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Another ancient meal found in China

When I first heard about the discovery of 2,400-year-old soup in China, I was sure this was old news. Wasn't it just a couple of weeks ago that we ran the story about the 2,500-year-old porridge, meat bones, cakes and noodles that were unearthed in a Chinese cemetery? That story suggested that the oven-baked cakes may well represent the world's oldest baked goods.

Now I'm not so sure. For one thing, the old bone soup was reportedly found in a sealed bronze vessel, while the food described in the earlier report were in earthenware. For another thing, the soup was dug up in a tomb near the ancient capital of Xian, which is famous for those troops of terracotta warriors. Archaeologists also found another bronze pot that contained an odorless liquid, believed to have been wine. The earlier find was made in China's Turpan Prefecture, farther west.

It sounds as if this is a tale of two Chinese meals from about the same time. The fact that both meals were found in burial grounds might suggest they were left as funerary offerings.

Experts plan to study the leftovers in the bronze pot to learn more about ancient eating habits. "It's the first time Chinese archaeologists have unearthed such a container with bone soup still inside," Liu Daiyun, the head of the tomb's excavation team, was quoted as saying in People's Daily.

One thing's virtually certain: Liu and his colleagues won't be doing any taste testing as part of their investigation: Over all those centuries, the bronze in the pot had oxidized, turning the soup a "murky green," People's Daily said.

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