Prehistoric cooking pot and Neolithic fish soup

Prehistoric cooking pot and Neolithic fish soup
Receptacle from Lyalovo. 4th century BC. The Museum of Moscow collection
Find out more about the diet of the prehistoric people living in the Moscow region in the 4th century BC and the ways they economised on firewood plus a curious archaeological find.

Today’s issue of the History of Things features an item that dates back some 6,000 years. This receptacle belonging to the Neolithic Lyalovo culture is part of the Museum of Moscow’s extensive collection. What did our ancestors use this unusual pointed bottom item for and do the simple decorations on it mean something?

The Lyalovo culture existed between the Volga and Oka rivers in the 4th to the late 3rd century BC. The Lyalovo culture got its name from the village of Lyalovo in the Solnechnogorsk District of the Moscow Region, where its first artefact was found in the 1920s. The distinctive feature of the Lyalovo culture is its comb ceramics. 

In the 4th century BC, the climate in the Moscow region was recovering from the Ice Age and could be likened to a modern climate. The area was covered with dense mixed forests with pines and birches. By that time, the contemporary river system was formed and many lakes appeared as a result of the glacial thaw. They were rich in fish and aquatic birds, which apparently made up a considerable part of Neolithic people’s diet.

Receptacle from Lyalovo. 4th century BC. The Museum of Moscow collection

Today’s issue of the History of Things features an item that dates back some 6,000 years. This receptacle belonging to the Neolithic Lyalovo culture is part of the Museum of Moscow’s extensive collection. What did our ancestors use this unusual pointed bottom item for and do the simple decorations on it mean something?

The Lyalovo culture existed between the Volga and Oka rivers in the 4th to the late 3rd century BC. The Lyalovo culture got its name from the village of Lyalovo in the Solnechnogorsk District of the Moscow Region, where its first artefact was found in the 1920s. The distinctive feature of the Lyalovo culture is its comb ceramics. 

In the 4th century BC, the climate in the Moscow region was recovering from the Ice Age and could be likened to a modern climate. The area was covered with dense mixed forests with pines and birches. By that time, the contemporary river system was formed and many lakes appeared as a result of the glacial thaw. They were rich in fish and aquatic birds, which apparently made up a considerable part of Neolithic people’s diet.

This rather large receptacle was found near the Maslovo bog and was probably used for cooking fish soup for a big family. The house in which the cooking pot was found was relatively small: around 15 sq m. It was located on the side of lake.

Clay pots with pointed bottoms were typical for this area in the Neolithic period and it was only later on that ones with flat bottoms appeared.  Curiously enough, such pots were quite stable when they were perched over stones and firewood. Due to the cavities on the surface, the actual capacity of the pot was two to three times more and  it heated up faster so that it was possible to spare precious firewood. The decorations were made using pointed belemnite fossils, also called Devil’s Fingers.

Alexander Trusov, senior research fellow at the Museum of Moscow’s archaeology department, found this receptacle during his student field trip. In 1970, he took part in Vladimir Sidorov’s expedition to the Maslovo bog. During a walk along the side of the lake in search of an ancient settlement, he saw a small hill covered with  rocks and broken pottery. A Lyalovo settlement was found there, including this receptacle. It was broken into pieces and was later put back together again like a jigsaw puzzle.

The cooking pot is displayed at the From the Museum Collection: Museum Workers’ Choice exhibition, on at the Museum of Moscow until 24 February.