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An Early Bronze Age burial mound in Georgia, known as a kurgan, held in its depths astonishingly well preserved wild fruits. Sitting underground for thousands of years, left as nourishment for the hungry souls of the dead, these fruits even exuded the aroma of fresh fruit when researchers sliced into them.

They were preserved in honey. Honey was also found on the bones in the burial chamber, suggesting it may have been used for embalming the corpses.

Honey has a low concentration of water and a high concentration of sugar. Much like salt, it can push the water out of bacteria cells, drying them up before they can get to the food (or corpses) the honey is protecting. Honey is essentially a combination of sugars and hydrogen peroxide. Just as hydrogen peroxide is used to clean bacteria from wounds, it can also kill bacteria that cause food to spoil.

Ancient Assyrians, who lived in a region east of Egypt, also preserved corpses in honey. When Alexander the Great conquered the Persian city of Susa in the 4th century B.C., he found large quantities of 200-year-old purple dye well-preserved under a layer of honey.

Skipping ahead to 2011, researchers isolated a bacterial strain in some types of honey that has very unusual properties. One of it’s surprising characteristics is its ability to produce a compound, thurincin H, that forms into a helical structure. This structure may allow it to infiltrate the membranes of other bacteria to destroy it.

“Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the compound mimics the structure of the molecules that form bacterial membranes … but it may disrupt those membranes by forming a rigid pore,” explained a Cornell University article.

Other Significant Finds in the Kurgan

Dr. Zurab Makharadze, head of the Centre of Archaeology at the Georgian National Museum, explained via email some other significant finds at the kurgan.

The mound was about 330 feet across, and the inner space of the construction was 30 by 20 feet. It contained two four-wheeled wagons, some of the best surviving examples of such devices from the time.
Archaeologists found evidence of ancient robbery, including tunnels into the chamber and disturbed artifacts and human remains. It is possible some of the robbers had attended the burial ceremony, as some evidence suggest the thieves knew what was placed where, Makharadze told Georgian publication Agenda.

It appears the family contained in the chamber was accompanied in death by servants—human sacrifices.

Riches remained despite the robberies, including ornamented vessels, amber beads, and 23 golden items, “among them rare and high artistic crafted jewelry,” Makharadze said. A unique wooden armchair was found, along with nuts, red berries, textiles, and arrowheads.

The good condition and unique nature of many of the artifacts make this an important site, Makharadze said: “[It] keeps huge scientific information and its importance is undoubtedly obvious for Caucasian and Near East archaeology.”

Agenda noted that the kurgan sites are as important to understanding ancient Georgian culture as the pyramids are in the study of ancient Egypt. The human remains are being tested at a lab in Germany to determine the relationships between the people buried in this kurgan and how they died.

Original article:
By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times |

theepochtimes.com

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Chiles are an ancient food, New Mexico Chiles are a vital product of a cuisine unique to the state.Please support the chili growers in New Mexico if you are able.

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) – The green chile peppers roasting aromatically outside an Albuquerque supermarket are perhaps New Mexico’s most famed and recognizable product.

But these pungent palate pleasers are under threat from shrinking harvests and tough competition from foreign imports.

“It’s the essence of New Mexico,” said Shawn Barela, a lover of chile peppers just having made a five-hour round trip to Hatch, a village in Dona Ana County world renown for the quality of its chile.

“It’s got a unique taste you can’t find anyplace else,” Barela said, watching a store clerk turn a large metal drum to roast one of the two 40-pound sacks of green chiles he had brought back with him.

The annual chile festival in Hatch, which has fewer than 2,000 residents, is an exuberant affair that each Labor Day draws 10 times that number of visitors.

September is marked by the aroma of roasting chile in supermarket parking lots and on backyard grills throughout New Mexico. Locals bring peppers to rotate in large barrels over a propane flame, slowly darkening the skin from green to light brown in a process that not only brings out their flavor but helps preserve the chiles for freezing and use in meals for much of the rest of the year.

Year-round sunshine in the southern part of the state, combined with nutrient rich soil in the Hatch Valley, make home-grown chiles the finest in the world, locals say.

But few like to talk about the diminishing crop. The size of the New Mexico chile pepper harvest shrank by more than 40 percent over the last decade, from nearly 110,000 tons in 2004 to some 65,000 tons in 2013, according to the U.S. and New Mexico Departments of Agriculture.

The crop’s value also has seen a sharp decline. In 2012, New Mexico chile farmers brought in a total of $65.4 million, compared with last year’s estimated $49.5 million.

“I don’t think we’ll ever stop growing chile here on a small level, but our nationwide market is definitely endangered,” said Jaye Hawkins, administrator at the New Mexico Chile Association, which advocates on behalf of local growers.

HOT COMPETITION

Hawkins attributed the beginning of the local crop’s decline to the North American Free Trade Agreement in the mid 1990s which flooded the market with Mexican chile.

Rival growers in nations such as China, India and Peru also benefit from lower labor and production costs.

A local ties a ristra to dry chile peppers in Hatch, New Mexico in an undated photo provided by the …
“These are really large challenges that make it difficult for us to compete,” Hawkins said.

More than 4,000 full-time and thousands of part-time seasonal workers are employed in chile farming in New Mexico. Hawkins said she feared for their future if the competition from overseas heats up.

About 82 percent of chile peppers consumed in the United States are now imported, and producers in New Mexico have had to fight to make their brand stand apart – in much the way farmers label “Florida” oranges or “California” grapes.

In 2012, the state legislature signed into law the New Mexico Chile Advertising Act, which prohibits marketing peppers produced in other states as authentic New Mexico chile.

The law, enforced by the state’s Department of Agriculture, requires restaurants to post prominently that the chile peppers used in their meals were grown elsewhere.

Failure to comply can result in a “stop sale” order, and Hawkins estimated that nearly two dozen summonses have been issued so far.

“This helps us raise awareness that chile advertised as being from New Mexico is actually from New Mexico,” she said. “It helps bring the brand back.”

(Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Jill Serjeant and Gunna Dickson)

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The influence of climate on agriculture is believed to be a key factor in the rise and fall of societies in the Ancient Near East. Dr. Simone Riehl of Tübingen University’s Institute for Archaeological Science and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment has headed an investigation into archaeological finds of grain in order to find out what influence climate had on agriculture in early farming societies. Her findings are published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

She and her team analyzed grains of barley up to 12,000 years old from 33 locations across the Fertile Crescent to ascertain if they had had enough water while growing and ripening. Riehl found that periods of drought had had noticeable and widely differing effects on agriculture and societies in the Ancient Near East, with settlements finding a variety of ways to deal with the problem.

The 1,037 ancient samples were between 12,000 and 2,500 years old. They were compared with modern samples from 13 locations in the former Fertile Crescent. Dr. Riehl and her team measured the grains’ content of two stable carbon isotopes. When barley grass gets insufficient water while growing, the proportion of heavier carbon isotopes deposited in its cells will be higher than normal. The two isotopes 12C und 13C remain stable for thousands of years and can be measured precisely – giving Simone Riehl and her colleagues reliable information on the availability of water while the plants were growing.

They found that many settlements were affected by drought linked to major climate fluctuations. “Geographic factors and technologies introduced by humans played a big role and influenced societies’ options for development as well as their particular ways of dealing with drought,” says Riehl. Her findings indicate that harvests in coastal regions of the northern Levant were little affected by drought; but further inland, drought lead to the need for irrigation or, in extreme cases, abandonment of the settlement.

The findings give archaeologists clues as to how early agricultural societies dealt with climate fluctuations and differing local environments. “They can also help evaluate current conditions in regions with a high risk of crop failures,” Riehl adds. The study is part of a German Research Foundation-backed project looking into the conditions under which Ancient Near Eastern societies rose and fell.

More information: Simone Riehl, Konstantin Pustovoytov, Heike Weippert, Stefan Klett, Frank Hole:Drought stress variability in ancient Near Eastern agricultural systems evidenced by δ13C in barley grain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 August 2014.

Original article:
phys.org

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Samples taken from these sites: Top, left to right: Ghab Valley (western Syria), Iron Age settlement of Zincirli, Hatay Province (SE Turkey), and Hittite-era settlement of Nerik (near Samsun,Turkey); Middle, left to right: irrigation channel …more

Beer, scientists have long argued, helped give rise to civilization in an arc of land that sweeps from modern-day Egypt to the border between Iraq and Iran. Today, chemical analysis of barley grains, one of beer’s key ingredients, is bolstering research into climate change’s role in the collapse of ancient societies.

“There has been a longtime debate about the relationship between climate and its changes and the development and in some cases demise of cultures,” Frank Hole, an emeritus professor of anthropology at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and a study co-author, explained to NBC News. “The research that we did is attempting to pinpoint this more directly.”

To do this, he and colleagues collected samples of modern and ancient barley grains throughout the Near East and analyzed them to tease out the impact on agriculture of so-called mega-droughts over the past 10,000 years. The existence of these droughts has been inferred from sources such as pollen and microscopic animals in cores of soil pulled from lake and ocean bottoms.
“What’s new in this paper is that barley grains excavated at archaeological sites across the Near East also reveal the same abrupt climate changes,” Harvey Weiss, who studies Near Eastern archaeology and the environment at Yale University, told NBC News. He was not part of the new research, which he added “shows that even with human cultivation practices, these drought periods are well marked.”

The evidence stems from the way carbon isotopes in barley vary with water availability. “Together with other archaeological information they can provide a clearer picture on the fate of ancient societies,” study leader Simone Riehl, an archaeologist based at the University of Tübingen in Germany, told NBC News in an email.

Diverse Impacts

The barley analysis indicates that drought stress was indeed an issue for these ancient societies, “but its regional impact was diverse and influenced by geographic factors,” Riehl, Hole, and colleagues write in a paper published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For example, coastal farmers were largely unaffected by the droughts and grew copious amounts of barley for beer, bread, and other staples. Further inland, societies were forced to adapt when rains failed to materialize. Some developed irrigation systems. Others switched to more drought tolerant crops. “Sometimes they adapted by getting out and moving someplace else,” Hole said.

Abandonment, he added, still happens in modern times. In Syria, for example, about 70 percent of the country’s agricultural villages were abandoned during a drought that lasted from 2006 to 2010.

“People moved westward, where the water is in effect, but also where the big cities are. They wound up in places like Aleppo and so you have Aleppo being filled with refugees from these farming areas just at the eve of the Arab uprising and these (refugees) then became fodder for the uprising,” he said. Drought also underpinned the flight of migrants from Oklahoma during the dust bowl of the 1930s, he added.

Lessons for the Future

The ancient droughts in the Near East occurred in the absence of human influence such as burning fossil fuels that fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, arrived abruptly, and surprised local populations, according to Weiss. “They differ in that regard from our present world where we know precisely what is happening, we know when it is happening, and we know what its effects are and will be,” he said.

“In that regard,” he continued, “these ancient mega-drought occurrences are a very strong and reinforcing lesson for us who have the ability to literally understand the present and see the future … to take positive action to either avert what we see coming or mitigate its effects and protect our populations.”

Indeed, modern brewers of beer are keenly aware of water stress, particularly in California which is in the midst of years-long drought. “Without water, we physically can’t make beer,” Cheri Chastain, the sustainability coordinator for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, Calif., told NBC News.

In addition to measures to conserve water within the brewery such as using a silicon-based lubricant on the bottling line instead of soapy water, the brewer has an on-site farm where 11 acres of hops and 30 acres of barley are grown. The harvest is used for an annual Estate Ale and experience gained on the farm leads to “more intelligent conversations with our growers” about conserving water, Chastain said.

The good news for beer drinkers is that most of the country’s barley is grown in the Pacific Northwest and Great Plains, which are not currently as severely impacted by drought. “There are some hop and barley farms in California, it is just not a tremendous amount of volume,” Chastain said. “It is more the orchard crops. They are struggling.”

Original article:
By John Roach NBC News
nbc news

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Bronze Age wine cellar found.

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Ancient shellfish remains rewrite 10,000-year history of El Nino cycles.

New World Cereal-Maze

Ancientfoods:

My very first post as Ancient Foods, including today I’ve had 113,293 visitors! Thanks

Originally posted on Ancientfoods:

Topic: Maze

Looking at Current World Archaeology, I’m both pleased and amazed; a grass that marks the beginnings of domestic corn (maze) has finally been found in Mexico. Archaeobotanist Dolores Piperno and anthropologist Anthony Ranere have found what they believe to be a large wild grass (Balsas teosinte) in Mexico’s Central Balsas River Valley that is genetically close to domesticated maze. Piperno and Ranere also found evidence from lake sediments of early agriculture and plant remains that are unique to domesticated maze. Samples were taken from shelters and caves in the area, of tools and plant remains. At one site near Xihuatoxtla, they found grinding tools containing tiny bits of domesticated maze starch in their cracks and crevices dating to 8,700 BP (before present).

Dolores Piperno believes these new findings establish tropical southwest Mexico as an important center where early agriculture occurred in the New World. She also believes…

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