What did people eat in the ancient world and in the early Middle Ages?

You hardly think about it, but we men haven’t always had the same type of diet feeding throughout history. And if you think about it, the curiosities that come from the past are numerous. For example, what did they eat in the ancient world and in the early Middle Ages? On the plates there were the meat and fish? What types of animals, in different eras and cultures, did they provide meat? All the Social classes Did they consume it in equal quantities?

Hunting and farming in prehistory

For the man of Paleolithic hunting was the main source of its nutrition: first direct against isolated preys, then specializedthat is, conducted in groups with the aim of killing a large number of animals, mostly uri (wild cattle now extinct), chute, bison e mammoth.

During the Neolithicwith the invention ofagriculturei cultivated cereals took the upper hand over meat and, even if hunting remained a fundamental activity until the birth of the first urban civilizations, the consumption of meat from the domestic species: the dog, the ox, the goat, the sheep and the pig.

The consumption of meat in the ancient world

Meat was present in the diet of all ancient peoples. The Egyptians they ate sheep, beef and pork and poultry meatin addition to fish from the Nile. Only the upper classes of the Mesopotamian peoples could afford meat (especially sheep and cattle), while the majority of the population consumed the abundant Persian Gulf fish.

The Jews they ate there sheep and goat meat, while they despised pork, an animal considered unclean. Conversely, i Chinese they almost exclusively consumed pork and poultry meat, since rice cultivation took away space for pastures. In Greece as in Rome the consumption of meat was linked to religious sacrifice: on special occasions, the meat of animals (mostly sheep and pigs) offered to the deities was eaten. For the Germanic peoples, who lived in the forest and were great hunters, meat was instead the most important food.

Meat consumption in Europe in the early Middle Ages

Under the influence of the barbarians, meat consumption greatly increased in Europe during the early Middle Ages (i.e. from 476, the date of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, up to the year 1000). In central-northern Europe the meat of pigs was eaten above all, while in southern Europe that of sheep and cattle (the latter previously used only as draft animals). In general, other animals also contributed to enriching the diet: chickens, ducks, geese and wild animals such as deer, wild boar, mouflon and bear. Of course the consumption of fresh meat was not the same for everyone, but it was regular only for noble warriors and the high clergy.

After the sixteenth century, Europeans decreased their consumption of meat, which it has grown again since the second half of the 19th century. Today the constant presence of meat on the tables of industrialized countries causes concerns both in terms of health and the environment.

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