Why India is a nation of foodies

Had you been washed ashore four millennia ago on the banks of the now lost river of Saraswati and hitched a bullock cart ride to Farmana in the Ghaggar valley near modern-day Delhi, here’s what you might have eaten—a curry.

For in 2010, when advanced science met archaeology at an excavation site in Farmana—southeast of the largest Harappan city of Rakhigarhi—they made history, and it was edible.

Steven Webber
Steve Webber

Archaeologists Arunima Kashyap and Steve Webber, professor of anthropology at WSU Vancouver, used the method of starch analysis to trace the world’s first-known or “oldest” proto-curry of aubergine, ginger and turmeric from the pot shard of a bulbous handi (pot).

Extracting starch molecules from 50 different surfaces – including pots, stone tools, and the dental enamel of humans and domesticated cows, often fed leftovers – they identified the molecular thumbprints of vegetables, fruits and spices, and studied the effect of heat, salt and sugar on them.

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