Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

Boiled or roasted? Bivalve cooking methods of early Puerto Ricans elucidated using clumped isotopes

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Science Advances  27 Nov 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 11, eaaw5447
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw5447


Cooking technique reflects a combination of cultural and technological factors; here, we attempt to constrain bivalve cooking temperatures for a pre-Columbian Puerto Rican native population using carbonate clumped isotopes. Analyses of 24 bivalve specimens (Phacoides pectinatus) from a shell midden in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, suggest that samples were heated up to 200°C, indicating that roasting rather than boiling may have been the preferred cooking technique. More than half of analyzed samples exhibited a distinct change from modern uncooked shells, possibly reflecting different cooking techniques or the use of a single method wherein shells are unevenly heated, such as when placed on a heated surface. Roasting bivalves would not necessitate the use of ceramic technologies, an observation concurrent with the absence of such artifacts at this site.

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