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What was a mortarium used for? Organic residues and cultural change in Iron Age and Roman Britain

  • Lucy J.E. Cramp (a1) (a2), Richard P. Evershed (a2) and Hella Eckardt (a1)
Extract

The Romans brought the mortarium to Britain in the first century AD, and there has long been speculation on its actual purpose. Using analysis of the residues trapped in the walls of these ‘kitchen blenders’ and comparing them with Iron Age and Roman cooking pots, the authors show that it wasn't the diet that changed — just the method of preparing certain products: plants were being ground in the mortarium as well as cooked in the pot. As well as plants, the mortars contained animal fats, including dairy products. The question that remains, however, is why these natural products were being mixed together in mortaria. Were they for food, pharmaceuticals or face creams?

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Antiquity
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