Archaeologists discovered a Bronze Age wooden container in an ice patch at an altitude of at 2650 metres at Lötschberg mountain in the Swiss Alps. Analysis of the biomarkers from the food residue shed light on spread and exploitation of cereal grains in Prehistoric Europe.
The box was found at the summit of the Lötschenpass, a transit through a glacier. It’s believed to have remained frozen since it was lost or abandoned by its owner in 1500 BC. Analysis of the box showed traces of spelt, emmer and barley, providing first ever chance for a detailed study on food contents retrieved from a such Bronze Age artefact. Experts have also discovered lipid-based biomarkers for whole wheat or rye grain, called alkylresorcinols. The team combined microscopic and molecular analyses to identify lipids and proteins using such techniques as gas chromatography mass spectrometry (which is routinely applied to ceramic artefacts). Over the last 30 years, it has been used on thousands of ceramic artefacts from Europe, revealing evidence of milk and meat products, but hardly any evidence of cereals. Combining these two kinds of molecular analysis, along with microscopy, produced strong evidence that cereals were being transported across this alpine pass.
(after International Business Times, Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern & PhysOrg)