The European Middle Ages lasted a thousand years, running roughly from AD 500 to AD 1500. A lot of history took place during this time, but textbooks often fail to reconnect the living with the past as much as artifacts do.
Some items prove that certain things never change—people cheated at games, carried deadly weapons, and were addicted to cheese. Medieval artifacts also preserved the era’s weirder moments, like the three-person toilet and the nun who escaped her convent by faking her own death.
10 Medieval Peasant Diet
When it comes to medieval munchies, the diets of the English nobility are well-known. The menu of the peasantry, however, was so poorly recorded that researchers were not sure what people ate. Their mainstay was probably pottages and stews, but there was no direct evidence to prove this.
In 2019, 73 cooking pots underwent chemical analysis to test for food residues. The 500-year-old vessels came from a medieval village called West Cotton. Fat showed up in many of the jars, confirming that ceramics were important in the medieval kitchen and that peasants did rely on stews and pottages as a staple.
Ingredients included meat like mutton and beef. There were also traces of leafy vegetables such as cabbage and leek. The meat-cabbage stew was an important find. Nothing similar had shown up in elite kitchens.
Although the greatest surprise was a lack of fish, the vessels did betray the villagers’ love of dairy. Almost a quarter of all the pots were used for milk-derived products. When this new information was consolidated with animal remains at West Cotton, scientists were able to compile a “cookbook,” which described meals, butchery and preparation techniques, and the disposal of scraps.