Culinary archaeology

Millet noodles in Late Neolithic China

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A remarkable find allows the reconstruction of the earliest recorded preparation of noodles.

Abstract

Noodles have been a popular staple food in many parts of the world for at least 2,000 years1, although it is debatable whether the Chinese, the Italians or the Arabs invented them first. Here we analyse a prehistoric sample of noodles contained in a well preserved, sealed earthenware bowl discovered in the Late Neolithic2,3,4 archaeological site of Lajia in northwestern China. We identify millet as the source of the abundant seed-husk phytoliths and starch grains present in the vessel. This shows that the conversion of ground millet flour into dough that could be repeatedly stretched into long, thin strands for the preparation of boiled noodles was already established in this region 4,000 years ago.

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Figure 1: Late Neolithic noodles from China.

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Correspondence to Houyuan Lu.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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