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A cup believed to have been used by Classical Greek statesman Pericles has been found in a pauper’s grave in north Athens, according to local reports Wednesday.

The ceramic wine cup, smashed in 12 pieces, was found during building construction in the northern Athens suburb of Kifissia, Ta Nea daily said.

After piecing it together, archaeologists were astounded to find the name “Pericles” scratched under one of its handles, alongside the names of five other men, in apparent order of seniority.

Experts are “99 per cent” sure that the cup was used by the Athenian statesman, as one of the other names listed, Ariphron, is that of Pericles’ elder brother.

“The name Ariphron is extremely rare,” Angelos Matthaiou, secretary of the Greek Epigraphic Society, told the newspaper.

“Having it listed above that of Pericles makes us 99 per cent sure that these are the two brothers,” he said.

The cup was likely used in a wine symposium when Pericles was in his twenties, and the six men who drank from it scrawled their names as a memento, Matthaiou said.

“They were definitely woozy, as whoever wrote Pericles’ name made a mistake and had to correct it,” he said.

The cup was then apparently gifted to another man named Drapetis (“escapee” in Greek) who was possibly a slave servant or the owner of the tavern, said archaeologist Galini Daskalaki.

“This is a rare find, a genuine glimpse into a private moment,” she said.

Ironically, the cup was found on Sparta street, Athens’ great rival and nemesis in the Peloponnesian War that tore apart the Greek city-states for nearly 30 years.

General of Athens during the city’s Golden Age, Pericles died of the plague in 429 BC during a Spartan siege.

The cup will be displayed in the autumn at the Epigraphical Museum in Athens. [AFP]

Original article:
ekathimerini.com

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Finland’s love of milk has been traced back to 2500 BC, thanks to high-tech techniques to analyze residues preserved in fragments of ancient pots.

Prehistoric dairy farming at the extremes

The Finns are the world’s biggest milk drinkers today but experts had previously been unable to establish whether prehistoric dairy farming was possible in the harsh environment that far north, where there is snow for up to four months a year.

Research by the Universities of Bristol and Helsinki, published July 30 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first of its kind to identify that dairying took place at this latitude — 60 degrees north of the equator.

This is equally as far north as Canada’s Northwestern territories, Anchorage in Alaska, Southern Greenland and near Yakutsk in Siberia.

Researchers used a series of techniques, not just to analyse the ancient pots, but also to look at modern-day Finnish peoples’ ability to digest milk into adulthood.

By comparing the residues found in the walls of cooking pots from two separate eras and cultures, dating to circa 3900 BC to 3300 BC and circa 2500 BC, it was evident that the more recent pottery fragments showed evidence of milk fats.

This coincided with the transition from a culture of hunting and fishing — relying mainly on marine foods — to the arrival of ‘Corded Ware’ settlements which we now know saw the introduction of animal domestication.

Lead author Dr Lucy Cramp, from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University, said: “This is remarkable evidence which proves that four and a half thousand years ago, Stone Age people must have been foddering and sheltering domesticated animals over harsh winters, in conditions that even nowadays we would find challenging.”

The results also drew a connection between the ‘Corded Ware’ farming settlers — who were likely to have been genetically different to the hunting and fishing communities — and modern day Finns.

Fellow researcher Dr Volker Heyd added: “Our results show a clear link between an incoming pre-historic population, milk drinking and the ability to digest milk in adulthood still visible in the genetic distribution of modern Finland, which remains one of the highest consumers of dairy products in the world.”

Professor Richard Evershed, from the School of Chemistry said: “It never ceases to amaze me that these sensitive chemical signatures of changing human life survive in the archaeological record for thousands of years. And it leaves one pondering what was motivating the people to move into these challenging regions?”

Original article:
sciencedaily

Lucy J E Cramp, Richard P Evershed, Mika Lavento, Petri Halinen, Kristiina Mannermaa, Markku Oinonen, Johannes Kettunen, Markus Perola, Päivi Onkamo and Volker Heyd. Neolithic dairy farming at the extreme of agriculture in northern Europe. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, July 30, 2014;

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Corded Ware sherds.
Credit: Finnish National Board of Antiquities

Excavation of ancient well yields insight into Etruscan, Roman and medieval times.

 

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Even in a town that archaeologists have probed countless times since 1930, few places have been dug over as many times as the landmark compound that makes up the historic colonial campus at the College of William and Mary.

But that doesn’t mean the triangle of property that surrounds the late-1600s Sir Christopher Wren Building — which ranks as the nation’s oldest college structure — has been stripped of all its secrets.

Spurred by a small but unexpectedly substantial brick feature unearthed by college archaeologists in 2011, a Colonial Williamsburg team has uncovered surprise after surprise since mid-May, when they begin exposing the increasingly large footprint of a previously unknown structure hidden under the grass in the Wren’s south yard.

Lurking as much as 2 feet below the surface, the main part of the early-1700s building measures 20-by-18-feet in size, while a smaller addition on its south wall checks in at about 20-by-12 feet.

Evidence of a central fire pit may help identify the structure as the college’s busy 18th-century brew house — which provided the students and faculty with a drink far safer and more pleasant than water — while an unusually large trash deposit located outside its east wall may hold clues to life inside the Wren Building before it was gutted by a fierce 1705 fire.

“With as much archaeological work as we’ve done in the College Yard over the years, it’s astonishing to find something like this — and to find so much of it still intact,” says Louise Kale, who is retiring after nearly two decades as director of the college’s historic campus.

“I’ve seen at least a dozen digs here during my time here — and this is the most important. It’s a real gold mine.”

Original article:
By Mark St. John Erickson
9:00 pm, July 23, 2014
daily press

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Archaeologists from Colonial Williamsburg are exploring the remains of an unexpectedly substantial colonial-era building first uncovered under the ground on the south of the Wren Building. The dig has been going on since early summer and has uncovered a substantial masonry foundation as well as large numbers of artifacts and this may be a brewhouse building. Tour groups are greeted by staff members at the dig site.
10:42 am, July 22, 2014
Joe Fudge / Daily Press

I ate the best meat I’ve ever eaten through a straw.

When the Singaporean food stall proprietor who’d just served me a plate of bones first offered the straw, I refused. I didn’t want to take any shortcuts as I worked the tastiest bits of marrow out from the skeletal hollows.

But a couple of minutes into my repast, my face smeared with the viscous broth the bones had come in, I couldn’t face the thought of leaving some of this food unexploited. So I took the proffered straw, inserted it down into a bone cavity and inhaled.

It tasted like the first bite of an excellent steak, only more so. Unlike biting into a rib-eye, when that initial sensation gives way to something less exultant and chewier, the marrow lingered on the tongue. I felt as if I was mainlining glutamate, the substance responsible for umami.

These bones had been cooked for hours in a fluorescent red amalgam of tomato and chili. Sup tulang, as this dish is called in Singapore, is Malay for “bone soup.” I ate it at Deen Tulang Specialist, one of a handful of stalls specializing in the dish in the Golden Mile Food Centre, one of many food courts, known as hawker centers, in Singapore.

Even as I eagerly gobbled at the bones in front of me, I turned a question over in my head: Just what was it that made the bones so good?

Not So Offal: Why Bone Soup, A ‘Perfect Food,’ Tastes So Meaty

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Sup tulang, as this dish is called in Singapore, is Malay for “bone soup.” The fattiness of the marrow rounds out the chili, tomato, fennel, cumin and ginger.

Konstantin Kakaes for NPR
I ate the best meat I’ve ever eaten through a straw.

When the Singaporean food stall proprietor who’d just served me a plate of bones first offered the straw, I refused. I didn’t want to take any shortcuts as I worked the tastiest bits of marrow out from the skeletal hollows.

But a couple of minutes into my repast, my face smeared with the viscous broth the bones had come in, I couldn’t face the thought of leaving some of this food unexploited. So I took the proffered straw, inserted it down into a bone cavity and inhaled.

It tasted like the first bite of an excellent steak, only more so. Unlike biting into a rib-eye, when that initial sensation gives way to something less exultant and chewier, the marrow lingered on the tongue. I felt as if I was mainlining glutamate, the substance responsible for umami.

These bones had been cooked for hours in a fluorescent red amalgam of tomato and chili. Sup tulang, as this dish is called in Singapore, is Malay for “bone soup.” I ate it at Deen Tulang Specialist, one of a handful of stalls specializing in the dish in the Golden Mile Food Centre, one of many food courts, known as hawker centers, in Singapore.

Even as I eagerly gobbled at the bones in front of me, I turned a question over in my head: Just what was it that made the bones so good?

i
Sup tulang on the menu at the Deen Tulang Specialist stall in the Golden Mile Food Centre in Singapore.
Konstantin Kakaes for NPR
Humans have been eating marrow for as long as we’ve been around. Indeed, some paleoanthropologists argue that eating marrow is part of what made us become human.

This school of thought is based largely on bones and stone tools from about 2 million years ago found in the Olduvai gorge, in present-day Tanzania. Fossils found there suggest that early humans scavenged carcasses already picked apart by other carnivores, and, using tools, broke open the bones and sucked out the marrow. Because marrow is very fatty, it is calorically dense, so the effort required to break open the bones was worth it.

In the West, marrow somehow evolved into an aristocratic food. In Offal: A Global History, Nina Edwards mentions a recipe used at Henry V’s court “involving a beef marrow-stuffed steak rolled up like a pancake and sweetened with honey.” Queen Victoria, she says, ate roasted bone marrow on a daily basis. In more recent times, Fergus Henderson, a chef in London who was in the forefront of “nose-to-tail” eating, popularized a recipe of roast beef bone marrow with parsley, served with toast.

These sorts of preparations are delicious, but they treat marrow as a delicate, rare thing, like caviar or foie gras. Yet marrow, today as it was in prehistoric times, is plentiful.

The sup tulang vendors in Singapore sell it by the bone — it works out to just over a U.S. dollar for each one. It’s not a pricey food by Singaporean standards, though it is a delicacy.

A similar soup by the same name can be found in Malaysia, but the preparation I had at Deen’s is uniquely Singaporean. It is a specialty of the mamak, or Indian Muslim, community in Singapore, who make up a small percentage of the population. Aside from the hawker center where I had it, there are a handful of other food stalls and restaurants in the city-state that serve it.

Compared with the marrow I’d eaten before, which was lightly spiced, the marrow in the tulang soup tasted more intense — the fattiness of the marrow rounded out the chili, tomato, fennel, cumin and ginger.

Marrow, because it is less widely consumed than flesh these days, hasn’t been thoroughly studied by flavor scientists. There is one guy, however, who has his Ph.D. in bone marrow: Belayet Choudhury. His 2008 dissertation, “Volatile and non-volatile components of beef marrow bone stocks,” is great reading.

Part of marrow’s flavor, Choudhury explains, comes from the Maillard reaction in which sugars react with amino acids (this is the same thing that causes a nice crust to develop on steaks cooked over high heat).

Bone marrow, he writes, is almost 80 percent fat and only about 2.6 percent protein, with the rest being moisture. There are at least 12 different fatty acids present and about 20 amino acids.

When bone marrow is cooked, the large number of acids create even larger numbers of volatile compounds through a series of chemical reactions (the Maillard reaction and oxidation being the most important ones). The newly created volatile compounds interact with the nonvolatiles to bring about the marrow’s rich taste.

Choudhury set out to find what compounds endow marrow not just with its pronounced umami but also with its “mouthfulness and taste continuity.” He performed a series of experiments to single out exactly what was in the stock, finding a number of volatile compounds that hadn’t previously been identified that, he wrote, provide “characteristic aroma and overall flavor.”

Guy Crosby, an adjunct professor of nutrition at Harvard and the science editor of America’s Test Kitchen, says that the many nucleotides present in bone marrow amplify the umami taste of glutamate by as much as 20 to 30 times.

Crosby reminded me that the function of bone marrow is to produce red blood cells. Because it is, in effect, a factory for the creation of cells, Crosby says, bone marrow is like an egg: “a perfect food. It’s got everything in it needed to create and sustain life.”

And it’s true: Marrow tastes wholesome, in a way that other similarly rich foods, like butter, don’t. It has some of everything you need. Just as cold, pure water from a mountain spring quenches thirst, this soup, the marrow tempered with spice and made resilient by tomato, seems to me as close as any substance can be to the tangible opposite of hunger.

I liked grappling with the bones, not immune to imagined kinship with cavemen who hunted beasts and gnawed on their prey. But my variety of carnivorous experience is distant from theirs. The fact is, once I gave in and sucked at the marrow through a straw, the implement children use to drink, I got at more of it. It was a reminder that I’m not that much less powerless than a toddler.

Konstantin Kakaes is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C., and the author of the e-book The Pioneer Detectives.

Original article:
NPR.org

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Sup tulang, as this dish is called in Singapore, is Malay for “bone soup.” The fattiness of the marrow rounds out the chili, tomato, fennel, cumin and ginger.

More information on the post I just submitted.

By extracting chemical compounds and microfossils from dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from ancient teeth, the researchers were able to provide an entirely new perspective on our ancestors’ diets. Their research suggests that purple nut sedge (Cyperus rotundus) — today regarded as a nuisance weed — formed an important part of the prehistoric diet.

Crucially, the research, published in PLOS ONE and led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the University of York, suggests that prehistoric people living in Central Sudan may have understood both the nutritional and medicinal qualities of this and other plants.

The research was carried out at Al Khiday, a pre-historic site on the White Nile in Central Sudan. It demonstrates that for at least 7,000 years, beginning before the development of agriculture and continuing after agricultural plants were also available the people of Al Khiday ate the plant purple nut sedge. The plant is a good source of carbohydrates and has many useful medicinal and aromatic qualities.

Lead author Karen Hardy, a Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) Research Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and an Honorary Research Associate at the University of York, said: “Purple nut sedge is today considered to be a scourge in tropical and sub-tropical regions and has been called the world’s most expensive weed due to the difficulties and high costs of eradication from agricultural areas. By extracting material from samples of ancient dental calculus we have found that rather than being a nuisance in the past, its value as a food, and possibly its abundant medicinal qualities were known. More recently, it was also used by the ancient Egyptians as perfume and as medicine.

“We also discovered that these people ate several other plants and we found traces of smoke, evidence for cooking, and for chewing plant fibres to prepare raw materials. These small biographical details add to the growing evidence that prehistoric people had a detailed understanding of plants long before the development of agriculture.”

Al Khiday is a complex of five archaeological sites which lie 25km south of Omdurman; one of the sites is predominantly a burial ground of pre-Mesolithic, Neolithic and Later Meroitic age. As a multi-period cemetery, it gave the researchers a useful long-term perspective on the material recovered.

The researchers found ingestion of the purple nut sedge in both pre-agricultural and agricultural periods. They suggest that the plant’s ability to inhibit Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium which contributes to tooth decay, may have contributed to the unexpectedly low level of cavaties found in the agricultural population.

Dr Stephen Buckley, a Research Fellow at the University of York’s BioArCh research facility, conducted the chemical analyses. He said: “The evidence for purple nut sedge was very clear in samples from all the time periods we looked at. This plant was evidently important to the people of Al Khiday, even after agricultural plants had been introduced.”

Dr Donatella Usai, from the Instituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente in Rome led the excavation and Dr Tina Jakob from Durham University’s Department of Archaeology, performed the analysis of the human remains at Al Khiday. Anita Radini, an Archaeobotanist at the University of Leicester Archaeological Service (ULAS) and a PhD candidate at BioArCh, University of York, contributed to the analysis of microfossils found in the dental calculus samples.

Dr Usai said: “Al Khiday is a unique site in the Nile valley, where a large population lived for many thousands of years. This study demonstrates that they made good use of the locally available wild plant as food, as raw materials, and possibly even as medicine.”

Dr Hardy added: “The development of studies on chemical compounds and microfossils extracted from dental calculus will help to counterbalance the dominant focus on meat and protein that has been a feature of pre-agricultural dietary interpretation, up until now. The new access to plants ingested, which is provided by dental calculus analysis, will increase, if not revolutionise, the perception of ecological knowledge and use of plants among earlier prehistoric and pre-agrarian populations.”

Fieldwork was funded by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, Centro Studi Sudanesi e Sub-Sahariani, and the Universities of Milano, Padova and Parma. The research was endorsed by the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) of Sudan.

Stephen Buckley, Donatella Usai, Tina Jakob, Anita Radini, Karen Hardy. Dental Calculus Reveals Unique Insights into Food Items, Cooking and Plant Processing in Prehistoric Central Sudan. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (7): e100808 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100808

Original article :

sciencedaily.com

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Dental Plaque Hints at Prehistoric Plant Knowledge.

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