars interpret them as either simple doodling or as the result of natural processes.

Upper Paleolithic humans produced works of art such as cave paintings, Venus figurines, animal carvings, and rock paintings. The earliest explanation, by the prehistorian Abbe Breuil , interpreted the paintings as a form of magic designed to ensure a successful hunt. The anthropologist David Lewis-Williams has suggested that Paleolithic cave paintings were indications of shamanistic practices, because the paintings of half-human, half-animal paintings and the remoteness of the caves are reminiscent of modern hunter-gatherer shamanistic practices.

Archaeologists and anthropologists have described the figurines as representations of goddesses , pornographic imagery, apotropaic amulets used for sympathetic magic, and even as self-portraits of women themselves. Dale Guthrie [78] has studied not only the most artistic and publicized paintings, but also a variety of lower-quality art and figurines, and he identifies a wide range of skill and ages among the artists.

He also points out that the main themes in the paintings and other artifacts powerful beasts, risky hunting scenes and the over-sexual representation of women are to be expected in the fantasies of adolescent males during the Upper Paleolithic.

The "Venus" figurines have been theorized, not universally, as representing a mother goddess ; the abundance of such female imagery has inspired the theory that Paleolithic and later Neolithic societies centered their religion and societies around women. Dale Gutrie's hypothesis that served as "stone age pornography ". The origins of music during the Paleolithic are unknown. This early music would not have left an archaeological footprint.

Music may have developed from rhythmic sounds produced by daily chores, for example, cracking open nuts with stones. Maintaining a rhythm while working may have helped people to become more efficient at daily activities. Bird and other animal species produce music such as calls to attract mates. Another explanation is that humans began to make music simply because it pleased them.

Upper Paleolithic and possibly Middle Paleolithic [83] humans used flute -like bone pipes as musical instruments, [38] [84] and music may have played a large role in the religious lives of Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. As with modern hunter-gatherer societies, music may have been used in ritual or to help induce trances. In particular, it appears that animal skin drums may have been used in religious events by Upper Paleolithic shamans, as shown by the remains of drum-like instruments from some Upper Paleolithic graves of shamans and the ethnographic record of contemporary hunter-gatherer shamanic and ritual practices.

According to James B. Harrod humankind first developed religious and spiritual beliefs during the Middle Paleolithic or Upper Paleolithic. Fallio, have recently proposed that religion and spirituality and art may have first arisen in Pre-Paleolithic chimpanzees [86] or Early Lower Paleolithic Oldowan societies. Middle Paleolithic humans' use of burials at sites such as Krapina , Croatia c. According to recent archaeological findings from Homo heidelbergensis sites in Atapuerca , humans may have begun burying their dead much earlier, during the late Lower Paleolithic ; but this theory is widely questioned in the scientific community.

Likewise, some scientists have proposed that Middle Paleolithic societies such as Neanderthal societies may also have practiced the earliest form of totemism or animal worship , in addition to their presumably religious burial of the dead. In particular, Emil Bächler suggested based on archaeological evidence from Middle Paleolithic caves that a bear cult was widespread among Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals.

The existence of anthropomorphic images and half-human, half-animal images in the Upper Paleolithic may further indicate that Upper Paleolithic humans were the first people to believe in a pantheon of gods or supernatural beings , [91] though such images may instead indicate shamanistic practices similar to those of contemporary tribal societies.

Fallio writes that ancestor cults first emerged in complex Upper Paleolithic societies. He argues that the elites of these societies like the elites of many more contemporary complex hunter-gatherers such as the Tlingit may have used special rituals and ancestor worship to solidify control over their societies, by convincing their subjects that they possess a link to the spirit world that also gives them control over the earthly realm.

Religion was possibly apotropaic ; specifically, it may have involved sympathetic magic. Paleolithic hunting and gathering people ate varying proportions of vegetables including tubers and roots , fruit, seeds including nuts and wild grass seeds and insects, meat, fish, and shellfish. The Paleolithic was an extended period of time, during which multiple technological advances were made, many of which had impact on human dietary structure.

For example, humans probably did not possess the control of fire until the Middle Paleolithic, [99] or tools necessary to engage in extensive fishing.

In addition, the Paleolithic involved a substantial geographical expansion of human populations. During the Lower Paleolithic, ancestors of modern humans are thought to have been constrained to Africa east of the Great Rift Valley.

During the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, humans greatly expanded their area of settlement, reaching ecosystems as diverse as New Guinea and Alaska , and adapting their diets to whatever local resources were available. Another view is that until the Upper Paleolithic, humans were frugivores fruit eaters who supplemented their meals with carrion, eggs, and small prey such as baby birds and mussels , and only on rare occasions managed to kill and consume big game such as antelopes.

Anthropologists have diverse opinions about the proportions of plant and animal foods consumed. Just as with still existing hunters and gatherers, there were many varied "diets"—in different groups—and also varying through this vast amount of time. Some paleolithic hunter-gatherers consumed a significant amount of meat and possibly obtained most of their food from hunting, [] while others are shown as a primarily plant-based diet, [62] Most, if not all, are believed to have been opportunistic omnivores.

There's evidence of Paleolithic people killing and eating seals and elands as far as c. On the other hand, buffalo bones found in African caves from the same period are typically of very young or very old individuals, and there's no evidence that pigs, elephants, or rhinos were hunted by humans at the time.

Paleolithic peoples suffered less famine and malnutrition than the Neolithic farming tribes that followed them. Large-seeded legumes were part of the human diet long before the Neolithic Revolution , as evident from archaeobotanical finds from the Mousterian layers of Kebara Cave , in Israel.

Upper Paleolithic cultures appear to have had significant knowledge about plants and herbs and may have, albeit very rarely, practiced rudimentary forms of horticulture.

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