Archive for February, 2010

Topic: Chocolate

More information on chocolate in the Chaco Canyon area of New Mexico.

Scientists recently found traces of chocolate residue on ancient jars in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The discovery marks the earliest known presence of cacao north of Mexico. “It is the first known cacao north of the Mexican border in the United States, and as far as I know the only known cacao in the United States before contact,” Patricia Crown of the University of New Mexico told LiveScience, referring to the time before Native Americans interacted with European settlers.

The pottery shards were discovered in Pueblo Bonito and suggest that the practice of drinking chocolate had traveled from Mexico to the American Southwest at least 1,000 years ago. Scientists had long known of the ancient practice of drinking chocolate in Mesoamerica, which spans from current day Central Mexico down to Nicaragua. But now they think the tradition may have traveled farther north than they previously believed. 

The cacao plant is tropical and needs moist warm environments to grow. The climate of New Mexico is not very conducive to tropical vegetation. Researchers say that the closest possible source of cacao beans for the inhabitants of Pueblo Bonito was about 1,240 miles away.

When the shards were originally discovered, their odd shape, approximately 10 inches tall and 4 inches wide, indicated that they were used for a very specific practice. “If it was the form specifically used for drinking cacao, that would explain why it’s such a specialized form,” said Crown.

Original article:


By Mariela Rosario



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Topic: Native American food find

Ancient charred rock pile used for roasting

Fire-cracked rock piles found across North America received little scientific attention for decades, but two new studies reveal their importance as early Native American earth ovens. For thousands of years, they were used to cook a favorite food staple: smoky, sweet camas bulbs.

Based on charred remains of plant material found at hot rock oven sites, cooked versions of this root vegetable — somewhat like a cross between an onion and a potato — is thought to have been the tortilla of the Stone Age.

The bulbs required up to two days to bake, due to a complex carbohydrate called inulin that is otherwise indigestible.

Alston Thoms, who conducted both studies, told Discovery News that “camas consumption preceded corn consumption everywhere in the U.S. by thousands of years.”

“Camas was mashed and pounded with a mortar and pestle into a thick dough that was then shaped into loaves that were later broken apart and cooked,” added Thoms, an associate professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University.

He analyzed the fire-cracked rock assemblages and food remains throughout North America, with a particular focus on northwestern and southwestern sites. The findings have been accepted for publication in both the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology and the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Thoms found that fire-cracked rock cooking dates to anywhere from 9,000 years ago to as recent as 400 years ago, with some sites up to 9 feet in diameter containing stones weighing more than 2,000 pounds.

Before the emergence of this technology, “Native Americans and people around the world got along fine for thousands of years without any kind of heated stones for cooking or bathing,” Thoms said.

As populations grew, the availability of foods that required little or no cooking lessened. The evolution of cooking methods appears to coincide with more land use, which Thoms outlined in a model.

Using fire for warmth led to direct cooking on, in, and above coals.

Thoms and several assistants also used ethnographic data to replicate early Native American cooking methods. While large meat steaks were probably just cooked directly on white ash fires, the camas bulbs were cooked “luau-style,” a method that Native Americans and Polynesians developed independently, Thoms believes.

Early Native Americans dug a pit and lined it with firewood and rocks, which they burned. Moist, green plants then went over the hot rocks. Vegetable fiber sacks full of fresh bulbs went over the plants and were covered with additional greenery. Sometimes a second fire was then built over the mound.

After a day or two, dinner was served.

Although the bulbs are about as nutritious as sweet potatoes, they fell out of favor not only because of long cooking times, but also because they take longer to grow and provide fewer calories per pound than wheat, corn, rice and other starches.

James O’Connell, a distinguished professor of anthropology at The University of Utah, told Discovery News that the new papers present a “well-supported inference about past human behavior from a widely recognized archaeological pattern.”

“I think (Thoms’) argument that the origin of heated-stone cooking is an example of subsistence intensification is interesting,” said anthropologist Michael Glassow of the University of California at Santa Barbara. “It makes a lot of sense to me.”

Origional Article:

Discovery News

Jennifer Viegas



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Topic: Glutin Free Ancient Grains

ConAgra Mills has developed a gluten-free flour that claims to have superior nutritional qualities to white rice, potato and corn flours, made with a blend of ancient grains.

The gluten-free food market was worth almost $1.6bn last year, according to Packaged Facts, and saw a compound annual growth rate of 28 per cent over four years.

Sufferers of celiac disease have to avoid all gluten in their diet, but diagnosis is not the only factor. Other sectors of the population, such as those who have self-diagnosed wheat or gluten intolerance or who believe gluten-free to be a healthier way of eating, are strong drivers.

But against this backdrop of popularity, there have been concerns that some gluten-free products on the market made with rice, corn and potato flour and xanthan or guar gum to improve texture have sub-optimal levels of essential nutrients.

ConAgra Mills set out to develop flour that has good nutritional properties by tapping its portfolio of naturally gluten-free ancient grains, like amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, millet and teff.

A spokesperson told FoodNavigator-USA.com at IFT in Anaheim last week that the individual ancient grain flours can be used to make gluten-free products, but the product quality tends to be lower.

The company therefore developed a proprietary blend of grains and tapioca starch, intended to provide both good nutrition and good product characteristics.

The result, called Eagle Mills gluten-free all-purpose multigrain flour, was launched at IFT. Also containing tapioca starch, it can be used in products including pan bread, tortillas, muffins, snacks, coatings and extruded cereals.

Ancient grains

The unveiling of the new flour is timely since the Harvard Health Letter drew attention to the nutritional issues of gluten-free eating just this month, and criticising manufacturers for profiting from making good tasting gluten-free products that were nutritionally poor.

Melinda Dennis, nutrition coordinator at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Celiac Center, said people should look to “unconventional but nutritionally well-rounded substitutes” for gluten-containing grains.

Dennis dubbed the ancient grains amaranth, buckwheat, teff, millet, quinoa and sorghum the “super six” because of their high nutritional value.

Even outside the gluten-free niche, ancient grains have been attracting attention amongst healthy eaters. While they have been staples for civilizations around the world for millennia, in the West, they have fallen off the menu in favour of wheat and barley.

Amaranth, for example, has been eaten in Mexico since the time of the Aztecs; and in Ethiopia, teff is the main ingredient in the stable fermented flatbread injera.

In its recent report The US Market for Whole and Other Grains, Datamonitor said ancient grains have become more popular recently due to more attention to their nutritional value – but more education is needed on how to cook them properly.

Original Article:

Food Navigator.com

Jess Halliday


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Topic: Ancient Corn Farmers

Flagstaff, AZ — Grand Canyon archaeologist Ian Hough reported to a crowd of local archaeologists, Grand Canyon hikers and enthusiasts that his team was surprised by artifacts and features recently unearthed at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

“What you see at the surface is not what you get underneath,” said Hough in his presentation Extreme Cultural Landscapes: New Archeological Research in Grand Canyon National Park. He shared that recent archeological projects at Grand Canyon National Park reveal interesting patterns of human use of the resources in this dynamic environment. The projects were at nine sites which represent three distinct cultural periods.

The Furnace Flats Project saw archaeologists accessing the site by river rafts. The purpose of the project was to mitigate erosion caused by rising water and visitor impact. Ancient homes built in A.D. 1075-1200 have been filled with blowing sands and covered by silt from flood waters over the past 800 years. Archaeologists started with only hints of a wall outline in a sand dune. They were surprised to find well-preserved walls, flagstone floors, a ventilator shaft, fire hearth and complete cooking vessel after excavating a portion of the site.

Open trough metates – stone corn-grinding tools – are evidence of a complex agricultural community. Wooden beams buried for a thousand years help carbon date the site. Furnace Flats is on the north side of the Colorado River between Basalt and Unkar Creeks. An ancient path connects the area with Basalt Canyon.

The Three-Mile Rest Stop is another site which revealed surprises for Grand Canyon Park archaeologists. Located on the Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon hikers can trek right by this Late Archaic (1460-780 B.C.) site. This was a seasonal food gathering and processing camp. The roasting pits show use from Archaic times to near historic times. Grand Canyon hikers may be surprised to learn that evidence of roasting pits proves that the Bright Angel trail is an ancient travel corridor that continues on to present day.

Through the ages, people developed a wide range of social and cultural strategies at Grand Canyon, from small-scale foraging and hunting to socially complex farming.

Original Article:

Portland Examiner


Stacy Wittig

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Topic: Stone Age Pantry

Julio Mercader, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Tropical Archaeology in the U of C’s Department of Archaeology, recovered dozens of stone tools from a deep cave in Mozambique showing that wild sorghum, the ancestor of the chief cereal consumed today in sub-Saharan Africa for flours, breads, porridges and alcoholic beverages, was in Homo sapiens’ pantry along with the African wine palm, the false banana, pigeon peas, wild oranges and the African “potato.” This is the earliest direct evidence of humans using pre-domesticated cereals anywhere in the world. Mercader’s findings are published in the December 18 issue of the research journal Science.

“This broadens the timeline for the use of grass seeds by our species, and is proof of an expanded and sophisticated diet much earlier than we believed,” Mercader said. “This happened during the Middle Stone Age, a time when the collecting of wild grains has conventionally been perceived as an irrelevant activity and not as important as that of roots, fruits and nuts.”

In 2007, Mercader and colleagues from Mozambique’s University of Eduardo Mondlane excavated a limestone cave near Lake Niassa that was used intermittently by ancient foragers over the course of more than 60,000 years. Deep in this cave, they uncovered dozens of stone tools, animal bones and plant remains indicative of prehistoric dietary practices. The discovery of several thousand starch grains on the excavated plant grinders and scrapers showed that wild sorghum was being brought to the cave and processed systematically.

“It has been hypothesized that starch use represents a critical step in human evolution by improving the quality of the diet in the African savannas and woodlands where the modern human line first evolved. This could be considered one of the earliest examples of this dietary transformation,” Mercader said. “The inclusion of cereals in our diet is considered an important step in human evolution because of the technical complexity and the culinary manipulation that are required to turn grains into staples.”

Mercader said the evidence is on par with grass seed use by hunter-gatherers in many parts of the world during the closing stages of the last Ice Age, approximately 12,000 years ago. In this case, the trend dates back to the beginnings of the Ice Age, some 90,000 years earlier.

Mercader’s work was supported by the Canada Research Chairs program, Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the U of C’s Faculty of Social Science and the National Geographic Society.

Original article:


ScienceDaily (Dec. 18, 2009)

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Topic: AncientSeeds# 2

My thoughts:

A reader sent me this information on an ancient date palm, which if only 2.000 years is a fantastic event. That seeds remain viable that long be it 2,000 or 4,000 years gives me hope that no matter what we will survive globel warming with sources of food at hand. I wanted to share this with you as well I will be checking out the seed exchanges and write more onthat soon.

 2005-06-12 04:00:00 PST Kibbutz Ketura, Israel — It has five leaves, stands 14 inches high and is nicknamed Methuselah. It looks like an ordinary date palm seedling, but for UCLA- educated botanist Elaine Solowey, it is a piece of history brought back to life.

Planted on Jan. 25, the seedling growing in the black pot in Solowey’s nursery on this kibbutz in Israel’s Arava desert is 2,000 years old — more than twice as old as the 900-year-old biblical character who lent his name to the young tree. It is the oldest seed ever known to produce a viable young tree.

The seed that produced Methuselah was discovered during archaeological excavations at King Herod’s palace on Mount Masada, near the Dead Sea. Its age has been confirmed by carbon dating. Scientists hope that the unique seedling will eventually yield vital clues to the medicinal properties of the fruit of the Judean date tree, which was long thought to be extinct.

Solowey, originally from San Joaquin (Fresno County), teaches at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura, where she has nurtured more than 100 rare or near-extinct species back to life as part of a 10-year project to study plants and herbs used as ancient cures.

In collaboration with the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Center at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, named in honor of its Southern California- based benefactor, Solowey grows plants and herbs used in Tibetan, Chinese and biblical medicine, as well as traditional folk remedies from other cultures to see whether their effectiveness can be scientifically proved.

In experiments praised by the Dalai Lama, for example, Borick Center Director Sarah Sallon has shown that ancient Tibetan cures for cardiovascular disease really do work.

The San Francisco Chronicle was granted the first viewing of the historic seedling, which sprouted about four weeks after planting. It has grown six leaves, but one has been removed for DNA testing so scientists can learn more about its relationship to its modern-day cousins.

The Judean date is chronicled in the Bible, Quran and ancient literature for its diverse powers — from an aphrodisiac to a contraceptive — and as a cure for a wide range of diseases including cancer, malaria and toothache.

Original Article:

SFGATE.COM Article collections

June 12, 2005|By Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service

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Topic: Chocolate


First installment of a much longer project-yes I have what could be known as a fondness for chocolate! As I do more research on the subject I will add more posts.

Who can resist its taste, silky, smooth and so satisfying?

Who can imagine Valentines Day without it?

Theobroma cacao is the scientific name given to this unassuming tree by Swedish scientist Carl von Linnaues in 1753. Long before that it was called Cacahuaquchtl and grew in the forests of Yucatán and Guatemala. The name means cocoa tree or more simply to the Maya it just called “tree”. It was the Tree of the Mayan Gods.

Oddly enough the first part of the chocolate trees scientific name is from the Greek and means” food of the gods.” Cacao is the trees New Word name.

 Roasted and ground up the seeds of the cocoa pods were then whisked into water with perhaps chili’s, musk, honey or maze. The Maya called this drink tchacahoua and it was called tchocoatl by the Aztec. Notice it was only sweetened by honey, if that. Then you drank it, this sacred food of the gods because they were good and it honored them.

More at another time on the history of this wonderful plant but now check the link below for some recipes and other foods that are associated with” love” and Valentines Day.


Original Post:

Joanna Linsley-Poe



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