A world-wide survey of the eating and drinking habits of early peoples, Don and Patricia Brothwell's Food in Antiquity covers a broad geographical range, from the early populations of Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas to the more familiar Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek, and Roman worlds. From meat, insects, vegetables, and fruits to cooking oils and beverages, each source of sustenance is described in terms of who consumed it, how it was prepared, and how it spread from its region of origin.
The Brothwells' treatment is engaging and the information they provide fascinating. We learn, for example, that the vinegar carried by Roman foot soldiers on long marches was mixed with water to serve as a refreshing drink and that fungi provided a reliable source of diet for peoples from Europe, Australia, Japan, and China. The authors consider such questions as whether St. John ate carob or actual locusts in his desert hermitage and whether ancient farmers may have rid their crops of troublesome pests by capturing and eating them. They discuss cannibalism, food taboos, and the radical changes that took place with the introduction of the domestication of animals. The story they unfold is a compelling one that sheds much light on the intricate detective work, the problems and rewards, of biological research in archeology.
Excellently written, arranged and signposted... The authors are to be congratulated on having included so much in so small a space. Classical Review [This] cannot have been an easy book to write, and it is hardly surprising that there is no other quite like it: the collection and organization of material, the drawing together of evidence disparate in content and origin, the reduction of complex data to brief and intelligible statements, must all have been daunting tasks and one can only admire the authors' courage in attempting them and their skill in producing something which is, in spite of it all, both interesting and useful. Journal of Roman Studies Very readable... This revised edition will be a useful addition to any Near Eastern bookshelf. -- Rachel S. Hallote Journal of Near Eastern Studies