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Tools of the Trade

May/June 2021

Gobekli Tepe Stone VesselsGobekli Tepe Grinding Tools RotatedIn 2016, German Archaeological Institute archaeologist Laura Dietrich began analyzing thousands of stone grinding tools that had been excavated at Göbekli Tepe over the course of nearly two decades. The tools (left), along with hundreds of stone vessels (above), had mostly been ignored by researchers. Using a combination of use-wear studies, experimental archaeology, and microscopy, Dietrich analyzed the way in which the stones had been worn down over time and showed that they had been used to process grains and legumes. She identified chemical residues on many of the vessels that provided evidence they had been used to cook vats of porridge or perhaps the occasional batch of prehistoric beer. “Most probably,” Dietrich says, “these people were cultivators, or at least had strategies to gather large quantities of wild grain.”

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