Cooking 4,000 year old Babylonian recipes, how do they taste?

Bas-relief depicting a banquet in the palace of Assyrian king Ashurbanipal

This is one for all the history nerds out and anybody who likes cooking and eating, which probably means you.

When you try to recreate an ancient recipe, you may end up with a stinking cesspool of inedible muck or a culinary wonder.

Two very famous US universities Harvard and Yale collaborated together to cook from three very ancient recipes from the Babylonian period 4,000 years ago. 

I love when historians and archaeologists actually get to recreate real objects from the past to see if they are true to form and actually impressive. In some cases these recreated artefacts are dead in the water, other times it’s like watching the past come to life in real time. 

The cooking process

The recipes come from the Yale Babylonian Collection. Researchers think that these recipes weren’t for your average serf or Babylonian goat herder. That’s because the ingredients and recipes themselves were rather complex and they were also written down, which made them a novelty for the time.

Challenges in bringing to life the recipes included having to decipher crumbling cuneiform tablets that were missing parts. Also translating from the original Akkadian was challenging because some of the more exotic words don’t appear to be written anywhere else in archaeological findings. 

Cooking 4,000 year old Babylonian recipes, how do they taste?
Cunieform tablet

“Making a stew is a very basic human thing and I think that is one of the reasons that we really went into this project,” says Lassen. “There is something really human about eating and food and tasting things, and that’s what we wanted to explore by recreating these recipes. Maybe not entirely as they as they would have prepared it — maybe our ingredients taste a little bit different — but still approximating something that nobody has tasted for almost 4,000 years.”
–  Agnete Lassen, Associate Curator, Yale Babylonian Collection. 

Here’s another recommendation if watching historians recreate a castle floats your boat. I found it utterly fascinating. Let me know your thoughts

How do they taste? 

Ancient Babylonians preferred hearty stews, leafy greens and savoury meats. So it sounds as though nothing much has changed then. There is something lovely and reassuring about that! 

What recipes from nowdays do you think people (or other beings) of the future will be copying and getting all excited about? For me, since going to Japan it’s ramen. The nuances in flavour of this dish can range from either mediocre to an unbelievably holy experience like seeing Jesus riding on the back of a dinosaur.  

Read more on the Archaeological News Network. 

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

6 thoughts on “Cooking 4,000 year old Babylonian recipes, how do they taste?

    1. I know! what a cool job hey. I really want to make some of these foods with the recipes 😊 There are also historians who make ancient instruments and play them, that is pretty mind-blowing and probably up your alley.


  1. Well you would know better than me…here I was thinking it was something out of a cave in Iraq…it’s just some guy from a pub in Ireland lol


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