Photo in the News: 4,000-Year-Old Noodles Found in China

Photo: Bowl of 4,000-year-old noodles
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October 12, 2005—A 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles unearthed in China is the earliest example ever found of one of the world's most popular foods, scientists reported today. It also suggests an Asian—not Italian—origin for the staple dish.

The beautifully preserved, long, thin yellow noodles were found inside an overturned sealed bowl at the Lajia archaeological site in northwestern China. The bowl was buried under ten feet (three meters) of sediment.

"This is the earliest empirical evidence of noodles ever found," Houyuan Lu of Beijing's Chinese Academy of Sciences said in an e-mail interview.

The scientists determined the noodles were made from two kinds of millet, a grain indigenous to China and widely cultivated there 7,000 years ago. Modern North American and European noodles are usually made with wheat.

Archaeochemist Patrick McGovern at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia said that if the date for the noodles is correct, the find is "quite amazing."

Even today, he said, deft skills are required to make long, thin noodles like those found at Lajia.

"This shows a fairly high level of food processing and culinary sophistication," he said.

—John Roach

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