Archaeologists in Peru have been trying to decipher if potatoes were only part of the food the elite ate or if it was something that was more widely consumed.
“Potatoes were known to be present in the Moche culture, but previously archaeologists only knew them from artifacts such as bottles shaped like potatoes, many with a human form”, Forbes said.
Apart from this information, potato remains have not been discovered, in spite of it being domesticated about 10,000 in southern Peru, according to experts.
So, in order to test the assumption that potatoes were only eaten by the ancient elite, Guy Duke of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Victor Vásquez-Sanchez and Teresa Rosales-Tham of Arqueobios in Peru took samples from a grinding stone and from multiple ceramic sherds discovered at Wasi Huachuma to look for microbotanical remains of potatoes.
The results showed that all ceramics contained potato starch and two of them also had evidence of maize.
“What this means for the Moche diet, Duke tells me, is that potatoes ‘were boiled in a stew on the coast of Peru, although this does not mean they weren’t eaten in other ways. Roasting by putting things directly on hot coals or stones was a very common cooking method as well; this would be very hard to document archaeologically, as it would leave no residues on pots and the entire potato would likely have been consumed”, Forbes explained.
This archaeological investigation focused on the site of Wasi Huachuma, located in the lower Jequetepeque valley of Peru, dating to 600-850 AD or the later years of the Moche culture.