The Riddle of the Griddle

How a griddle and olla may be used together

In Nicaragua archaeology griddles are enigmatic, mysterious, and rare. For centuries archaeologists have assumed that griddles in Mesoamerica were used to produce maize tortillas. However, in Nicaragua this type of kitchenware has largely been absent from recovered remains of past societies.

The Barillas archaeological site

In 2016 At the Barillas site the excavation team recovered a few fragments of flat, thick, and coarse ceramic pieces. My friend Natalia recognized they were unique for the area. In central Nicaragua, around AD 1300, a local potter decided to make this kitchenware. We wanted to know more about how this style of flat cooking plate was used. Were they used with local ingredients or things that were more exotic?

Some of the analyzed artifacts and their recovered starches

By combining macrofabric macro trace analysis with starch grain analysis this interdisciplinary research was able to demonstrate several pieces of new evidence for this reseearch area. These clay artifacts were locally produced with traditional manufacturing techniques. The plants cooked on these vessels included maize manioc and chili pepper. So, griddles at this site were used to make more than just maize tortillas. Perhaps albondingas, tamales, casava bread, tortillas, and salsas were a part of the local Indigenous Peoples’ foodways. Everytime I go over the results of my research I get hungry. Let’s reflect upon, celebrate, and enjoy these beautiful culinary practices also EAT!!

some plants prepared on griddles in ancient Nicaragua

To read our article on this work see here

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