Archive for March, 2010

Topic: Ancient Food-New World

The food that early people ate can serve as a clue to how they lived. A University of Missouri-Columbia researcher and her colleagues have discovered a new approach for identifying important root and tuber crops in the New World, which until now has been very difficult.

“Roots and tubers are dietary staples in many parts of the world; however, their use is difficult to document archaeologically because their organic remains are often poorly preserved in archeological sediments,” said Deborah Pearsall, professor of Anthropology and associate director of American Archaeology at MU.

Pearsall and MU graduate Karol Chandler-Ezell, director of the anthropology program at Stephen F. Austin State University and lead author of the study, discovered that the roots and tubers of several important New World food plants produce phytoliths, which are microscopic silica bodies that occur in plants. Phytoliths not only identify the plant used, but also substantiate the fact that roots and tubers were consumed in the past.

“Often in archeology, all we can say is that the remains of a certain plant were found at an archeological site; we can’t say definitely how the plant was used or what part of it was used. These are severe limitations to understanding diet. Our discovery makes this task easier,” Pearsall said.

This discovery helped researchers learn that people living on the coast of Ecuador 4,500 years ago (around 2500 BC) were farmers who not only grew maize, but also root and tuber crops including manioc. Pearsall said the discovery proves that farming during that time period was already very advanced. Manioc is native to eastern South America and must have been carried or traded far from its home to appear in coastal Ecuador on the western coast of South America. It was during that time period that the Real Alto site grew to its largest size and was a ceremonial center.

“These phytoliths and starch residues provide evidence that both raw and cooked foods were processed in this early mixed agricultural economy,” Pearsall said. “This research is particularly relevant for documenting the origins and spread of economically important root and tuber crops, which were a large part of the daily diet of prehistoric peoples in the tropics.”

According to Pearsall, this knowledge about the prehistory of Ecuador gives archaeologists new insight into the functioning of the society at that time. Societies that are agricultural have different characteristics than those where people hunt, fish and gather food.

The study is featured on the cover of the summer 2006 issue of Economic Botany. The study, which also included the participation of James A. Zeidler, one of the excavators of Real Alto, was funded by the University of Missouri Research Board.

Original Article:

University of Missouri


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Topic: Food in Pompeii

The triclinium, or dining area, of Vetutius Placidus's snack bar in Pompeii, open again after months of detailed excavation and preservation work

THE LAST patrons who stood at the L-shaped counter of Pompeii’s best-known snack bar eating the house-speciality – baked cheese smothered in honey – had to leave in a hurry owing to violent volcanic activity. But after an unforeseen break in business of 1,921 years, the former holiday hotspot of ancient Rome’s in-crowd will finally re-open for business this weekend.

Visitors will be taken on a guided tour of the thermopolium (snack bar), once owned by Vetutius Placidus, and taste some of the food that was popular before the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79 that buried the city under 60 feet of ash and pumice.

As with many high-profile launches, this weekend sees an advance opening ceremony for 300 special guests, chosen at random. The full opening will take place later.

When Vesuvius erupted for two days, most of its citizens died as an enormous wave of scalding gas and dust tore down the volcano’s flanks and enveloped the city.

The thermopolium, one of the best preserved sites in Pompeii, has been closed to the public for years in order to protect it from further damage. But following months of detailed excavation and preservation work, all visitors will soon be able to go inside and get an idea of a typical ancient Roman lunch establishment.

Inside, as in many modern cafés and bars, visitors are greeted with a large, L-shaped, decorated counter where customers stood to enjoy a quick lunch. Cylindrical holes in the bar contained glass dolia, or jars, displaying food.

Archaeologists working at the site also found a jar full of coins, amounting to about two days’ income. They speculate that the owner may have left them in a last-ditch attempt to save his wealth as he fled the doomed city.

The thermopolium used to open directly on to a main street, the Via dell’Abbondanza. All sections of Pompeii society would call by for snacks or a light Mediterranean lunch, two millennia before it became à la mode in Ireland.

Dr Annamaria Ciarallo, an environmental biologist and researcher at Pompeii, said: “The food then was mainly based on cereals, vegetables, cheese and fish, with just a little meat. It was very healthy – the original Mediterranean diet.”

But the sybaritic citizens of Pompeii were able to resist anything but temptation and sweet, calorie-filled desserts were the real stars of the snack bar. Its creations filled with sticky honey and ricotta cheese have direct descendants in the cafés of nearby Naples today. Two of these dishes, mostaccioli and globe, will be offered for the visitors as part of a special one-off event marking the restoration of the bar.

Dr Ciarallo said many of the snack bar’s customers would have grabbed snacks and light meals as takeaways. “There wasn’t a lot of ceremony. Often people, especially the busy ones, would have eaten outside,” she added.

But for customers who preferred to sit, the thermopolium had a triclinium, or dining area, with couches. The house of the owner and his family adjoined the premises.

Original Article:


Michael Day


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Topic: Kamut

There is as much mystery as fact surrounding the cereal grain known as Kamut.

“The origin of Kamut is thought to have occurred contemporary with the free threshing tetraploid wheats, and is considered to be an ancient relative of modern durum wheats (R. Quinn pers. commun. 1995). The identification of Kamut has been confusing, at least two scientists identify it as Triticum turgidum, ssp. polonicum another as Triticum turgidum, ssp. turanicum. More recently, taxonomists specializing in wheat from the U.S. and Russia have identified Kamut as T. turgidum, ssp. durum, genomic constitution AABB (Table 1), or similar to an Egyptian cultivar `Egiptianka’. The inflorescence is somewhat less dense than wheat. The spikelet lemmas have strong long black awns and the glumes have a distinct black acuminate beak. The stem immediately below the inflorescence is characterized by a distinctive wavy morphological trait (Fig. 2). Kamut kernels are twice the size of wheat kernels and are characterized by a distinctive hump shape.”

The story of Kamuts discovery in modern times seems fairly well documented; the story of its ancient roots however remains elusive.

Sources agree that Kamut grain was found in a pyramid in Egypt (probably Dahshur or Saqqara). Some kernels were given, sold or maybe just found by a US airman who sent them to his father who was a wheat farmer in Montana. This first introduction was somewhere around 1940 and sad to say not a real success.

This first introduction occurred before two trends that have done much to sustain Kamuts recent and enduring popularity.

As an avid bread baker, I can attest to the fact that Kamut is more expensive than regular flour and to the fact that it has a very low gluten content which would have hardly made it a popular item for wheat farmers bent on selling to large bread producers such as General Mills. At the time Kamut was first grown in this country most people bought their bread at the grocery store not the local bakery and the artisan bread movement had yet to catch hold of the country, if it had indeed even started. The advent of the artisan bread industry (if it can be called that) was one factor that helped popularize Kamut and other “heritage” grains but it was not the most important.

The other trend that helped Kamut become a significant commodity, and the most noteworthy was the growth of the holistic and or the natural health movement. High in protein, containing many minerals necessary to a balanced diet as well as being well tolerated by those with wheat allergies Kamut is a natural alternative to modern wheat products.

As far as Kamuts ancestry maybe it’s all in a name. What the ancient Egyptians actually called this particular grain we do not know. Several sources I have found site the term Kamut as meaning wheat in ancient Egyptian and after checking myself I did indeed find the term in Budges’ Hieroglyphic Dictionary, however I also found 10 other words that meant grain, corn, wheat or barley all of which were probably used interchangeably depending on the occasion and context the term was being use.

Kamut means wheat, grain, or wheaten bread, and a similar term Kamt-t means grain, plant.

It is possible isolated communities in Egypt or nearby grew this grain and as a tribute it might have even made its way into a pharaoh’s pyramid in Dasher or Saqqara but the Egyptians never referred to this specific grain by any name nor do we have any other evidence that “Kamut” was grown in Egypt.* The grains common to ancient Egypt were barley and emmer, with einkorn having some popularity during the Third Dynasty.

Certainly the grain Kamut, as we know it, was not anywhere near to being an important crop for the ancient Egyptians or any other major culture or we would have some sort of specific reference to it.

Today Kamut is found in many multi grain cereals, as kernels used in salads and soups and can be found as flour in natural health stores or upscale markets. Kamut although low in gluten has a rich nutty taste which lends itself to many multi grain breads with delicious results. My own experience with Kamut has been as an ingredient in bread and I have always been happy except perhaps when I tried to use the Kamut by itself. Combining it with other flours has worked well for me.

*Note: In Classic Sourdoughs, Ed Wood does mention seeing an exhibit at an old agricultural museum in Egypt with a case containing a sheaf of grain labeled Triticum polonicum  from a remote Egyptian site, but he doesn’t say which one and that is the only reference I can find.


Wood, Ed. 2001 Classic Sourdoughs

Stallknecht, G.F., K.M. Gilbertson, and J.E. Ranney. 1996. Alternative wheat cereals as food grains: Einkorn, emmer, spelt, kamut, and triticale. p. 156-176

Original Article:

Joanna Linsley-Poe

Field of Kamut grain

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Topic: More Pictures-what a surprise

Now for once i seem to get how to post pictures so here are a couple more.

Chipotle Bread #2

Seeded white sourdough

Pits Breads-Giza Sourdough

that’s it for now-but I must say the pita’s were enjoyed by friends at a middle east dinner.

Pita recipe is in Classic Sourdoughs, the Chipotle recipe is aviable on request.

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Topic: Bread made using Giza Sourdough 

I promised pictures and so you shall have some. I’m still mastering the digital camera so… 

First some information on the culture itself. 

The Giza culture is very likely the oldest one we offer. It comes from the rich Nile agricultural area isolated for centuries by a desert on one side and the Red Sea on the other-ideal circumstances to protect a culture from contamination. It has a moderate to slow leavening speed with a mild flavor and moderate sourness. 

 This excerpt is from  Classic Sourdoughs, by Ed Wood. 

It goes on to say the culture is good for flat breads and pitas-but I can say with first hand experience-this culture has never disappointed me. All the breads pictured were made with this culture. 



Chipotle batter- before making into bread




Batter BreadChipotle




Chipotle Bread in pan before Baking


Finished Bread 

Finished Loaves-Chipotle Batter Bread


Next post-more pictures 

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Topic- My Thoughts

100 posts-I’m amazed and pleased  at just how many people enjoy the information I find and the information I write and share online in this blog. I will be writing more on various ancient grains  along with more pghoto’s of my sourdough breads made with Giza cluture- also in the future is my first atempt at making Mead-keep positive thoughts and I will report on how I am doing!

Thanks for checking in and reading my blog. 


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Topic Ancient irrigation

You can make major discoveries by walking across a field and picking up every loose item you find. Dutch researcher Eva Kaptijn succeeded in discovering – based on 100,000 finds – that the Zerqa Valley in Jordan had been successively inhabited and irrigated for more than 13,000 years. But it was not just communities that built irrigation systems: the irrigation systems also built communities.

Archaeologist Eva Kaptijn has given up digging in favour of gathering. With her colleagues, she has been applying an intensive field exploration technique: 15 metres apart, the researchers would walk forward for 50 metres. On the outward leg, they’d pick up all the earthenware and, on the way back, all of the other material. This resulted in more than 100,000 finds, varying from about 13,000 years to just a few decades old. Based on further research on the finds and where they were located, Kaptijn succeeded in working out the extent of habitation in the Zerqa Valley in over the past millennia.

The area where she undertook her research is also called the Zerqa Triangle; it is bounded by the River Zerqa and forms part of the Jordan Valley. The area covers roughly 72 square kilometres. Kaptijn discovered that the triangle had been inhabited, on and off, for thousands of years, but that this habitation was always highly dependent on the methods used by those who lived there. While the soil in the valley is very rich, there was usually not enough rainfall to cultivate plants without some additional irrigation.

Irrigation shapes the community

The irrigation methods exerted a major influence on the people who lived in the valley; power was often dependent on controlling the allocation of water. Kaptijn discovered that the type of could result in a community of internally egalitarian tribes, with these tribes being linked to each other in a strict, hierarchical order. At other times, the valley was actually dominated by a large-scale, almost capitalist cultivation of sugar cane.

Eva Kaptijn’s research is part of the multi-disciplinary project Settling the Steppe. The Archaeology of changing societies in Syro-Palestinian drylands during the Bronze and Iron Ages. This project is funded by the NWO’s Open Competition scheme.

Original article:



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