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Viking drinking hall

 

Scotsman.com

A Viking “drinking hall” that could have been used by a high-ranking chieftain 800 years ago has been unearthed in Orkney, archaeologists say.

The discovery was made at Skaill Farmstead in Westness, Rousay, and is believed to have been a high-status Norse hall, dating as far back as the tenth century.

Westness is mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga – a historical narrative of the archipelago – as the home of Sigurd, a powerful 12th-century chieftain.


The site offers an “unparalleled” opportunity to research eating habits in the region over a millennia, according to researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

The name Skaill suggests the site was home to a Norse hall or drinking hall and was a high-status site.

A team from the UHI Archaeology Institute, residents and students have been digging at the site for a number of years in an effort to find the building.

Dan Lee, co-director of the excavation project, said “The exciting news this season is that we have now found the hall at Skaill, as the place name suggests.

“You never know, but perhaps Earl Sigurd himself sat on one of the stone benches inside the hall and drank a flagon of ale.”

The hall is believed to date to the tenth to 12th centuries and was discovered below a more recent farmstead.

“Substantial” stone walls were found 5.5m apart, with internal features such as stone benches along either side.

The building appears to be more than 13m long and facing down a slope towards the sea, although it is not yet fully uncovered.

Finds have included soapstone from Shetland, pottery and a bone spindle whorl, while a fragment of a Norse bone comb was also unearthed.

Archaeologists have been investigating the later stages of the farm complex and its middens, with a particular focus on past diet, farming and fishing practices.

 

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Ancient fridg

 

Hurriyetdailynews.com

 

 

 

A farmer in eastern Turkey uncovered a pre-modern food storage device on July 24 while plowing his field.

The device, dating back to the late 1700s, was taken under protection by the Archeology and Ethnography Museum of Elazığ province, according to local officials.

“It is a natural refrigerator produced under contemporary conditions to preserve food for people centuries ago,” Baskil District Mayor İhsan Akmurat said.

The interior of the 1.4 meter-tall (4.6 feet) container is plastered with concrete mortar, and the exterior made of red clay to hold sustain humidity keep food fresh in the compartment.

Akmurat noted that the discovery shows the region was once an important residential area.

Maximilian Blackley
Adding the liquid yeast sample to flour made from ancient grains

Maximilian Blackley
The final product had a “cake-like” crumb, Mr Blakeley says

 

By Alix Kroeger BBC News

BBC.com

I have to say this is an exciting article for bread and ancient food lovers. My only wish is that they used Emmer grain, which is what the ancient Egyptian’s would have used, instead of Einkorn. JLP

 

The yeast microbes had been asleep for more than 5,000 years, buried deep in the pores of Egyptian ceramics, by the time Seamus Blackley came along and used them to bake a loaf of bread.

An amateur Egyptologist and one of the inventors of the Xbox game console, he’s also a keen hobby baker who routinely posts pictures of his breadmaking projects on social media.

He has, he admits, made his fair share of “horrible, rock-like loaves”. But this experiment was in a different league altogether.

The first step was to extract the yeast without destroying the vessels where it was held. With the help of archaeologist Dr Serena Love, Mr Blackley gained access to the collections of Egyptian beer- and bread-making vessels held in two museums in the US city of Boston.

And he enlisted the help of microbiologist Richard Bowman, a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa, to extract and identify the strains of yeast.

Mr Bowman injected nutrients into the ceramics, feeding the dormant yeasts and extracting the resulting liquid. Most of the samples were sent off for laboratory analysis, but Mr Blackley kept one back.

Using water, ancient grains and sterilised containers, he cultivated the starter for a week.

In order to get as close as possible to what the Egyptians would have recognised as bread, Mr Blackley fed the yeasts with grain he’d milled himself from barley and einkorn, an early form of wheat domesticated about 10,000 years ago.

“While this culture was sleeping, modern wheat was invented,” Mr Blackley explains. The oldest of the pyramids at Giza was built about 4,500 years ago – by that time, these yeast strains were already about 700 years old.

“It smelled very different from modern starters,” he says. “The bubbles were smaller: less pungent, but more active.”

But as any sourdough baker will tell you, yeasts are in the air and only need a suitable host or starter to multiply. So how to make sure that this really was Egyptian yeast, and not some modern interloper?

Previous experiments had used yeast samples scraped off the surfaces of pots, but these could easily be contaminated. An Israeli experiment had succeeded in extracting yeast from inside, but only by using methods destructive of the vessels themselves.

To rule out contamination, the yeast samples were sent off for genome sequencing. Some modern yeast strains have already been sequenced, making it possible to identify markers of modernity.

Mr Bowman admits he was surprised to get results so quickly from the first sampling, but the ability of yeast to lie dormant is well-known.

“The culture can go to sleep and be brought back,” he told the BBC. “Yeasts are very robust creatures.”

The ancient grains are more difficult to bake with, because they contain very little gluten, but Mr Blackley says the yeast “loved” them: “They created a nice structure and a cake-like crumb – very soft.”

The bread had a caramel aroma – sweeter than a modern sourdough. Mr Blackley scored the risen dough with a hieroglyph representing a loaf of bread.

This loaf was baked in a conventional kitchen oven, but as archaeologist Dr Love explains, the ancient Egyptians actually baked in heated ceramic pots.

In the next stage of the project, she and Mr Blakeley will work with ceramicists to recreate ancient Egyptian-style pots and start baking in them.

The impromptu research team already have permission from one more museum to extract yeast samples and have approached two other collections.

The idea is to collect yeast samples from the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms, which are each separated by 500 to 700 years, and bake with all of them.

Mr Bowman will sequence the genomes to track the genetic drift across the centuries.

“This is exactly the kind of stuff that archaeology is intended to do,” Dr Love enthuses. However, she adds: “This is grounded in science. This will be published in an academic journal.”

So are there any plans to develop the ancient yeasts for a wider audience?

“I was telling my fiancee about this – she went all quiet, but she works in marketing and she was trying to figure out a way to market this,” Mr Bowman says. “We’d like to do something to sell it – perhaps collect ancient recipes.”

For his part, Mr Blackley – who has studied hieroglyphs in sufficient depth to be able to translate them – robustly defends ancient Egypt from calumnies upon its cooking methods.

“This was a great civilisation and gastronomic tradition. The Pharaoh was the emperor of all the known earth. Now we can recreate their methods and share bread with them.”

 

 

Pottery containing egg shells

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

Archaeology.org

You might have seen a delicacy known as “century eggs” on Chinese restaurant menus or on the shelves of Asian markets and wondered, “Are those eggs really 100 years old?” (Answer: They aren’t. It actually only takes about a month to make them, using a pickling liquid made from lye, salt, and water, and then rolling the eggs in mud and wrapping them in rice husks.) In a recently excavated tomb in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, however, archaeologists found a jar filled with eggs dating all the way back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770–ca. 475 B.C.), making these incredible edibles at least 2,500 years old. Sadly, only the shells remain.

 

 

Frog carved from shell and mollusk shells

 

 

Archaeology.org

 

Around A.D. 400, archaeologists believe, children from the indigenous Caribbean Saladoid culture on the island of St. Thomas helped their mothers put food on the table by foraging. The researchers have found that a midden in downtown Charlotte Amalie contains thousands of mollusk shells, the majority of which are smaller snails that adults wouldn’t have bothered to collect because of their low meat yield. Rather, these smaller animals were gathered by Saladoid children, who scoured shallow areas along the shore. “Children made it possible to exploit a wider area more efficiently,” says archaeologist William Keegan of the Florida Museum of Natural History. They could fill a whole basket with small whelks, he explains, and still easily carry it back to their village.
 

Such aid was necessary because Saladoid communities were matrilocal, so men lived primarily in their mothers’ villages rather than with their wives and children. This made women responsible for providing most of the food for their families, says Keegan. They would supplement produce from their gardens with shellfish, collected in part by the helping hands of their children.

 

 

 

I just had to share this. All about food with amazing photos,envoking both the ancient and modern.  JLP

 

Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of national feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go. – Anthony Bourdain If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. – J.R.R. […]

via Everything We Are — Steve McCurry’s Blog

Early Neolithic sote

 

Heraldscotland.com

 

 

By Jody Harrison

THE first farmers to till the soil in Scotland may have initially put down roots in Aberdeenshire, archaeologists have said.

A team digging near Stonehaven have uncovered the earliest pottery remains ever found north of the border, dating back to 6,000 years ago.

The Neolithic artefacts indicate that the first settled communities may have sprung up in the region, which was previously occupied by ancient tribes of nomadic hunter gatherers.

Archaeologists believe they may have come across from mainland Europe by boat and settled nearby, instead of following major rivers inland.

The sherds of carinated bowls – the earliest type of pottery found in Britain – were discovered during work at Kirkton of Fetteresso by Cameron Archeaology.

New radiocarbon dating indicates they were probably deposited sometime between 3952 BC to 3766 BC, pre-dating previous finds by more than a century.

The beginning of the Neolithic period was one of the most significant periods in Scotland, marking an enormous change in the population and the landscape.

The act of farming the land was begun by new communities of settlers from Europe who brought new species of plants and animals, established permanent homes and cleared huge tracts of woodland, transforming the landscape.

Robert Lenfert, who co-authored a report on the discoveries, said: “This new evidence doesn’t support the previous notion that early Neolithic colonisation followed major rivers. “Rather, it is more convincing to postulate that this technology – and those capable of producing it – arrived directly via sea-routes into Stonehaven Bay, further supporting the evidence that this pottery is very early in the Neolithic period in Scotland.

There are only one or two sites in Britain which have similar early dates: Coupland in Northumberland and Eweford Pit in East Lothian, which corroborates the notion that the carinated bowl tradition first reached north-eastern Britain, primarily Scotland but also Northumbria, before becoming visible elsewhere in Britain.”

The team say Kirkton of Fetteresso was occupied by various groups down through the ages, with the dig revealing evidence of human occupation and activity spread over at least four and a half millennia from the early Neolithic to the early medieval period.

 

What is also particularly striking about Kirkton of Fetteresso is the apparent repetitive yet episodic activity within this relatively small area over at least four millennia,” said co-author Alison Cameron.

“The landscape surrounding the site contains numerous prehistoric features which span a similar timeframe, including Mesolithic remains and early Neolithic pits also containing carinated bowls.

 

“The new radiocarbon dating evidence we have gathered has revealed Kirkton of Fetteresso as a palimpsest of periodic activity covering the early Neolithic, the late Bronze Age, the early and middle to later Iron Ages (pre-Roman) and the early medieval or Pictish period.”

Analysis of the findings has been published on the archaeology reports online website.

 

 

 

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