The geeky gardener has nominated me for the versatile blogger award my thanks to her.
A link to her site is geeky gardener.com
I will put up my nominations soon, busy with guests in town.
The geeky gardener has nominated me for the versatile blogger award my thanks to her.
A link to her site is geeky gardener.com
I will put up my nominations soon, busy with guests in town.
Topic more on Egyptian meat mummies!
I found this on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America web site.
This unique research on the chemical composition of organic balms of food mummies completes the trilogy of mummy types known from Ancient Egypt, complementing previous investigations of human and animal mummies. Our findings show that the Ancient Egyptians prepared the food offerings they made to their dead using preservation techniques at least as exotic as those used in embalming human and animal mummies. The discovery of the precious Pistacia resin on a beef rib mummy is especially noteworthy because the use of this substance is rare even in human mummies.
The funeral preparations for ancient Egyptian dead were extensive. Tomb walls were often elaborately painted and inscribed with scenes and objects deemed desirable for the afterlife. Votive objects, furniture, clothing, jewelry, and importantly, food including bread, cereals, fruit, jars of wine, beer, oil, meat, and poultry were included in the burial goods. An intriguing feature of the meat and poultry produced for the deceased from the highest levels of Egyptian society was that they were mummified to ensure their preservation. However, little is known about the way they were prepared, such as whether balms were used, and if they were used, how they compared with those applied to human and animal mummies? We present herein the results of lipid biomarker and stable carbon isotope investigations of tissues, bandaging, and organic balms associated with a variety of meat mummies that reveal that treatments ranged from simple desiccation and wrapping in bandages to, in the case of the tomb of Yuya and Tjuia (18th Dynasty, 1386–1349 BC), a balm associated with a beef rib mummy containing a high abundance of Pistacia resin and, thus, more sophisticated than the balms found on many contemporaneous human mummies.
Katherine A. Clarka, Salima Ikramb, and Richard P. Eversheda,1
aOrganic Geochemistry Unit, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TS, United Kingdom; and
bDepartment of Egyptology, American University in Cairo, New Cairo 11835, Egypt
Edited by Frank Hole, Yale University, New Haven, CT, and approved October 16, 2013 (received for review August 9, 2013)
Beef rib meat mummy from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuiu (1386-1349 BC). Credit: Image courtesy of PNAS.
Topic: Mummified Meat
A study team consisting of researchers from the University of Bristol, UK, and the American University in Cairo, Egypt, are suggesting that some ancient Egyptian meat mummies were embalmed with organic compounds, including one meat mummy that showed evidence for the use of Pistacia resin, a highly valued luxury item.
Meat victual mummies, which are wrapped and embalmed meaty portions or joints of animals such as cattle or poultry, have typically been found within the ancient tombs of royal and high status individuals in Egypt. They are thought to have been meant as food items for consumption by the deceased in the afterlife. Such were discovered, for example, within 48 carved wooden cases in the tomb of King Tutankhamun (died c. 1323 BCE). Unlike other foods found preserved by dehydration within the tombs, however, the victual meats had to be treated in ways similar to that of the humans and animal mummies, “as untreated meat would not last more than a few hours in the Egyptian heat.”* But the exact elemental components of the substances used in the process of victual meat mummy treatment has been unclear, until now.
To investigate this, Richard Evershed and colleagues from the University of Bristol and the American University analyzed the chemical composition of tissue samples and bandages from four meat mummies – that of a calf from the tomb of Isetemkheb (c. 1064-948 BCE), a duck and goat from the tomb of Henutmehyt (c. 1290 BCE), and beef ribs from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuiu (1386-1349 BCE). They concluded that these meat mummies were prepared using a diverse range of organic compound treatments. As reported by the study group, the external bandages from a victual calf mummy contained a mixture of compounds from animal fat, but no evidence of waxes or resins. They knew this because the bandages they sampled were not in direct contact with the meat, and thus the compounds were interpreted to have been deliberately applied and not simply originating from the meat itself. Similar animal fat-derived compounds were detected with the mummified goat leg sample, but not with the mummified duck sample.
The most interesting find, however, came from the analysis of the bandages associated with the mummified beef ribs (pictured above). That sample contained a mixture of fat or oil, beeswax, and Pistacia resin. Pistacia has been considered a comparatively rare luxury item in ancient Egypt.
“The date of the occurrence of Pistacia resin associated with this meat mummy predates any known association with human mummies by some 600 years,” reports Evershed, et al., “although this might change with further investigations of human mummies. The ﬁnding of Pistacia resin on this meat mummy likely relates to the status of the burial; this meat mummy was part of the funerary assemblage of the parents of Queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep III (c. 1386–1349 BC) (34), making it among the highest status mummy balm thus far chemically analyzed in modern times.”
Conclude the researchers: “Our findings show that the sophistication of the burial extended not only to the organic balming treatments applied to the bodies themselves but also to the foods, particularly the meats, interred with them.”*
The detailed study was published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on November 18, 2013.
Sources: Edited and adapted from a PNAS press release, excerpts from published study (see reference below).
* Article #13-15160: “Organic chemistry of balms used in the preparation of pharaonic meat mummies,” by Katherine A. Clark, Salima Ikram, and Richard P. Evershed.
November 18, 2013
This photo shows the vessels that tested positive for Capsicum. Each vessel had a culinary use. Credit: Roberto Lopez and Emiliano Gallaga Murrieta
Topic Early use of peppers
Chili peppers may have been used to make spicy beverages thousands of years ago in Mexico, according to new research published November 13 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Terry Powis at Kennesaw State University and colleagues from other institutions.
Capsicum species are usually referred to as chili peppers, and their uses are well known in the history of Spain and Portugal. There are relatively few sites in Mesoamerica, Central America, and South America that contain remains of Capsicum, and therefore, we know little about how groups such as the Mayans and the Mixe-Zoquean, inhabitants of the site studied here, used chili peppers in those regions.
In this study, the authors used chemical extractions to reveal the presence of Capsicum residues in pottery samples from a site in southern Mexico. Some of these pottery vessels were over 2000 years old, dating from 400 BC to 300 AD.
They found Capsicum residue in multiple types of jars and vessels, which suggests that those cultures may have been using chili peppers for many different culinary purposes. For instance, Capsicum was found in a vessel called a sprouted jar, which is used for pouring a liquid into another container. The authors suggest that chili peppers may have been used to prepare spicy beverages or dining condiments. Powis elaborates, “The significance of our study is that it is the first of its kind to detect ancient chili pepper residues from early Mixe-Zoquean pottery in Mexico. While our findings of Capsicum species in these Preclassic pots provides the earliest evidence of chili consumption in well-dated Mesoamerican archaeological contexts, we believe our scientific study opens the door for further collaborative research into how the pepper may have been used either from a culinary, pharmaceutical, or ritual perspective during the last few centuries before the time of Christ.”
More information: Powis TG, Gallaga Murrieta E, Lesure R, Lopez Bravo R, Grivetti L, et al. (2013) Prehispanic Use of Chili Peppers in Chiapas, Mexico. PLoS ONE 8(11): e79013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079013
November 13, 2013
Huts used for storing fodder dot the floodplains, where sedges have been harvested for hundreds of years without additional fertilization. Early settlers cleared willows to encourage and harvest sedges and grasses. Credit: T DeLuca/U of Washington
Topic: Early Agriculture in the North
Floods didn’t make floodplains fertile during the dawn of human agriculture in the Earth’s far north because the waters were virtually devoid of nitrogen, unlike other areas of the globe scientists have studied.
Instead, the hardy Norsemen and early inhabitants of Russia and Canada have microorganisms called cyanobacteria to mostly thank for abundant grasses that attracted game to hunt and then provided fodder once cattle were domesticated. The process is still underway in the region’s pristine floodplains.
The new findings are surprising because it’s long been assumed that nitrogen crucial to plant growth mainly arrived with floods of river water each spring, according to Thomas DeLuca, a University of Washington professor of environmental and forest sciences and lead author of a paper in the Nov. 6, 2013 issue of the journal PLOS ONE.
Discovering that cyanobacteria in the floodplains were responsible for nitrogen fixation – that is taking it from the atmosphere and “fixing” it into a form plants can use – partially resolves the scientific debate of how humans harvested grasses there for hundreds of years without fertilizing, DeLuca said. It raises the question of whether farmers today might reduce fertilizer use by taking advantage of cyanobacteria that occur, not just in the floodplains studied, but in soils around the world, he said.
It also might lead to more accurate models of nitrogen in river systems because none of the prominent models consider nitrogen being fixed in floodplains, DeLuca said. Scientists model nitrogen loading of rivers, especially where industrial fertilizers and effluent from wastewater-treatment plants cause dead zones and other problems in the lower reaches and mouths of rivers.
Ten rivers and 71 flood plains were studied in northern Fennoscandia, a region that includes parts of Scandinavia and Finland. The rivers were chosen because their upper reaches are pristine, haven’t been dammed and are not subject to sources of human-caused nitrogen enrichment – much like river systems humans encountered there hundreds of years ago, as agriculture emerged in such “boreal” habitats. Boreal habitat – found at 60 degrees latitude and north all the way into the Arctic Circle, where it meets tundra habitat – is the second largest biome or habitat type on Earth.
In the northern regions of the boreal, the surrounding hillsides have thin, infertile soils and lack shrubs or herbs that can fix nitrogen. In these uplands, feather mosses create a microhabitat for cyanobacteria, which fix a modest amount of nitrogen that mostly stays on site in soils, trees and shrubs. Little of it reaches waterways. On the floodplains, high rates of nitrogen fixation occur in thick slimy black mats of cyanobacteria growing in seasonably submerged sediments and coating the exposed roots and stems of willows and sedges.
“We joke and call the floodplains the ‘mangroves of the North’ because there are almost impenetrable tangles of willow tree roots in places, like a micro version of the tropical and subtropical mangroves that are known to harbor highly active colonies of cyanobacteria,” DeLuca said.
“It turns out there’s a lot of nitrogen fixation going on in both,” he said. For example, the scientists discovered that in spite of the dark, cold, snowy winters of Northern Sweden, the cyanobacteria there fix nitrogen at rates similar to those living the life in the toasty, sun-warmed Florida Everglades.
The amount of nitrogen provided by the cyanobacteria to unharvested willows and sedges is perhaps a quarter of what U.S. farmers in the Midwest apply in industrial fertilizers to grain crops and as little as a sixth of what they apply to corn.
Human-made fertilizers can be fuel-intensive to produce and use, for example, it takes the energy of about a gallon of diesel to produce 4 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer. In developing countries in particular, nitrogen fertilization rates are spiraling upward, driving up fossil-fuel consumption, DeLuca said. Meanwhile, cyanobacteria naturally occurring in farm soils aren’t fixing nitrogen at all in the presence of all that fertilizer, they just don’t expend the energy when nitrogen is so readily available, he said.
“Although modest in comparison to modern fertilization, the observation that cyanobacteria could drive the productivity of these boreal floodplain systems so effectively for so long makes one question whether cyanobacteria could be used to maintain the productivity of agricultural systems, without large synthetic nitrogen fertilizer inputs,” he said.
Source Credit: Sandra Hines, University of Washington press release.
Co-authors of the paper are Olle Zackrisson and Ingela Bergman with the Institute for Subarctic Landscape Research, Sweden, Beatriz Díez
Photo,Sedges and willow trees get the nitrogen they need from cyanobacteria living in the sediments of pristine boreal floodplains found at 60 degrees latitude and north into the Arctic Circle. Credit: T DeLuca/U of Washington
November 6, 2013
Topic Ancient Cattle Farming
An international team of researchers, co-led by scientists at the University of York and Yunnan Normal University, has produced the first multi-disciplinary evidence for management of cattle populations in northern China, around the same time cattle domestication took place in the Near East, over 10,000 years ago.
The domestication of cattle is a key achievement in human history. Until now, researchers believed that humans started domesticating cattle around 10,000 years ago in the Near East, which gave rise to humpless (taurine) cattle, while two thousand years later humans began managing humped cattle (zebu) in Southern Asia.
However, the new research, which is published in Nature Communications, reveals morphological and genetic evidence for management of cattle in north-eastern China around 10,000 years ago, around the same time the first domestication of taurine cattle took place in the Near East. This indicates that humans may have started domesticating cows in more regions around the world than was previously believed.
A lower jaw of an ancient cattle specimen was discovered during an excavation in north-east China, and was carbon dated to be 10,660 years old. The jaw displayed a unique pattern of wear on the molars, which, the researchers say, is best explained to be the results of long-term human management of the animal. Ancient DNA from the jaw revealed that the animal did not belong to the same cattle lineages that were domesticated in the Near East and South Asia.
The combination of the age of the jaw, the unique wear and genetic signature suggests that this find represents the earliest evidence for cattle management in north-east China; a time and place not previously considered as potential domestication centre for cattle.
The research was co-led in the Department of Biology at the University of York by Professor Michi Hofreiter and Professor Hucai Zhang of Yunnan Normal University.
Professor Hofreiter said: “The specimen is unique and suggests that, similar to other species such as pigs and dogs, cattle domestication was probably also a complex process rather than a sudden event.” Johanna Paijmans, the PhD student at York who performed the DNA analysis, said: “This is a really exciting example of the power of multi-disciplinary research; the wear pattern on the lower jaw itself is already really interesting, and together with the carbon dating and ancient DNA we have been able to place it in an even bigger picture of early cattle management.”
As well as researchers from the Departments of Biology and Archaeology at York, the research team also included scientists from Yunnan Normal University, Kunming; Peking University, Beijing; Northwest A & F University, Yangling, and the Museum of Haelongjiang in China, Trinity College, Dublin and the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen.
Archaeologist sifting for artifacts
Topic: More on ancient Native American Villages in Wyoming
13 Ancient Villages Discovered in Wyoming Mountains May Redraw Map of Tribal Migrations
High in the alpine forests of northwestern Wyoming, archaeologists have discovered more than a dozen villages dating back over 2,000 years, a find that could alter our understanding of the scope of human habitation in the ancient West, as well as the histories and migrations of the people who lived there.
And although the discovery of these sites was in many ways unexpected, the scientists who found them actually predicted they would be there.
An archaeologist screens for artifacts at the site of a prehistoric village in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. [Image (C) Matthew Stirn]
The villages were found across more than 300 square kilometers in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, at elevations over 3,200 meters, making some of them the highest prehistoric sites ever found in Wyoming — and possibly the oldest high-altitude settlements found anywhere in North America.
The sites are replete with artifacts like groundstones, projectile points, and pottery, plus pipes and other wares carved out of soapstone. They also feature several — sometimes as many as 70 — stone-lined circular platforms hewn out of the mountain slopes: the foundations of wooden “superstructures” thought to have been lodges.
Judging by the settlements’ lofty location, along with their architectural features and artifacts, archaeologists believe they were built by early Numic-speaking peoples, the mountain-dwelling ancestors of the diverse but related tribes that today include the Comanche, Ute, Shoshone and Northern Paiute.
“In archaeological research, mountains have generally been overlooked as fringes, boundaries, and marginal landscapes,” said Matthew Stirn of the University of Sheffield in an interview. He announced the discovery in a recent study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
“When we came across [these] villages in the Winds, it proved that not only did family groups live for long periods of time in the mountains, it also showed that this practice occurred rather consistently for several thousand years throughout prehistory.”
As important as the newly found villages are, they were not the first to be discovered in the Wind River Range, Stirn noted.
In 2006, Dr. Richard Adams of Colorado State University and his team found a prehistoric village at 3,500 meters above sea level, with evidence of more than 65 residential structures.
Dubbed High Rise Village, the site featured artifacts and traces of lodges dating over at least 2,500 continuous years, opening up a new frontier of high-altitude archaeology in the intermountain West.
Stirn was part of the team that found High Rise Village, and in the following two years he and Adams, along with Bryon Schroeder of Montana State University, discovered five more villages in the mountain range that dated to around the same era.
“Much to our surprise, the high elevations of the Winds were more dense archaeologically than their surrounding lowlands,” Stirn said.
But perhaps more importantly, he added, “it was immediately apparent that the sites were situated in a distinct pattern.”
Specifically, he said, all of the villages were located in or near stands of whitebark pine trees, which are prolific producers of nutritious nuts. The lodge sites also contained an unusual abundance of tools, like groundstones, that have typically been associated with processing foods like pine nuts.
So Stirn set out to develop a model to predict the location of more, similar villages. He first determined all of the main traits that the newfound villages had in common — namely, that they were positioned on south-facing, sunny slopes near whitebark pine stands above 3,200 meters in elevation.
Then, using Landsat satellite imagery, Stirn and his colleagues identified whitebark pine stands in the northern Winds that best fit their model’s description. And in 2010, with the backing of the Explorer’s Club and the Abernethey Research Foundation, they lit out to investigate the sites predicted to be mostly likely to host prehistoric settlements.
In the end, each of the 13 areas they surveyed revealed traces of ancient villages — the remains of lodges, soapstone relics, and nut-milling tools associated with the lifeways of ancient Numic-speaking peoples.
But these sites posed a new quandary: Judging by the artifacts, the newly found villages appear to date to around the heyday of High Rise Village — about 2,000 to 2,500 years ago. But this is centuries older than — and the sites are thousands of kilometers away from — the only other Numic mountain villages known to exist, in Nevada and California.
Those sites farther West, first discovered in the 1980s, betrayed the same influences of Numic culture — including what Stirn describes as “the exact same tool kits” found in Wind River for processing pine nuts and other foods.
Considering that the Numic family of languages extends from Southern California up to Wyoming and Montana, it was conjectured at the time that the culture may have originated in these Southwestern mountains and migrated East.
But the California and Nevada villages were only around 1,400 years old, some 600 to 1,100 years younger than the sites in the Wind River Range.
“If the Numic spread originated in California and moved to Wyoming, how come the Wyoming sites are older than those in California?” Stirn asked.
“It has since been proposed … that the discovery of earlier villages in Wyoming provide evidence that the Numic spread might have occurred in the opposite direction.”
It could be, in other words, that mountain villages throughout the West could offer what Stirn calls “an archaeological roadmap” that plots the spread of Numic language.
“More corroborating evidence would be necessary to prove this, but for the time being, it is a very thought provoking possibility,” he said.
Excavation of the Wind River villages will help fill in the great missing gaps in the map of Numic history. For now, Stirn said, their discovery reveals the tremendous, and largely overlooked, potential of high-altitude archaeology to rewrite entire chapters of Western American history.
“Since 2006, we have surveyed roughly 800 miles and recorded well over a thousand sites and artifacts above 10,500 feet in Wyoming,” he said.
“This is very exciting, as it suggests that the mountains played an integral role in prehistory and have been frequented by humans consistently for thousands of years.”
By Blake de Pastino Nov 05,2013
Projectile points found at the sites of prehistoric lodges are indicative of Numic-speaking groups, the ancestors of modern Ute, Comanche and Paiute bands, archaeologists say. (Courtesy Matthew Stirn)
Fragments of a bowl made from soapstone, or steatite, are another sign of Numic culture. (Courtesy Matthew Stirn)