People in the Stone Age Were Fans of Escargot

A new study pushes back the date of land snails being consumed in the Mediterranean

Francesco Tomasinelli/The Lighth/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

Escargot is a menu staple at high end French restaurants, favored for both its taste and its ability to gross out dining companions who might have some reservations about eating snails. 

But it turns out that humans have been eating snails for quite some time in the Mediterranean. Specifically, for roughly 30,000 years, according to a new study in PLOS One.

The new study looked into discarded snail shells found at human habitations in Spain, and the analysis has given scientists a good picture of how snails were cooked at different sites. If you’d like to try making escargot-à-la-Stone-Age, you’ll need to select snails that are older than a year. Then, you might roast the snails in their shells over charcoal embers made of pine or juniper, for 5 to 8 minutes at a temperature less than 707 degrees Fahrenheit. Another method mentioned in the paper, from sites in Algeria, involves setting the snails in a hearth pit between two layers of heated stones and letting them boil. 

No word as to whether these snails were doused in garlic and butter and served in a special plate with tiny forks and tongs. (Best guess: that probably came later.) 

While the study does push back the date of people eating snails in the Mediterranean by 10,000 years, the authors note that evidence of human consumption of snails is similarly long at other places in the world, including a site in Tanzania, where researchers have found evidence that people there were also eating land snails about 31,000 years ago.  

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