Frogs' legs, a delicacy most closely associated with the French, is in fact, a Czech dish, according to archaeologists. Although the edible amphibians are closely associated with Gallic cuisine - so much so that English people refer to the French by the derogatory nickname "the frogs" - ancient Czechs were eating them more than 5,000 years ago.

New research by archaeologists has uncovered the kitchen remains of hundreds of frogs' legs in a hill fort east of Prague. Most of the 900 bones found in a pit are hind legs (the part which has the most meat and which is traditionally eaten), and came from males. This suggests they were deliberately caught in the spring during their mating season.

A report by archaeologists at the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of the Sciences of the Czech Republic says: "The discovery indicates that the dietary use of frogs in prehistory is not limited to the Western Europe only. It shows that the small vertebrate could have played an important role in human lives in central European agricultural prehistory."

The bones were found in pits at the fort, and the scientists rule out other explanations for them being there. They say that such large numbers may be evidence that the occupiers systematically hunted frogs to eat at certain times of the year. "It took place most probably in March or April, when frogs are at the height of their mating activity; when they tend to gather in great numbers and are easily captured. This is supported by the male dominated sex ratio and the prevalence of adult individuals," they say.

"The frogs could have been simply gathered directly from the pond, where their chance for escape was limited or, less likely, other more specialised methods could have been used such as ground traps during their migration or by fishing on a line and hook."

Until now, most of the archaeological evidence for the eating of frogs' legs has come from France. Just how common it was in ancient Czech culture has yet to be discovered because frog bones are often too small to survive or get overlooked in excavations. It's also unclear how the early Czechs cooked the legs. Butchery techniques can be only guessed at, say the archaeologists. They believe, however, that the legs were skinned first before they were eaten, probably around an open fire, but without garlic butter or breadcrumbs.