J. Mark Kenoyer

Foodways of Ancient South Asia and their modern legacy: New Perspectives from the Indus Civilization and adjacent regions



This lecture will present an overview of the most current knowledge of food traditions and cooking from ancient South Asia, with a focus on the Indus Civilization, 2600-1900 BCE. Studies from sites in Pakistan and India, and now Oman, provide new insights on the types of plants and animals that were raised or hunted by the Indus communities and their neighbors. The evidence of cooking traditions and also ways of serving or presenting food also provide some new ways of understanding the complex nature of early urban society. One of the most exciting new directions of research is with starch and pollen analysis as well as isotopic analysis of human bone. The discovery of residues in pottery also provide a new angle for understanding the diet and household cuisine of everyday Indus people. Many of the foods and preparation techniques developed in the past continue to be used in South Asia today and contribute a unique flavor to South Asia cuisine.


J. Mark Kenoyer is the George F. Dales, Jr. and Barbara A. Dales Professor of Anthropology at UW-Madison. His research interests include the archaeology of early urbanism and state level society, ancient technology, ornaments, textiles, pottery, lithics, and metallurgy. Read more about his research and biography here.