The Ancient Origins Of Escargot

People in the U.S., Mexico, and elsewhere are still delightedly eating crickets, so the idea of eating snails might not be seen as gross, though hopelessly outdated. Yet there was a time when many Americans used to turn up their noses to escargot; sometimes viewing the French menu delicacy as the sole province of Francophiles and gourmands. In fact, based on a recent article from Tastemade, some people may still feel that way.

Escargot is a quintessentially French delicacy. Even the word escargot means snails is French. When it comes to the origins of snail-eating, its sad to say that France is not the ancestral home of the practice. Offbeat France, for instance, theorizes that snail-eating may have come to France when Roman Emperor Julius Caesar conquered the region (which was known as Gaul at that time ) in the 1st century B.C.E. Journey to France, meanwhile, notes that the initial recorded instance of snail-eating that took place in Spain predates that of its European neighbors, France and Italy, by at least 10,000 years.

The first instances of snail eating in human history

If the timeline given by Journey to France is correct in terms of evidence for Spanish consumption of snails being well ahead of other European countries. To date, according to BBC News, over 100 samples of iberus alonensis (a Spanish species of snail) have been excavated from a pit used for cooking in Cova de la Barriada near Benidorm, Spain. This indicates that humans first added snails to their diet during the Gravettian era of the Paleolithic period; about 30,000 years ago.

"What this suggests is that these groups [of humans] had already opted for a strategy of diet diversification that allowed them to increase their population," notes Dr Fernández-López de Pablo of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Evolution to BBC News. What this also establishes is that the consumption of snails within the borders of modern day Spain goes back at least 10,000 years before that of any other country, per BBC News. So perhaps we shouldn't be referring to snails as escargot, but rather as caracoles, as they're known in Spain.