FOOD: Bigger than the Plate

In the context of her stay in London Tania had the chance to visit a fascinating exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum titled: FOOD: Bigger than the Plate

Thinking about our food, in a world where consumers are totally alienated from the production of their foods, is the message that runs throughout the exhibition: recycling packaging and human food waste (consumed and non-consumed), following the lifecycle of the animal that yielded its hide or its meat, growing trees and sharing their fruit, encouraging biodiversity in corn by using the cob 'waste' to create art ( and much more.

Towards the exit Tania was offered the opportunity to create her own special 'dish' by selecting three words. She chose Wild, Traditional and Biodiverse and an exciting little dish was prepared for her to taste on the spot.



Gordon Hillman - British Museum

After a brief August break that saw Tania making homemade wholemeal pasta and harvesting Amanita cesarea mushrooms in the woods, the PlantCult team is back to exciting work again! Many conference participations for the end of August and throughout September have been planned and you will be hearing about them soon: Maria Ntinou, Danai Chondrou, Tasoula Dimoula, Ismini Ninou, Clemence Pagnoux, Chryssa Petridou and Tasos Bekiaris will all be presenting PlantCult work.

PlantCult was presented recently at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, London, in an event organized in memory of Gordon Hillman. Tania recalled how a chance meeting over breakfast with Gordon Hillman during the 1st WAC in Southampton, in 1986, inspired her to study Archaeobotany. Gordon’s ethnographic work was not only about crop-processing, he explored foods, too. Tania acquired her archaeobotanical skills in Sheffield, with the firm and attentive guidance of Glynis Jones, her supervisor. Gordon’s ethnographic accounts of some cereal foods and the exciting ancient food finds that Tania was lucky to find over the years among prehistoric assemblages from Greece led to the idea of PlantCult. It was a very touching meeting today, with Gordon’s daughter, Thilaka, and his grandsons being present, too. Thanks to Dorian Fuller, Michele Wollstonecroft and Sue Colledge for organising this.

Recently Tania was at the British Museum, collaborating with Oliver Craig and Edward Standall on residue analyses conducted in the context of PlantCult project. New results that are being generated thanks to the great work conducted by the York team were discussed. These will form the basis of forthcoming publications.Tania also had the pleasure of presenting PlantCult to a group of British Museum scientists, after Ed’s kind invitation.



Tania Valamoti presented PlantCult at UCL in a touching event in memory of Gordon Hillman 

 ( Tania recalled her chance encounter with Gordon at the 1st WAC in Southampton, in 1986, that influenced her for life. Presentations, conversations, photographs, videos, and shared memories created a delightful tribute to Gordon - innovator, scientist, teacher, colleague, friend, father and grandfather.

Hillman memorial 2019

Back to Thessaloniki from the "Alcohol, rituals and spiritual world in ancient China and beyond" meeting held in Stanford, April 2019.

Many thanks to Professor Li Liu and Jiajing Wang for organising such a great conference at Stanford Archaeology Center. Various aspects of alcohol preparation were explored, methodological, experimental, ethnographic and archaeological, the emphasis being on ritual uses of alcohol. It was a stimulating and fruitful interaction between scholars working in different parts of the world. Professor Ian Hodder opened the meeting and welcomed the participants, pointing out the significance of alcoholic drinks in past societies and acknowledging the seminal contribution of the works of late Andrew Sherrat in this discourse.Patrick McGovern uncorked the meeting with his talk, followed by a wide range of talks exploring alcohol in China, Japan, the Near East, Egypt, Greece, Ethiopia, Sudan and Burkina Fasso. Tania Valamoti presented PlantCult results at the meeting, exploring contexts of wine consumption in prehistoric Greece at archaeological sites where wine-making is clearly evidenced, an approach informed by later contexts of the ancient Greek world and beyond.

April April 17th-19th, Berkeley

PlantCult is exploring FOOD in California and San Francisco Bay. Sumo citrus at Palo Alto, Plant foods at GREEN's straight from the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Ethiopian ceramic cooking vessels and looking at maize varieties at Christine Hastorf's laboratory at Berkeley University. Tania presented prehistoric plant foods from Greece and PlantCult to a group of graduate students at the Archaeological Research Facility at Berkeley.

Conference Program

April 6th & 7th 2019, Thessaloniki


PLANTCULT is networking with the business world in an event organised by NBG Business Seeds, OKThess, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

January 18th 2019, Cluj-Napoca

In January 18th 2019 the PlantCult team participated in the meeting ‘Food, the human diet - Round-table and Science café’, in the frame of the ERC=Science2 project. The event was organized by the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, and was hosted in the Biodiversity Research Center, in the beautiful city of Cluj-Napoca, Romania.PlantCult met other ERC funded projects, such as Harvest, led by Amanda Henry (Leiden University) and ReSEED, led by Dulce Freire (University of Lisbon), all exploring aspects of the history of food. Moreover, the food scientist Nastasia Belc (National Institute on Food Bioresources, Romania), put forward her research perspective on modern diet.

The event was an excellent opportunity to communicate research goals, methodologies and results, to exchange experiences and learn from different perspectives. The response of the audience was very active, with interesting questions and comments made by students and professors from different fields, such as psychology, agricultural sciences and food engineering.

We have to thank the organisers, especially Prof. A. Mihalca, for their warm hospitality.


July 2018, Mongolia (Part IΙ)

PLANTCULT is connecting with UNESCO’s initiative for the Silk Road Interactive Atlas. Tania Valamoti has joined the Silk Road Interactive Atlas network of experts working on culinary aspects of the Silk Road. The investigation in the context of PLANTCULT of crops like millet and Lallemantia which reach SE Europe from the East during the Bronze Age is pointing towards networks connecting Central Asia with Southeastern Europe already in prehistoric times.

After an adventurous journey from Thessaloniki to Ulaanbaatar (our Turkish Airlines airplane had to return back to Istanbul after 80 minutes in the air due to some technical problem) during which a stop-over took place in Kirgistan’s capital Bishkek, Tania Valamoti representing PLANTCULT and the Dept. of Archaeology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, joined the experts participating to the Expert Meeting on the Development of an of an interactive Atlas of Cultural Interactions along the Silk Roads: Food Production and Gastronomy. The meeting took place in the Bayan Gobi Tourist Camp in the Uvurkhangai Province of Mongolia, on the 16th and 17th of July 2018, inside a ger especially organized to host the meeting. This meeting offered an excellent opportunity to meet the United Nations officials involved in the Silk Road Interactive Atlas initiative, meet and discuss with Mongolian archaeologists and scientists involved in the safeguarding of Nomadic lifestyle in Mongolia, experience nomadic life in a ger and have lively discussions with researchers from Mongolia, Turkey, Iran, Korea, China. Greece was represented through Tania Valamoti and the PLANTCULT project people. We tried fermented horse milk, ayrak, we observed the lively finger guessing games and listened to beautiful songs. We also had the opportunity to watch a special documentary on the making of ayrak in Mongolia and learn the special secrets for a good quality ayrak. PLANTCULT is contributing towards the development of the different aspects of the shared culinary heritage developed thanks to the Silk Road interactions.

Image captions (from left to right)

1. Camels and the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes in the background

2. The Bayan Gobi Tourist Camp

3. Outside Ulaanbaatar’s Archaeological Museum

4. The invited experts for the UNESCO Interactive Atlas of Cultural Interactions along the Silk Road

5. The meeting has just began


July 2018, Mongolia (Part I)

PLANTCULT is connecting with UNESCO’s initiative for the Silk Road Interactive Atlas. Tania Valamoti has joined the Silk Road Interactive Atlas network of experts working on culinary aspects of the Silk Road. The investigation in the context of PLANTCULT of crops like millet and Lallemantia which reach SE Europe from the East during the Bronze Age is pointing towards networks connecting Central Asia with Southeastern Europe already in prehistoric times.

Image captions (from left to right)

1. Tania Valamoti together with Giedre Motuzaite-Matuzeviciute outside the ger they shared for the first part of the Silk Road meeting held in Mongolia 15-16 July 2018.

2. PLANTCULT in Mongolia. Celebrating the end of the first day of brainstorming between the UNESCO officials and the experts contributing to the Silk Road Atlas.

3. Stones are being heated in order to cook the meat stew (photo Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute)

4. The meat is now being cooked inside the pot with the hot stones (photo SMV)

5 & 6. Crack of dawn at our camp


May 2018, 42nd Conference of the International Society for Archaeometry, Merida, Mexico.

PLANTCULT presented its integrative approach using arhaeometrical approaches as an analytical tool to comprehend past culinary practices related to plant foods In Merida, Mexico, at the 42nd Conference of the International Society for Archaeometry. The conference took place at the impressive building of the University of Yucatan between May 20th and May 26th. More than 200 oral presentations and posters from all over the world were presented at the conference and discussions were stimulating. PLANTCULT contributed two posters, one offering a detailed overview of the project aims and goals as well as on ongoing work conducted in the context of the project, the other presenting the first results of the archaeological and experimental work on prehistoric cooking pots, conducted by project postdoctoral researcher Tassoula Dimoula and the ceramics PLANTCULT team (Zoi Tsirtsoni, Vivi Youni). Both posters attracted interested conference participants from all over the world. Moreover, S.M.Valamoti had the chance to network with fellow researchers conducting investigations in ancient Mayan cuisine.


Plant foods appeared as the dominant elements of symbolic expression in several settings in the Grand Museo del Mundo Maya of Merida, the Izamal monastery as well as at the Museum of Teotihuacan, visited after the end of the conference. Offerings consisting of plant foods essential to these communities such as Cucurbits, corn, cacao, and clay representations of corn, cacao and peyote, underline the significance of plant foods for past and present communities in Mesoamerica. During the excursion we had the luck to observe traditional tortilla preparation on the traditional since prehispanic times ‘three-stone hearth’. A more modern version could be observed at the Chaya Maya restaurant in Merida.


PLANTCULT made it to Chitzen Itza and Teotihuacan and new perspectives for future collaborations on prehistoric plant foods were opened up. Alongside the archaeology, aspects of modern Mexican cuisine were explored in the local markets of Luca de Galvez (Merida) and Coyoacan -Mexico City: spices and the explosive tastes of mole were unforgettable experience. The next ISA conference will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, in May 2020 by which time we expect that our project final results related to archaeometric lines of evidence (thin section analysis, food residue analysis, scanning electron microscopy for the detection of ancient food) will be presented.


December 2017, discussing PLANTCULT with archaeologists in Vienna.

S.M.Valamoti met Dr Kerstin Kowarik and Dr Hans Reschreiter at the Vienna Natural History Museum, discussed mutual interests on prehistoric food and had the privilege of a guided tour to the finds of 'The Kingdom of Salt', i.e. the finds from Hallstatt and its salt mines. Photos show Hans Reschreiter and Tania Valamoti examining the 'end product', i.e. fecal remains, of a meal made of barley, millet and Celtic bean stew including chunks of meat on the bone. Kerstin proudly shows Tania the huge wooden Hallstatt spoon with which stews were stirred during cooking inside the salt mine.


Read more: Kern, A., Kowarik K., Rausch, A, Reschreiter, H. 2009. Kingdom of Salt, 7000 years of Hallstatt. Vienna, Natural History Museum.



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