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Oldest pub… Had to post this!

Originally posted on Jaunting Jen:

Jaunting Jen in the Ladies Box at the Haunch of venison

The Oldest Pub in England? Probably not, but the Haunch of Venison is definitely the oldest in Salisbury, and the most unique pub that I have ever visited. From the ‘ladies box” up front with its own door; to the pewter bar and severed hand on display, this place certainly has character and history. When I visited, it was practically empty, and I had the bartender’s undivided attention. Fortunately he didn’t mind that I tried to pry all of the secrets of the pub out of him before they started to get busy. However, he wouldn’t let us go in any of the secret doors, see the hidden bar accessible only through and underground staircase, or look into the tunnel that leads to the church.  Those mysteries were going to stay firmly in the realm of imagination and folklore.

Haunch of Venison Ground Floor Pub

The Haunch of Venison is located in Salisbury, England, not too from Salisbury Cathedral…

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Researchers gain new insights into ancient Pacific settlers’ diet.

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A ritual deposit, found intact beneath a first century Roman house in Sardis. The deposit, found inside two bowls, includes a number of small implements, a unique coin and an egg. The hole in the egg was made in antiquity.

Photos: Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/Harvard University
Topic: Ritual find and an egg

Sardis dig yields enigmatic trove: ritual egg in a pot

A ritual deposit, found intact beneath a first century Roman house in Sardis. The deposit, found inside two bowls, includes a number of small implements, a unique coin and an egg. The hole in the egg was made in antiquity.

By any measure, the ancient city of Sardis — home of the fabled King Croesus, a name synonymous with gold and vast wealth, and the city where coinage was invented — is an archaeological wonder.

The ruins of Sardis, in what is now Turkey, have been a rich source of knowledge about classical antiquity from the 7th century B.C., when the city was the capital of Lydia, through later Greek and Roman occupations.

Scholars digging at Sardis, the capital of ancient Lydia later occupied by Greeks and Romans. Sardis, in modern Turkey, was the fabled home of King Croesus, the richest man of his day, according to lore.

Now, however, Sardis has given up another treasure in the form of two enigmatic ritual deposits, which are proving more difficult to fathom than the coins for which the city was famous.

“The two deposits each consist of a small pot with a lid, a coin, a group of sharp metal implements and an egg, one of which is intact except for a hole carefully punched in it in antiquity,” explains Will Bruce, a classics graduate student a the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has been digging at Sardis for the past six years. Bruce made the finds last summer.

The dig at Sardis is overseen by Nicholas Cahill, a UW-Madison professor of art history. Cahill has directed field research at Sardis for decades. Both ritual deposits, says Cahill, date from the Roman era of Sardis, about A.D. 70 or 80.

Bruce and his team were excavating below the floor of a first century room, built over the ruins of an earlier building, which had probably been destroyed in a massive earthquake in A.D. 17.

Digging beneath the floor, Bruce and his colleagues first uncovered a thin-walled, nearly intact jug and, nearby, an assemblage of mostly unbroken pottery. “It looked like we were reaching a more intact deposit instead of fill,” says Bruce.

Within that assemblage, Bruce began to carefully uncover an inverted bowl, which turned out to be sitting on top of another bowl. The bowls, still filled with dirt, were carefully removed and immediately turned over to conservators who cleaned and dissembled them to find a set of small pointed instruments, a coin with a lion and portrait of Nero, and the intact egg.

“The ritual offerings were dug into pits in the floor, after the room was constructed,” says Cahill. “We know they were renovating the room periodically, because in another part of the space there was a dump of painted wall plaster buried under the floor, presumably in a renovation.”

“The meaning of these deposits is still quite open to interpretation,” notes Cahill, “but burying votive deposits below ground or in a wall was a fairly common practice,” perhaps as a ritual offering to protect the house. Roman literary sources suggest eggs were used in particular rituals.

For the archaeologists, part of the intrigue is that similar groups of bowls, needles, coins and eggs were discovered at Sardis more than 100 years ago when the temple of Artemis was excavated by Princeton University archaeologists. “It is an exact parallel to what they found in the early 20th century,” according to Cahill.

The coin was also unique. Sardis is famous as the place where coinage was invented in the Western world, first using electrum, an alloy of silver and gold, and later of pure gold and silver. Nearby sources of gold made ancient Lydia, and King Croesus, fabulously wealthy. While these Lydian coins are very rare, coins and coin hoards from later Greek and Roman occupiers of Sardis are routinely found.

But the coin found with the egg, says Cahill, seems to be special.

“The coin has a portrait of Nero on the front. The original reverse was hammered flat, and the image of a lion engraved in its place, which is very odd.” Expert numismatists have never seen anything like it. “The image of the lion is important because it is emblematic of the Lydian kings and of their native mother goddess Cybele,” Cahill says.

The discovery is unusual, Cahill notes, because finding ritualistic objects intact and in place after thousands of years is no everyday discovery, even in a rich archaeological context such as Sardis. “Ancient ritual was important to people. It is most unusual to find such fragile things so perfectly preserved.”

Original article:
wisc.edu
March 3, 2014 by Terry Devitt

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An inverted bowl, covering another bowl with a ritual deposit, emerges from the earth. The bowls contained a ritual deposit of a coin, small metal implements and an egg.

Decline of Bronze Age ‘megacities’ linked to climate change.

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Image from Wikipedia

Topic: The past meets today in Pompeii

An international team of researchers have discovered a ‘microbial Pompeii’ preserved on the teeth of skeletons around 1,000 years old. The key to the discovery is the dental calculus (plaque) which preserves bacteria and microscopic particles of food on the surfaces of teeth, effectively creating a mineral tomb for microbiomes.

The research team discovered that the ancient human oral cavity carries numerous opportunistic pathogens and that periodontal disease is caused by the same bacteria today as in the past, despite major changes in human diet and hygiene.

The researchers discovered that the ancient human oral microbiome already contained the basic genetic machinery for antibiotic resistance more than eight centuries before the invention of the first therapeutic antibiotics in the 1940s. As well as health information, the scientists recovered dietary DNA from ancient dental calculus, allowing the identification of dietary components, such as vegetables, that leave few traces in the archaeological record.

Led by the University of Zürich, the University of Copenhagen, and the University of York, this pioneering analysis of ancient oral microbiome ecology and function involved the contributions of 32 scientists at twelve institutions in seven countries.

The research published in Nature Genetics reveals that unlike bone which rapidly loses much of its molecular information when buried, calculus grows slowly in the mouth and enters the soil in a much more stable state helping it to preserve biomolecules. This enabled the researchers, led by Dr Christina Warinner, to analyse ancient DNA that was not compromised by the burial environment.

They applied shotgun DNA sequencing to dental calculus for the first time. They reconstructed the genome of a major periodontal pathogen and produced possibly the first genetic evidence of dietary biomolecules to be recovered from ancient dental calculus.

Analyzing this wealth of data required overcoming the formidable bioinformatics challenge of sorting and identifying millions of genetic sequences like puzzle pieces in order to reconstruct the complex biology of the ancient oral microbiome. “Dental calculus is a window into the past and may well turn out to be one of the best-preserved records of human-associated microbes,” says Professor Christian von Mering, an author of the study and Group Director at the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, which performed the bioinformatics analysis

Professor Matthew Collins, of the University of York, said: “We knew that calculus preserved microscopic particles of food and other debris but the level of preservation of biomolecules is remarkable. A microbiome entombed and preserved in a mineral matrix, a microbial Pompeii.”

Dr Warinner, of the University of Zurich and the University of Oklahoma, added: “Dental calculus acts both as a long-term reservoir of the oral microbiome and as a trap for dietary and environmental debris. This allows us to investigate health and disease, as well as reconstruct aspects of an individual’s life history and activities. Never before have we been able to retrieve so much information from one small sample.”

The study has wide reaching implications for understanding the evolution of the human oral microbiome and the origins of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease causes distinctive proteomic changes in the dentition and is characterized by chronic inflammation resulting in tooth and bone loss. Dr Enrico Cappellini of the University of Copenhagen, a senior author of the study, describes the dental calculus analyzed in this study as a kind of “battlefield archaeological site, just at the molecular scale.”

Today, moderate to severe periodontal disease affects more than 10% of the world’s population and is linked to diverse systemic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, pulmonary disease, and type II diabetes. Although common in humans, domestic pets, and zoo animals, periodontal disease does not typically develop in wild animals, leading to speculation that it is an oral microbiome disease resulting from modern human lifestyles.

“As we learn more about the evolution of this microbiome in response to migration and changes in diet, health and medicine, I can imagine a future in which most archaeologists regard calculus as more interesting than the teeth themselves,” says Professor Collins.

“The study of ancient microbiomes helps us understand the evolutionary history of human health and disease,” says Professor Frank Rühli, a senior author of the study and Head of the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zürich. “It informs modern medicine.”

Christina Warinner, João F Matias Rodrigues, Rounak Vyas, Christian Trachsel, Natallia Shved, Jonas Grossmann, Anita Radini, Y Hancock, Raul Y Tito, Sarah Fiddyment, Camilla Speller, Jessica Hendy, Sophy Charlton, Hans Ulrich Luder, Domingo C Salazar-García, Elisabeth Eppler, Roger Seiler, Lars H Hansen, José Alfredo Samaniego Castruita, Simon Barkow-Oesterreicher, Kai Yik Teoh, Christian D Kelstrup, Jesper V Olsen, Paolo Nanni, Toshihisa Kawai, Eske Willerslev, Christian von Mering, Cecil M Lewis, Matthew J Collins, M Thomas P Gilbert, Frank Rühli, Enrico Cappellini. Pathogens and host immunity in the ancient human oral cavity. Nature Genetics, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/ng.2906

Original article:

science daily

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Topic Ancient Cheese

Remains discovered with mummies in China prove to be oldest known samples of cheese.

Vintage Gouda may be aged for five years, some cheddar for a decade. They’re both under-ripe youngsters compared with yellowish clumps – found on the necks and chests of Chinese mummies – now revealed to be the world’s oldest cheese.

The Chinese cheese dates back as early as 1615 BC, making it by far the most ancient ever discovered. Thanks to the quick decay of most dairy products, there isn’t even a runner-up. The world’s best-aged cheese seems to be a lactose-free variety that was quick and convenient to make and may have played a role in the spread of herding and dairying across Asia.

“We not only identified the product as the earliest known cheese, but we also have direct … evidence of ancient technology,” says study author Andrej Shevchenko, an analytical chemist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics. The method was “easy, cheap … It’s a technology for the common people.”

The cheese, like the mummies, owes its existence to the extraordinary conditions at Small River Cemetery Number 5, in northwestern China. First documented by a Swedish archaeologist in the 1930s, it sits in the fearsome Taklamakan Desert, one of the world’s largest. A mysterious Bronze Age people buried dozens of their own atop a large sand dune near a now-dry river, interring their kin underneath what looks like large wooden boats. The boats were wrapped so snugly with cowhide that it’s as if they’d been “vacuum-packed,” Shevchenko says.

The combination of dry desert air and salty soil prevented decay to an extraordinary degree. The remains and grave goods were freeze-dried, preserving the light-brown hair and strangely non-Asian facial features of the dead along with their felt hats, wool capes and leather boots. Analysis of the plant seeds and animal tissues in the tombs showed the burials date to 1450 to 1650 BC.

Some of the bodies had oddly shaped crumbs on their necks and chests. By analyzing the proteins and fats in these clumps, Shevchenko and his colleagues determined that they’re definitely cheese, not butter or milk. It’s not clear why people were buried with bits of cheese on their bodies, Shevchenko says, though perhaps it was food for the afterlife.

The analysis also showed the mummies’ cheese was made by combining milk with a “starter,” a mix of bacteria and yeast. This technique is still used today to make kefir, a sour, slightly effervescent dairy beverage, and kefir cheese, similar to cottage cheese.

If the people of the cemetery did indeed rely on a kefir starter to make cheese, they were contradicting the conventional wisdom. Most cheese today is made not with a kefir starter but with rennet, a substance from the guts of a calf, lamb or kid that curdles milk. Cheese was supposedly invented by accident when humans began carrying milk in bags made of animal gut.

Making cheese with rennet requires the killing of a young animal, Shevchenko points out, and the kefir method does not. He argues that the ease and low cost of the kefir method would have helped drive the spread of herding throughout Asia from its origins in the Middle East. Even better, both kefir and kefir cheese are low in lactose, making them edible for the lactose-intolerant inhabitants of Asia. The new results are reported in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Scientists have found fragments of cheese-making strainers in Poland that date back more than 7,000 years, and there are Danish pots from 5,000 years ago that hold what may be butter or cheese, says bioarchaeologist Oliver Craig of the University of York in Britain. But he agrees that Shevchenko’s team has good evidence that their cheese is the record-holder for age.

Craig is more cautious about the new study’s suggestion that the cheese was made with kefir starter rather than rennet. That’s harder to prove, he says, because the proteins could have decayed too much to provide a definitive answer. He thinks a study of animal bones or pottery is needed to confirm that the cheese at the cemetery was part of a technological spread across Asia.

Whether the cheese was common in its day, it’s exceptional now. Usually if a dairy product is left to its own devices, “bacteria will get in and start to eat it away, liquefy it,” Craig says. “It’s just amazing it survived.”

Original article:
USA today
By Traci Watson, Special for USA TODAY 4:24 p.m. EST February 25, 2014

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Topic Ancient village

The remnants of a rural town that was lived in for some two centuries during the Second Temple period were uncovered near the main route to Jerusalem. In June 2013, Israel Natural Gas Lines began construction of the 22 mile-long project, which runs from the coast to the outskirts of Jerusalem, and in the process the village was uncovered. For the past six months the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has been conducting an archaeological salvage excavation of the site.

The excavations, which cover about 750 square meters, revealed a small rural town with a few stone houses and a network of narrow alleys. Each building, which probably housed a single nuclear family, consisted of several rooms and an open courtyard. According to Irina Zilberbod, excavation director on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, “The rooms generally served as residential and storage rooms, while domestic tasks were carried out in the courtyards.”

The town, whose name is unknown, is nestled at the top of a hill some 900 feet above sea level, with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. These large tracts of land were used to cultivate orchards and vineyards, the economic mainstay of the region’s inhabitants.

The excavations have shown that the site reached the peak of its development in the Hellenistic period (3rd century BCE), when Judea was ruled by the Seleucid Empire, established by one of Alexander the Great’s lieutenants. The town was probably abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty.

It is not known why the site was abandoned, but the event was probably related to economic problems and not to a violent incident. Jerusalem Regional Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch explained: “The phenomenon of villages and farms being abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty or the beginning of Herod’s rule is one that we are familiar with from many rural sites in Judea, and it may be related to Herod’s massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction at the Temple Mount, and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects.”

The excavations yielded numerous and varied archeological findings, including basalt and limestone grinding and milling tools for domestic use, pottery cooking pots, jars for storing oil and wine, pottery oil lamps for domestic use, and more than sixty coins, including coins from the reigns of the Seleucid King Antiochus III and the Hasmonean King Alexander Yanai.

In light of these finds, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the INGL have agreed that engineering plans for the gas line are to be revised, bypassing the site and preserving it as an accessible archaeological site for the public.

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Aerial photograph of the site. Photo credit: Skyview, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Original article:
Jewish press
Feb 18, 2014

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