An Ethnomicrobiology Case Study from Seventeenth-Century Shipboard Food Made Using Experimental Archaeology

Author(s): Grace Tsai; Elizabeth Latham

Year: 2018

Summary

Microorganism have played a vital role in agriculture, medicine, and food production since ancient times. Societies would save, preserve, and inoculate foods and other products with microbes such as yogurt that is fermented with Lactobacillus. Although their existence and mode of action was not understood until the mid-19th century, societies and bacteria have lived symbiotically for millennia. The new field of ethnomicrobiology is defined as the study of the use of microbes, including bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi, that is learned and shared within a society. In this paper, the Ship Biscuit & Salted Beef Research Project that replicated 17th-century shipboard food using historical documents and archaeological data, is used as a case study to demonstrate the methodology of collecting ethnomicrobiological data. It ends with a summary of results including microbial taxonomic identification, the pathogenic or beneficial effects the microbes have, and the potential applications of this new field.

Cite this Record

An Ethnomicrobiology Case Study from Seventeenth-Century Shipboard Food Made Using Experimental Archaeology. Grace Tsai, Elizabeth Latham. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2018 ( tDAR id: 441628)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 864