Utah Locals Continued Eating Beaver Despite Invention of Early Flour

Holly Raymond also worked on the excavation as a master's student. She now works at a private archaeology firm.Almost 10,000 years ago, in Utahs Escalante Valley, a new recipe was added to the prehistoric cookbook: mush cooked from the flour of milled sage brush seeds.In those times,what else would the early chefs put on your plate..err… rock?

Archaeologists from the Brigham Young University are publishing what they’ve learned from five summers of excavations at the ‘North Creek Shelter’. The site,on the northern Colorado Plateau in southern Utah,has been occupied by humans on an off for the past 11,000 years, and is one of the oldest of such archaeological sites in Utah.

In the upcoming issue of the journal Kiva, they describe the stone tools used to grind sage, salt bush and grass seeds into flour. Those seeds are tiny, a single serving would have required quite a bit of seed gathering.

Ten thousand years ago, there was a change in the technology with grinding stones appearing for the first time, anthropologist Joel Janetski said. People started to use these tools to process small seeds into flour.

The invention of rudimentary pastry didn’t mean North Creek Shelter’s carte du jour turned vegetarian only. Prior to the appearance of grinding stones, the menu contained duck, beaver* and turkey. Sheep became common only later on. And deer was a staple at all levels of the dig.

The North Creek Shelter is located at the base of a sheer sandstone cliff on the same property as the Slot Canyon Inn, which now contains an exhibit about the researchers findings.

Besides animal bones and early grinding stones, the researchers also unearthed projectile points, bone beads and fremont figurines while getting to the bottom of the archaeological site.

* Never tried. Googling ‘How does beaver taste’ (probably not the most brilliant search query, I admit)resulted in “beaver should be considered a delicacy”. According to the ‘Northern Cookbook’, the meat is dark red, fine grained, moist and tender and similar in flavour to pork (if you removed the castor and musk glands correctly). You can roast the animal in its own skin, or cook up a broth. Served hot or cold, beaver feet resembling pigs’ feet are at their best boiled. Here are two1960 recipies on Flickr. I’m adding it under ‘squirrel‘ on the ‘not so sure if I ever want to try this’ list.