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archaeology of

Under the archaeology of flavours, I gathered my experience so far with different workshops, courses and experiments. I have been collecting them for several years. The world of archaeology and gastronomy is rich, vast and encompasses a huge spectrum of the undiscovered, the exploration of which is ultimately extremely rewarding. Entering the world of the past has always been important for people, and reviving some of the forgotten traditions, skills and knowledge is also crucial for the development of modern society.  That is why I am happy to share with you some of the highlights of our own learning and passing on knowledge.

archaeological kitchen in front of the archeology department 

With my colleague Manca Vinazza, who teaches and leads practical programme in courses related to archaeological methodology and ceramology at Department of Archeology at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, we came up with the idea of cooperation during a spontaneous debate in 2020. We have known each other since our university years, and we both somehow came to the conclusion that studying at the department could also become a little more interactive. At that time, I was employed at the Archaeological Centre at MGML as a professional associate, where I mainly worked with the primary processing of archaeological material and wondered if it was really used for what archaeologists interpret it today. I already had some equipment for cooking on open fireplace- replicas of vessels from late Bronze and Early Iron age made by the potter Igor Bahor. None of this was a coincidence, as I graduated on processing of ceramic material from one of the sites in the city of Kranj from the mentioned period. All I needed was a place where I could try these items out in practice. The Department of Archeology seemed more than suitable and anyone who was interested in what we were doing was welcome to join us. Thus, a series of workshops, always related to the production of pottery, pottery kilns and the like, usually also in the company of the academic sculptor Paola Korošec, developed from one event which we had more for us and to have some fun with experimenting. As part of their studies  the students began to develop a small archaeological experimental area, which has developed into weekly workshop called Ekspertki where students learn old techniques and skills.  Workshops have always been a real experience, and you can see some glimpses in the photos with added comments about the individual set that I publish. 


The first vessels I used for cooking on the hearth were replicas of dishes from the Late Bronze or Early Iron Age. Later, the academic sculptor Paola Korošec made a couple of replicas of the vessels from pile dwellers era. It's a special feeling when you cook in such an old way. Not only do you get a sense of how time passed for people back then, you also get a missing component of the past, and that is its smell. Unfortunately, archaeologists cannot excavate it and in this way you can get the closest to it possible.  We cooked in different conditions, colder spring days and extremely hot summer days. When you "throw" yourself into such experiments, you realise that people really had to behave smart and knowledgable in their environment. And you realise how much data we still lack. For example, organic material is rarely preserved at the sites, but logic dictates that they used a large number of wooden objects, which are rarely found. That's why I use them myself. If possible, I use all items that would have been available at the time and avoid modern equipment.  


We first wrapped the fish in cabbage leaves to protect it from the clay and its crushing when it is baked. Then we wrapped the fish in a thick layer of clay, placed it on bleached embers and covered it with the embers. After about half an hour, we removed it from the embers, broke and removed the clay, and ate the rest :) the result was a delicious cooked fish, and they believe that this method of cooking was also used in prehistoric times. Years ago, when I worked a lot with the Group Stik (Association for the Study of Connecting Areas of the Past and the Present), we also tried roasting meat in a whole in the ground with hot stones. It works like an oven, because you heat up the stones with a strong fire, remove the embers, put in the meat (usually wrapped in blanched leaves), cover it with branches and earth and let the meat bake or cook. The results of these experiments were also always very tasty. 

baking on stone 

This cooking technique is also very old and very simple. Today, it is also used in modern kitchens. When I cook on hot stones outside I prepare fish, meat, bread, vegetables on the stones, practically everything that could be prepared on a modern grill. This technique requires a little care and a good choice of stone, because we had occasions when a couple of them blew up. Fortunately for the participants and observers, no injuries, just a rush of adrenaline :) I tried this technique both in front of the Department of Archeology and at events and private picnics. Always delicious. 


Foraging has always been part of people's diets in the past. Slovenians are particularly skilled at it, and we gather many plants that are not necessarily forged on such a large scale elsewhere in Europe. A lot depends on the individual, of course. And although Scandinavian cuisine is full of wild plants, I have found during my time in Denmark that mushrooms, for example, are not something that the Danes pick as much as we do. We Slovenians are certainly skilled foragers and many people pick a variety of plants besides mushrooms and berries, mainly for teas and herbal spirits. I stick to the principle of picking only as much as I know I will consume and use. This goes for all the plants I gather. 

As a child, I learned a little something about gathering mushrooms, some plants for tea, black thorn, rose hips and berries. When I started to look into the diet of the past, especially when I started to look into the cooking of the pile dwellers, I turned for advice to my now colleague dr. Katja Rebolj, who selflessly came to my aid, taught me about many plants and the ethics of foraging. After we me she also inivited me to write a contribution to her book Nature Always Wins, an excellent cookbook on edible wild plants and their use in the kitchen. I contributed an ancient Roman recipe, slightly modernised, with a wild note from the ground elder. Since then, I have been learning about foraging, being on time with seasons of plants and trying out new, forgotten flavours. Sometimes with my colleague Pavla Peterle Udovič, the MS of Archaeology and a skilled forager. We also used lots of wild plants in cooking in front of Department of Archaeology. But always with great caution.

production of young cheese

Among my replicas I have a strainer believed to have been used for cheese making in prehistory.  And it serves this purpose perfectly. We prepared cheese with whole milk and vinegar, a very small amount is enough to curdle the milk nicely. During this task, you need to pay attention to the right temperature of the milk on the open hearth. So caution and presence are necessary. A similar cheese could also be made from sour milk. After talking with my mother and her childhood memories, I made it myself from sour milk at home and the result was the tastiest so far - young, soft and slightly creamy curd. 

After we drained the young cheese well, we mixed it with wild herbs or with hazelnuts and honey. Sometimes also with berries. We also used whey- usually for bread dough, but some people are happy to just drink it. It has an extra rich smoky flavour. And thanks to Petra Vojaković for the photos of cheese making!

grain roasting

Through a longer period of these workshops, a multi-part stove or an oven, possibly used  for cooking or something similar was made. Manca Vinazza and Paola Korošec used local clay and it consists of the lower part of the hearth and several elements placed on top of it. A clay lid covers it all. We tried to find out what was the function of such a device. According to data, the remains of millet were found on its surface, which could most likely have gotten there by baking bread or roasting millet. We used it ourselves for baking flat breads and roasting grain. We roasted spelt, the first time unsuccessfully, because we heated it a little too high. The second attempt was more successful. Roasted grain is much easier to crush and cooks faster, best use of it is for porridge. It also withstands wet winter conditions better, as it is dried out and less likely to become mouldy. Due to roasting grain all other processes are optimised, for example the cooking time is shorter, which leads to less firewood consumption and less time consumption, which in the past could have been used for other activities. Unfortunately, our oven did not survive more than so many tests, but it would be interesting to use it for smoking meat and fish and for some other experiment. The charm of experiments lies precisely in the fact that they drive your curiosity and imagination further and answer a hundred questions over and over again, while at the same time open a hundred new ones. 

and what did we end up eating? 

A lot :) a lot of very good food, sometimes so-so.... Since we don't have other sources for prehistoric cooking, we try to follow the objects that tell us the story of kitchen technology. This is how we decided to prepare young cheese, baked meat, fish in different ways, stews, dumplings, breads and much more. Once you get into this kind of cooking in practice, you realize that their diet could be very extravagant and inventive. We cooked with wild and cultivated plants, dried ones were added as spices, and fresh ones were sometimes used as a base for baking and for flavoring. See more about prehistoric tastes in the gallery. 

A jump to antiquity 

We also prepared a workshop on ancient Roman cuisine. This time with a slightly older population, a group of elderly enthusiast who learn Latin with Živa Kham Omahen. Here, too, we cooked over the fire, but with slightly more "modern" equipment. Most of the equipment are replicas of ancient Roman kitchen utensils that are the property of KD Vespesjan. Another bunch of wonderful people who, in their free time, but at a very high level, present and demonstrate  life in Roman times . The workshop was a great success and it smelled like Roman cuisine, which is extremely aromatic. See more in the photos. 

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