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    Technology

    The unique function of accidentally found ancient cauldrons has been revealed

    Vessels were used to collect animal blood

    Ancient vessels accidentally discovered on the Mongolian steppe have allowed archaeologists to take a new look at how the ancient inhabitants of this land ate.

    AI

    Archaeologists scraped caked-on remains from the insides of two 2,750-year-old Bronze Age cauldrons and found that these vessels were once used to collect the blood of ruminants such as sheep and goats, as well as the milk of wild yaks.

    Scientists have suggested that it was used for culinary purposes, for example, to produce blood sausage, by analogy with technologies that are still used in rural areas of Mongolia.

    This discovery relates not only to the collection and consumption of blood in the region, but also to the earliest evidence to date of the presence of wild yaks in central Mongolia.

    “Our analysis highlights the remarkable preservative properties of bronze materials, which serve as preservatives for proteins and other organic molecules,” says biomolecular archeologist Shevan Wilkin. “These discoveries provide insight into the gastronomic traditions and dietary preferences of Bronze Age nomads, and shed light on the variety of culinary methods practiced by ancient civilizations.”

    Two cauldrons were discovered by luck: shepherds from the Khuvsgel province unexpectedly stumbled upon it a place where they were working on a fence for a corral for horses.

    During the excavations, they found not only boilers, but also other artifacts, which were then transferred to the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.

    Wilkin and her colleagues conducted a detailed study of the two boilers. They used radiocarbon dating to determine their age, and then took samples from the inside of both cauldrons for protein analysis.

    They hoped this would reveal something about the diet of the people who once used boilers, for example, for cooking meat. But what Wilkin and her colleagues found was a little different.

    Their proteomic analysis revealed the presence of blood proteins, as well as a glycoprotein that is expressed in the liver. These proteins were then classified as originating from ruminants, such as goats and Barbary sheep. But that was not the only thing the researchers found. Secondary proteins in the cauldron were derived from the milk of wild yaks.

    “Our data suggest that two specific cauldrons from northern Mongolia were used to collect blood from ruminants during slaughter and were likely an important part of food production. If the blood was collected for sausage production, as we hypothesize, it would extend the practice back at least 2,700 years,” the researchers say.

    This is not surprising, the researchers say, since milk production from ruminants has been practiced in the region for more than 5,000 years.

    The researchers conclude that such bronze vessels may represent an untapped resource for understanding ancient civilizations, as the metal has antibacterial properties that can preserve organic materials for millennia.

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