Kitchen Osteology


I once wrote about a miniature køkkenmødding shell midden that accreted in our kitchen sink when we had oysters (image below). Another type of archaeological assemblage that occurs far more commonly in our house is the chicken or pork bone dump. The chicken bones usually don’t look very archaeological when we throw them out since they tend to be discoloured and still partly covered in soft tissue. But as you can see above, what remains after my wife has cooked pork broth on fläskben, cheap bony butchering leftovers, could be sitting in a tagged zip baggie on any urban dig.

Our boiled pork bones would be particularly interesting to an osteologist as my wife and other Chinese women in our circles like to gnaw them assiduously, sometimes even going so far as to chew the spongiosa structure inside larger bones. I’m not talking marrow here, it’s more like a petrified kitchen sponge that the ladies grind to sand between their teeth. I read somewhere that the reason so many Chinese people go into the restaurant business is that for the past several millennia, not one generation of Chinese people has been spared famine.


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  1. #1 speedwell
    February 14, 2011

    I’ll never forget the time when I was seven years old, when my best friend and I thought we had found dinosaur bones in the yard where her dad was digging a vegetable garden. Her mom pronounced them “probably chicken bones some dog buried”, but we were positive we were prodigies who had had our only chance at paleontological fame rudely stolen from us.

  2. #2 Martin R
    February 14, 2011

    We dug pits in a filled-out part of the schoolyard and I found a vaguely axe-like natural pebble that I kept for years. An eolith, in fact! I actually hafted it (clumsily) and used it to ring-bark a small birch in the yard.

  3. #3 TheBrummell
    February 14, 2011

    How does being an owner/operator of a restaurant protect against famine? In the event of food shortage, suppliers would raise prices for restaurants the same as for direct consumers, wouldn’t they? Does a restaurant offer a much greater opportunity to stockpile non-perishable foods and protect those stocks from looters?

    Also, if it is true that famine has been a constant in China for so long, the current long boom will probably have subtle social & behavioural effects beyond the already-observed cultural shifts associated with both increasing wealth and urbanisation.

  4. #4 Martin R
    February 15, 2011

    As I understood the argument, the restaurant thing is not about rational calculation but about the pleasure of being around a lot of food.

  5. #5 Magnus Reuterdahl
    February 21, 2011

    Looks absolutly beautiful and perfectly normal 😀 As the saying goes:

    “A little osteology every day,
    keeps boredom away.”

    “All work and no bone fragments makes jack a dull boy”

    Magnus Reuterdahl

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