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Did you know? What did the Nuragics eat?

We are used to seeing potatoes, tomatoes, corn, cocoa, beans, peppers, pumpkins and many other foods on our tables. All foods that, however, arrived after the discovery of America. But three thousand years ago what did the ancestors of the Sardinians eat?

Many aspects of life in the past can be reconstructed through nutrition. Not only that, it is possible to trace the life expectancy of that period.

The discovery of the different possibilities of cooking tools represented the keystone in the production of artifacts, which allowed a conscious change of flavours.

Before the so-called “agricultural revolution” man ate only foods available in nature, in a regime of temporary and precarious self-sufficiency. The revolution took place starting from the Neolithic and then evolved over time, even in Sardinia.

The Nuragics were farmers and breeders, they had cereals, meat and milk, from which they made cheese.

The Sardinians of the eras prior to the Nuragic era already had wheat, barley, ate mussels, oysters, and ate mutton, snails, hares, rabbits and pigs.

According to the studies of Giovanni Fancello, an expert in the history of Sardinian gastronomy, the man of the time, to feed himself, already performed careful gestures such as salting, roasting and smoking. A “Nuragic cuisine” already existed. In fact, ovens for cooking, millstones for making oil, bowls, pestles, spindle whorls, rectangular tubs intended for bread-making and for transforming cereal production and for practicing an oenology, albeit primitive, have been found.

They knew the fermentation that was needed to make cheese, but also wine and vinegar. They had an advanced bread-making method, very similar to that still practiced on the island. Unleavened and leavened breads were made as well as sweets, in addition to roast meat they made black puddings (from sheep, lamb, kid and pork), rennet and curds.
Wild honey was produced, with which sweet dishes were prepared.
One technique of cooking meat was that of cooking underground.
Also of ancient origins is the custom of eating raw hearts and livers of freshly gutted wild boars. Another cooking system dating back to the most remote of hunted peoples is the cooking of the intestines of wild boars roasted on the embers at a certain height from the fire using two long sticks.
Among the wild herbs consumed in Sardinia during the period were chicory, leek, cicerchie, peas, lentils, thistle, oats, barley, wheat, mushrooms.
A food similar to polenta was even used, prepared with grains and legumes.
The Nuragics plowed the land, both stone and bronze plowshares have been found to cultivate barley, soft wheat and durum wheat and, even if in smaller quantities, also spelled.

Many acorns have been found in the areas where meals were prepared, it is probable that they consumed them, but it is not known whether the Nuragics ground them. The Sardinians of the time also cultivated legumes, in fact remains of field beans, lentils, peas and cicerchia “su piseddu” in Sardinian have been found, a legume that was grown in Sardinia until the 1960s.
According to a recent study by the archaeologist Mauro Perra, the Nuragics also ate spontaneous fruits such as wild strawberries, blackberries and strawberry trees, and they certainly also consumed figs. The Nuragics also cultivated the melon (which is not endemic but seeds have been found in Cabras) and they must have necessarily exchanged it with people from other lands. The Sardinians knew and produced wine, they ate grapes and the wine was also used for cooking. They also ate particular foods: the remains of grasshoppers, crickets and cicadas cooked in wine were found in a vase found in the Arrubiu nuraghe.

The people of the nuraghes followed a varied diet, also rich in proteins, they raised cattle, pigs and sheep and goats. Cattle were not raised for meat, but as working animals. They were only slaughtered when they were no longer able to work. They ate the suckling pigs and cooked them on a spit. In Barumini a series of holes in a row in the ground were found which served to keep the skewers vertical which were inserted into the holes. Sheep were raised above all for the milk that was processed, in fact we know with certainty that the Nuragics were able to produce different types of dairy products. The Nuragics also practiced hunting and fishing, they hunted deer and wild boar, pigeons and thrushes and the Sardinian prolago, a now extinct rodent similar to a hare without a tail.

Our ancestors did not even miss fish, large sea bream bones have been found and we know, from the valves found, that mussels and oysters were eaten in the nuraghes. And it can be deduced that they were particularly fond of them, given that they also consumed them in the inland areas of the island, evidently they went to get them on the coast. The use of oil for cooking has been demonstrated, remains of vegetable oils have been found, but it is not known whether it is holeaster, olive or lentisk.

Pork fat was also used as cooking fat, which in the dialect is called “oll’e procu”.

And if we don’t have proof that they used salt to season food, it is certain that they sweetened them instead. The wine was sweetened with blackthorn berries. And it is certain that the use of honey and beeswax was known in the nuraghi, which was used to waterproof the inside of the vases.


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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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