Oldest Curry Unearthed in Southeast Asia: Researchers Discover 2,000-Year-Old Evidence

The trading of spices for culinary purposes has a long history, dating back 2,000 years, according to new research published in Science Advances. The study reveals evidence of Southeast Asia’s oldest known curry, as well as the oldest evidence of curry found outside of India. The discovery was made at the Oc Eo archaeological complex in southern Vietnam, where eight unique spices were found, some of which would have been transported over long distances by sea. The research initially focused on understanding the function of stone grinding tools used for powdering spices and gaining insights into the ancient spice trade. Starch grain analysis was used to analyze microscopic remains recovered from grinding and pounding tools, revealing the presence of spices such as turmeric, ginger, clove, and cinnamon. The site and tools were dated to the 1st and 8th centuries CE. This study provides tangible evidence that spices were valuable commodities exchanged on the global trading network nearly 2,000 years ago. It also highlights the enduring popularity of curry, as the curry recipe used in Vietnam today has remained consistent with the ancient period. Future research will involve analyzing larger plant remains and well-preserved seeds collected from the site to further understand the region’s history and the global trade of spices.