West Asian food - Mesopotamia
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West Asian Food

Nineveh meal
A meal in ancient Nineveh (about 700 BC)

The people of West Asia traditionally divided themselves into two groups who had very different eating and drinking habits, and who thought of themselves as enemies, even though they also traded with each other all the time. One group lived in the river valleys and on the plains, the flat land, and they were farmers. They lived mainly on wheat and barley, made into flat bread (like pita bread or pizza) or porridge. They also ate a lot of lentils and chickpeas (garbanzo beans), which they made into falafel and hummus. They ate apples and figs. These valley people drank beer, made out of their grain.


The other group lived up in the hills, and they were shepherds and goatherds. They ate a lot of cheese and yogurt and roasted mutton, and they drank milk and fermented (alcoholic) milk drinks. They traded their cheese to the valley people for wheat and barley for their bread, and for beans.

Learn by doing: Barley soup
Medieval Islamic food

Bibliography and further reading about food in West Asia:

The Oldest Cuisine in the World : Cooking in Mesopotamia, by Jean Bottero (2004). A whole history of food, with some recipes (but basically not a cookbook).

Find Out About Mesopotamia: What Life Was Like in Ancient Sumer, Babylon and Assyria, by Lorna Oakes (2004).

Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors: An Activity Guide, by Marian Broida (1999). Not just Egypt! Includes simple recipes for kids from the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Hittites, and the Nubians.

Ancient West Asia
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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