Inside cakes: new data on plant components from food offerings at Sanctuary of Monte Papalucio (Oria – Southern Italy) by ESEM analysis

Milena Primavera, Andreas Heiss, Soultana Maria Valamoti, Giovanni Quarta, Maurizio Masieri, Girolamo Fiorentino

Veröffentlichungen: Beitrag zu KonferenzPaperPeer Reviewed


In the studies of ancient bread or bread-like remains, the well-preserved findings from the Messapian/Greek Sanctuary of Monte Papalucio (Oria, southern Italy) represent one of the most famous examples in the Mediterranean region. The sanctuary, dated to Archaic and Hellenistic periods, was dedicated to the cult of Demeter and Persephone/Kore, strictly associated to agricultural cycles and fecundity rituals; effectively, during the excavation of the terraces where the sanctuary lies, a large amount of charred plants and, above all, cakes and biscuits were recovered and interpreted as food offerings (Ciaraldi 1997-1998). As for the latter finds, the author identified different kinds of dough on the base of macroscopic analysis, some bearing resemblance to modern filo-pastry, possibly corresponding to plakous (typical cakes offered to Demeter), some others decorated with knobs, or ring shaped. For a third type, Ciaraldi suggested the use of broad bean flour among the ingredients.
Given that these unusual finds represent direct and rare evidence of the food products offered by indigenous and south Italian Greeks inside a particular ”place of encounter” between the Messapian and the Greek form of the cult of Demeter, their detailed analysis and microscopical re-evaluation seemed crucial for understanding further aspects of food production (the plant components and processes involved), as well as the cultural dimension of the offered foodstuff. Therefore, ESEM (Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope) analyses were performed on the Monte Papalucio findings: Tissue remains and their particle sizes, along with other parameters, were used in order to elucidate ingredients and production techniques, and the various processes involved (grinding, sieving, leavening, baking). Also, the hypothesis of a connection between ingredients, production techniques and cake/biscuit shape and decoration was tested. The contribution presents and discusses the unexpected results of these analyses.
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2016
Veranstaltung17th Symposium of the International Work Group for Palaeoethnobotany - Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Jardin des Plantes, Paris, Frankreich
Dauer: 4 Juli 20169 Juli 2016


Konferenz17th Symposium of the International Work Group for Palaeoethnobotany

ÖFOS 2012

  • 601010 Klassische Archäologie
  • 504017 Kulturanthropologie
  • 106008 Botanik
  • 107001 Archäometrie