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you will pardon the long wait for my post, I’m getting used to a new operating system! This desert is a favorite of mine, hard to imagine crops growing here, but at one time they did.

Chilean team members excavating ancient terraces(1)

 

High in the Atacama Desert, around 10,000 feet, anyone with a computer and Google Earth can look at the fields around Turi, Chile and see small neatly laid out fields, terraced and lined with rocks. No crops are growing there now, but it looks as though the farmers laid down their stone hoes and just walked away.

University of New Mexico Associate Professor of Anthropology Frances Hayashida says that is more or less what they did more than 500 years ago. The climate is so dry the fields and the elaborate irrigation systems are almost perfectly preserved.

“These are systems that were developed about 1,000 A.D. when people figured out how to divert water from springs which are recharged by snowmelt from the Andes,” says Hayashida. There wasn’t much water even then. Anthropologists haven’t yet tried to calculate exactly how much farmers had to work with, but farming was always marginal here.

It was conquest, first by the Incas, then by the Spanish that changed lifestyles of the indigenous people and made copper mining into a local industry. The Incas conquered this land in the early 1400’s.

“We think they brought in workers to work in the mines. They put in an extensive road system to be able to move ore and personnel back and forth,” says Hayashida. “But then they need to be able to feed everybody, right? So what happens to farming and water and farmers when they were conquered by the Inca and pulled into this bigger economy? That’s what our research is about.”

Hayashida is working with an international consortium of researchers from Chile, Spain and the United States. They have shared grant money from the Spanish Ministry of Culture, National Geographic, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the National Science Foundation and its Chilean equivalent CONICYT so they can work together to understand how the forces of history and climate changed life in this very remote desert community.

Collaboration is a challenge since the researchers work on different continents and have conflicting work schedules. In April, they will have a rare chance to get together in Santa Fe where they will be hosted by the School for Advanced Research. “We can sit around a table and everyone can present their research and where they are at this point. Then we can start planning what we want to do next and what publications we want to get out.” The visit will be brief. Several members of the group will go on to present their latest findings at the Society of American Archeology meeting in San Francisco.

Hayashida says they are interested in understanding exactly what the farmers were growing. They are examining the stone hoes for fragments of plants and searching for plant remains in the local garbage heaps and packrat middens to identify what they grew and understand whether the local varieties of maize, quinoa, and potatoes were different from varieties grown in the region today.

They’ve found many grinding stones at the site. Chilean archeologists who have worked here since the 80’s think the stones might have something to do with producing maize beer.

“One of the things that the Inca did in their plazas throughout the length and breadth of the empire was have big feasts, for ritual purposes, but also to show how generous they were to the conquered people,” says Hayashida. “This is something you would normally do with your neighbors, if they were working for you. You provide food and drink. So they just took this practice and did it on an imperial scale.”

The archeologists led by the Spanish team members are working with students from Chile and the U.S. to map the sites with drones. There is no vegetation and the canals that the farmers used are so coated with calcium carbonate that it is easy to follow the mineral trail of the water.

Hayashida says it’s clear the farmers used every bit of land and every bit of water they could access just to make a living, and fields seem to be designed to carefully conserve water. There are still a few farmers here, and the archeologists are talking to them to understand how they are able to grow anything in this desert.

Most of the water in this part of the Atacama Desert now is used in the copper mines and to support the local population that is gathered in the nearby city of Calama. Hayashida says this is a fascinating project for her. “It’s just a spectacular landscape, with this spectacular archeology that is related to questions that I am interested in, which have to do with water management and agriculture.” She has spent years working in the coastal regions of Peru, researching the influence of the Incas and other societies on agricultural production on a much larger scale.

The archeologists are likely to return to the fields later this year. There is still a lot of work to be done on the ground.

Students interested in joining some of the field schools that faculty members of the UNM Anthropology Department conduct throughout the year can find out more at the department website.

By Karen Wentworth

March 25, 2015

Original Article:

University Of New Mexico

It may not be an implausible leap to imagine a small band of hunter-gatherers composed of extended family and friends having a seasonal picnic on the beach about 100,000 years ago on what is today’s western South African Atlantic coast. It is a picture that could be painted with the help of results from a recent research study conducted by archaeologist Katharine Kyriacou of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and colleagues from the University of Tübingen and the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Following renewed excavations in 2011 under the University of Tûbingen’s N. J. Conard at the open-air coastal site of ‘Hoedjispunt 1’ (HDP1) located on a peninsula jutting out into the Saldanha Bay of South Africa’s southwestern Cape, Kyriacou and her colleagues performed extensive analysis and additional dating on assemblages of lithic artifacts and associated shellfish remains systematically collected from that site and other related sites in the region, such as the nearby sites of Lynch Point and Sea Harvest. These are sites that have yielded evidence of human occupation during the Middle Stone Age (MSA, or 280,000 – 50,000 BP), a time range within which anatomically modern humans (AMH), or early modern humans, were present on the African landscape. Their results showed clear collection and consumption/preparation of selected types of high meat-yielding shellfish using stone artifacts, some made locally and others transported from distant locales, within a pattern of short-term periodic encampments or stays. The HDP1site has been tentatively dated, based on past uranium series, infrared stimulated luminescence, and electron spin resonance dating, including new dating that is yet to be completed, to as early as 115 – 130 ka.

Kyriacou and colleagues reinforce an emerging view among scholars on the nature of early modern human habitation and movement in the coastal areas and their diets, which has significant implications for human evolution during this time period.

“Small groups of foragers engaged in the selective exploitation of a narrow range of mussels and limpets, particularly large species from the mid-intertidal, during relatively short excursions to the coast,” concluded the authors. “The integration of simple marine resources into the diets of people visiting the Atlantic west coast probably had major implications for the evolution of modern humans in this region. Shellfish represent an easily accessible and reliable source of nutrition on a landscape characterized by seasonal fluctuations in the availability of terrestrial resources [other prey further inland]. The consumption of even small quantities of mussels and limpets would have helped prehistoric people meet their requirements for essential nutrients, especially trace elements and polyunsaturated fatty acids [critical for brain development].”*

saldanha bay, South Africa

 

 

Original article:

Popular Archaeology

march 23, 2015

  

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A genetic study of papaya sex chromosomes reveals that the hermaphrodite version of the plant, which is of most use to growers, arose as a result of human selection, most likely by the ancient Maya some 4,000 years ago.

The study, reported in the journal Genome Research, homes in on a region of papaya’s male sex chromosome that, the study indicates, gave rise to the hermaphrodite plants. 

 “This research will one day lead to the development of a papaya that produces only hermaphrodite offspring, an advance that will enhance papaya root and canopy development while radically cutting papaya growers’ production costs and their use of fertilizers and water,” said University of Illinois plant biology professor Ray Ming, who led the research. Ming is a professor in the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois. 

Papaya plants are either male, female or hermaphrodite. The hermaphrodites produce the desirable fruit that is sold commercially. Growing hermaphrodites is costly and inefficient, however, because one-third of hermaphrodite fruit seeds and one-half of female fruit seeds generate female plants, which are useless to growers. Farmers cannot tell which seeds are hermaphrodites until the plant has flowered, so they plant multiple seeds together to maximize their chances of getting at least one hermaphrodite plant. Once they identify the desired plant, they cut the others down. 

The Y chromosome in papaya hermaphrodites, which is called Yh, arises from an altered form of the male Y chromosome. Researchers are keen to understand the genetic basis for this alteration, so they can develop “true-breeding” hermaphrodite papaya, which will produce only hermaphrodite offspring, Ming said. 

“Identification of an ancestral male population that the modified hermaphrodite Yh evolved from will allow us to track down the mutation that caused the male-to-hermaphrodite sex reversal,” he said. 

The researchers sequenced and compared the “male-specific” and “hermaphrodite-specific” regions of the Y and Yh sex chromosomes, respectively, in 24 wild male papaya and 12 cultivated hermaphrodite plants. They found less than half of one percent difference between the male and hermaphrodite sequences, suggesting that the evolutionary event that caused them to diverge occurred in the not-too-distant past. 

“The sex chromosomes in other organisms, such as mammals, are ancient and the genes involved in their initial evolution cannot be identified because many subsequent changes, including gene gains and losses, have occurred,” the authors wrote. Human sex chromosomes, for example, are an estimated 167 million years old, while papaya sex chromosomes date to about 7 million years ago. This makes the papaya a good model for understanding sex chromosome evolution in general, Ming said. 

Among the male papaya plants, the team identified three distinct wild populations: MSY1, MSY2 and MSY3. Their analysis revealed that the MSY3 population was most closely related to the hermaphrodite sex chromosome. All of the MSY3 plants in the study were from the northwest Pacific coast of Costa Rica. 

“Our analyses date the divergence (of male and hermaphrodite papaya) to around 4,000 years (ago), well after the domestication of crop plants in Mesoamerica more than 6,200 years ago, and coinciding with the rise of Maya civilization about 4,000 years ago,” the authors wrote. 

Given that no wild hermaphrodite papayas have been found in Central America, “this strongly suggests that the (hermaphrodite papaya) resulted from papaya domestication by the Maya or other indigenous groups,” the researchers wrote. 

The National Science Foundation supported this research. 

News.illinois

Ancientfoods:

Happy April fools day

Originally posted on Ancientfoods:

Topic: Pasta

On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed both to an unusually mild winter and to the “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.” The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show’s highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched video footage of a Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets. The segment concluded with the assurance that, “For those who love this dish, there’s nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti.”

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest hoax generated an enormous response. Hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this query the BBC diplomatically replied, “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

To…

View original 363 more words

  

Archaeologists have made a remarkable – and delicious – discovery in Bavaria, where during an excavation they dug up a 250 year-old pretzel.

Silvia Codreanau-Windauer from the Bavarian Bureau for the Conservation of Historic Monuments confirmed that: “this is definitely the oldest pretzel ever found” – although she would give no word on whether it was past its expiration date.

Alongside the remains of the pretzel, archaeologists also found the charred remains of a bread roll and a croissant – suggesting that someone missed out on quite the historical breakfast buffet in the 18th century, the period the find has been dated to.

The baked goods are only preserved because they were burnt when originally made. Archaeologists suggest that the baker must have thrown them away in disappoinment.

The excavation site in the eastern Bavarian city of Regensburg has already proven a fruitful source for archaeologists, who discovered a wooden house thought to be up to 1200 years old there.

On this site, which lies on the Danube, there are plans to build a museum for Bavarian history to mark the centenary of the region’s status as a free state in 2018.

The mayor of Regensburg Joachim Wolbergs said. “This discovery is really extraordinary, because it depicts a snippet of everyday life.”

The baked delicacy is very much a part of everyday life. Pretzels may be seen as typically German by non-Germans, but really are very much a south German and Austrian delicacy.

It has been at the heart of southern German baking traditions for centuries, and in Bavaria in particular is often eaten for breakfast alongside Weißwürst (white sausage) with sweet mustard.

Codreanu-Windauer added some historical context to the discovery: “The form of the pretzel is supposed to represent the crossed arms of monks. Eventually it ended up as a fasting meal.”

Monks are the symbol for the state capital Munich, and different orders and monasteries give their names to many of the Free State’s most famous beers, from Augustiner to Weihenstephan – any of which are all the more delicious when enjoyed with a salty pretzel.

Original article:

Thelocal.de

 

jade corn cobe

A mysterious corn cob shaped artifact, dating to somewhere between 900 B.C. and 400 B.C., has been discovered underwater at the site of Arroyo Pesquero in Veracruz, Mexico. 

Made of jadeite, a material that is harder than steel, the artifact has designs on it that are difficult to put into words. It contains rectangular shapes, engraved lines and a cone that looks like it is emerging from the top. It looks like a corncob in an abstract way archaeologists say.

It’s an “extraordinary and unusual archaeological specimen made of mottled brown-and-white jadeite,” the team wrote in an article published recently in the journal Ancient Mesoamerica. 

Pesquero archaeological project, discovered the artifact in 2012 while diving with Jeffery Delsescaux about 2 to 3 meters (6.6 to 9.8 feet) below the surface of a deep stream.

“Underwater conditions were particularly challenging and included near-zero visibility and many obstructions, including large logs, smaller debris, partially decomposed leaves and other vegetation,” the team wrote.

The artifact dates to a time when a civilization now called the Olmec flourished in the area. The Olmec people built stone statues of giant human heads and constructed a city now called “La Venta” about 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Arroyo Pesquero. The city, which may have supported some 10,000 people, contained a 112-foot-high (34 m) 

“The iconography is pretty difficult to interpret; it’s definitely not clear,” said Carl Wendt, a professor at California State University, Fullerton who is directing the project. “It seems to be an abstract representation, I believe, of a cob of corn,” he said. Corn, along with beans and squash, was an important part of the diet for people in ancient Mesoamerica.

The artifact may have had several uses. “While it certainly could have once been the handle of a bloodletter, in its current form, we argue that it probably would have been attached, as a finial, to a staff and functioned as a symbol of power and authority,” the team wrote in the article.

In the end, the artifact may have been placed in the stream as an offering, Wendt said. The offering could have been connected to deities, ancestor veneration or magic, he added. Over the past 50 years thousands of artifacts have been found at the site and they may have been left as offerings, archaeologists say.

A sacred place

The site where the artifacts were found is a place where freshwater intersects with saltwater, Wendt said, noting that jellyfish from the ocean can get into the stream during heavy rain. To the Olmec, this intersection of freshwater and saltwater may have had great importance.

“While having practical importance today as a spot to collect freshwater, in Olmec times, the confluence would also have been important for symbolic and cosmological reasons, and an ideal place for a ritual hoard or votive offerings,” the team wrote in the journal article.

So far, the archaeologists have found no buildings at Arroyo Pesquero that date to between 900 B.C. and 400 B.C. (when the offerings were made). Rather it is the water that is important the researchers said.

“Freshwater, so critical to daily life, was relatively scarce in a region of stagnant swamps,” the team wrote. “It is no wonder that springs and other freshwater sources were sacred places, and sacrificing [objects] at them was an important part of Olmec ritual.”

Wendt co-founded the Arroyo Pesquero archaeological project in 2005 so that the site could be studied scientifically. While thousands of artifacts have been found at the site over the past 50 years many lack details about their origins. Some of them were found by looters and are in private collections.

By Owen Jarus

Original Article:

Livescience

 

Olmec stone head

 


  

A diver holds the bottle from the Civil War ship Mary-Celestia in 2011 

 

An excavation of the bow of the Civil War blockade runner ship


It tasted like crab water and gasoline, the wine experts said

An old bottle of wine containing grey liquid that was dug up from a US Civil War shipwreck was uncorked and tasted yesterday.

It was recovered intact four years ago from the 1864 wreck of the Mary-Celestia blockade runner that sank off the coast of Bermuda. It was sampled by wine experts after being submerged for 151 years.

The sommeliers’ verdict at a food festival in Charleston, South Carolina, is that the grey “wine” actually smelled and tasted like crab water, gasoline, salt water, vinegar, with hints of citrus and alcohol.

It could have been a Spanish fortified wine, a spirit, or medicine. But after spending a century-and-a-half at the bottom of the ocean, it’s now mostly saltwater.

About 50 people who bought tickets to the Charleston Wine + Food event titled “From Deep Below: A Wine Event 150 Years in the Making” also tasted the drink.

“I’ve had shipwreck wines before,” master sommelier Paul Roberts said. “They can be great.”

A sample smelled like camphor, stagnant water, hydrocarbons, turpentine and sulphur, wine chemist Pierre Louis Teissedre of the University of Bordeaux said after analysing samples. Analysis showed it was 37 percent alcohol.

The wine was one of five sealed bottles recovered by marine archaeologists from the iron-hulled sidewheel steamship that sank under mysterious circumstances during the US Civil War.

The boat was leaving Bermuda with supplies for the Confederate states when it struck a reef and sank in six minutes, said cultural anthropologist and Bermudan shipwreck expert Philippe Rouja.

Whether the sinking was deliberate or accidental has been debated.

Philippe and his brother, Jean-Pierre Rouja, were diving on the shipwreck in 2011 after winter storms swept over the site when they found a bottle of wine inside a secret boatswain’s locker in the bow.

Subsequent dives turned up the additional bottles, as well as sealed bottles of perfume, women’s shoes, hairbrushes and pearl shell buttons.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, which was fought from 1861 to 1865 and began in Charleston Harbor with the Battle of Fort Sumter.

By LAMIAT SABIN

Independant.co.uk

 

 

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