Cereals and pulses have been important staples in human diets since the Neolithic Revolution. Despite recognition of their role as energy suppliers, the nutritional appraisal by archaeologists and historians of especially cereals has been far from positive. Cereals have been held responsible for the alleged poor nutritional status of the Romans. Leading in the formation of this view were the results of modern biochemical analyses of cereals, which indicated that their micronutrient content was very low. Recent work in cereal biochemistry that compared modern cereals with their 19th-century herbarium counterparts, has however shown this low micronutrient-content is largely a side-effect of the Green Revolution of the mid-20th century. It is therefore likely that Roman cereals have been nutritionally underestimated. This study aims to obtain direct data on the nutritional qualities of ancient cereals to test this. We use a unique perfectly preserved, desiccated archaeological seeds from sealed granaries from the village of Karanis in Roman Egypt, presently at the Kelsey Museum, Ann Arbor. This innovative study may revolutionize our perspective on Roman diet and nutrition. The biochemical analysis is expected to show a higher micronutrient content in cereals and pulses. In addition, stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis will be performed on the carbonised seeds from Karanis to better understand agricultural practices and the ultimate economic decline of the site.
Effective start/end date1/01/1831/12/20

    Research areas

  • nutrition, Biochemistry

    Flemish discipline codes

  • Ancient history

ID: 35771825