Archive for April, 2010

Topic:Stone hive for bee’s

The bees entered the hive through a carved flower

Builders renovating Rosslyn Chapel, which was made famous in The Da Vinci Code, found the “unprecedented” hive while dismantling a rooftop pinnacle.

The bees entered the hive through a hole in a carved flower crafted by the chapel’s master stone masons.

The 15th Century Midlothian building is undergoing a £13m conservation and site improvement project.

The discovery was made when two pinnacles, which had been made unstable by nesting jackdaws, had to be taken down stone by stone and rebuilt.

Malcolm Mitchell, of Page Park Architects, said: “It was a big hollow about the size of a gas cylinder and the hive had obviously been abandoned.”

‘Teasing’ masons

It is believed that the bees left the hive when a canopy was put over the chapel during renovation works. Another pinnacle had a similar hollow, but no access hole.

“Master masons built these in, whether it was under direction or not. What you find at Rosslyn is there are so many irregularities and nuances in the stone work and it’s as if the stone masons are teasing us from the past,” Mr Mitchell said.

“These hives were never intended to be a source of honey. They were there purely to protect the bees from our inclement weather.”

“There doesn’t seem to be any precedent.

“Bee hives in the past were normally portable. Often they were made of wicker baskets or ceramics, but the intention was that you would have access to them.

“At Rosslyn they are there purely for the bees.”

Hive, wating for bee's return

He said there appeared to be a coating to protect the sandstone from the insects, which can damage masonry.

The hive has been sent to local beekeepers in an attempt to identify the type of insect that made them.

It is hoped the bees will return once the renovation works are complete.

Several unusual findings have been made during the project, including two skeletons.

Original article:


March 30,2010


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Topic: Fish-Always a good bet

If Neanderthals ever shared a Thanksgiving feast with Homo sapiens, the two species may have had trouble settling on a menu.

Chemical signatures locked into bone suggest the Neanderthals got the bulk of their protein from large game, such as mammoths, bison and reindeer. The anatomically modern humans that were living alongside them had more diverse tastes. As well as big game, they also had a liking for smaller mammals, fish and seafood.

“It seems modern humans had a much broader diet, in terms of using fish or aquatic birds, which Neanderthals didn’t seem to do,” says Michael Richards, a biological anthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Prehistoric menu

Such dietary differences could have played a role in the extinction of Neanderthals roughly 24,000 years ago.

“I personally think [Neanderthals] were out-competed by modern humans,” says Richards. “Modern humans moved in with different, more advanced technology and the ability to consume a wider variety of foods, and just replaced them.”

He and colleague Erik Trinkaus at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, compiled chemical measurements taken from bone collagen protein belonging to 13 Neanderthals and 13 modern humans, all recovered in Europe. They also added data collected from a 40,000-year-old human recovered in Romania’s Oase cave.

Because our bones are constantly destroyed and rebuilt while we are alive, the atoms that make up collagen hold a record of what we’ve eaten. “When you take a sample of a bone you’re getting all those breakfasts, lunches and dinners for 20 years,” Richards says.

Telltale atoms

Measurements of the abundance of heavy isotopes of carbon and nitrogen hold the key. Marine environments contain a higher proportion of heavy carbon atoms (carbon-13) than land ecosystems, so lots of carbon-13 in the recovered collagen points to a seafood diet. Meanwhile, heavy nitrogen (nitrogen-15) tends to build up as the atom moves up the food chain, from plants to herbivores to carnivores.

High levels of heavy nitrogen can also come from a diet with lots of freshwater fish. Aquatic food webs tend to contain more steps than terrestrial ecosystems, so large fish often have higher levels of heavy nitrogen than land predators.

By comparing the relative levels of these isotopes with those of animals found nearby, researchers can sketch the broad outlines of an ancient diet, if not every last calorie.

Carbon and nitrogen isotopes suggest that Neanderthals living between 37,000 and 120,000 years ago in what are now France, Germany, Belgium and Croatia got the bulk of their protein from large land herbivores, Richards and Trinkaus conclude. Levels of heavy nitrogen in Neanderthal bones invariably exceed levels in surrounding herbivores, and tend to match levels in that period’s carnivores, such as hyenas.

Some modern humans living between 27,000 and 40,000 years ago opted for more varied diets. High levels of carbon-13 in two samples from Italy and France are evidence for a diet that probably included some marine fish or seafood.

Variety pays off

Such flexibility may explain why modern humans thrived in ancient Europe while Neanderthals perished, says Hervé Bocherens, a biological anthropologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany. “If modern humans were hunting big game, like Neanderthals, they would compete with them and deplete the resources.”

When big game were scarce, modern humans could have survived and even flourished by eating fish and smaller animals. Neanderthal populations, by contrast, probably shrank and eventually disappeared in areas from which their more limited meal options disappeared.

However, Bocherens cautions against drawing too many conclusions from 13 Neanderthal skeletons, all unearthed in northern Europe. Collagen doesn’t survive well in warmer climates, so researchers know less about the diet of Neanderthals in southern Europe and the Middle East, he says.

“There is evidence from a number of southern European sites in Portugal, Gibraltar, Spain and Italy that Neanderthals did exploit marine resources at times and, I would say, probably to a significant extent,” says Chris Stringer, a palaeoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London. His team recently found cut marks on seal and dolphin bones in a Neanderthal cave in Gibraltar.

Palatable veg

Isotopes recovered from bone also ignore important sources of food that don’t contain much protein. “I’m sure they’re having vegetables,” says Richards. “But they’re not eating enough that it’s being measured.”

A new study of ancient DNA offers preliminary support for that conclusion. Neanderthals possessed a gene mutation that would have meant they couldn’t taste bitter chemicals found in many plants.

There has been speculation that this mutation, which occurs in a taste receptor gene called TAS2R38, is beneficial to humans because it makes vitamin-packed vegetables more palatable. It probably arose in the common ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals more than a million years ago. The gene encodes a receptor that detects a chemical called phenylthiocarbamide, which is closely related to compounds produced by broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

If vegetables weren’t part of the Neanderthal diet, the species would probably have lost the non-tasting mutation, says Carles Lalueza-Fox, a geneticist at the Institute of Biological Evolution in Barcelona, Spain, whose team sequenced TAS2R38 in 39,000-year-old DNA from a Neanderthal femur recovered in the El Sidrón cave in north-west Spain.

This Neanderthal’s DNA tested positive for tasting and non-tasting versions of TAS2R38, suggesting he or she boasted copies of both alleles of the gene – and with it the ability to taste bitter foods. The presence of the non-tasting allele in this individual suggests it may have been beneficial to some Neanderthals.

“It doesn’t mean they were eating Brussels sprouts or cabbage but it could be similar vegetables,” Lalueza-Fox says.

Original Article:


12 August 2009

by Ewen Callaway

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Topic: Crop from ancient lentils?

Lentil plant

Plants grown from lentils discovered during a dig in Kütahya and believed to be thousands of years old will soon be planted, scientists have announced.

Speaking to the press, Dr. Nüket Bingöl of the biology department at Dumlupınar University said the lentils, which were found in the Seyitömer district during a dig by the university’s archaeology department, were germinated four months ago using a tissue culture method. “We have in hand 17 [plants grown from the] 4,000-year-old lentils,” he said. “Now we’re going to plant our sprouts in the field and try to get seeds from them. … Our plants are living in a sterile environment, but we don’t know what will happen when they’re planted in the field.”

Bingöl stated that Dumlupınar was working in cooperation with other Turkish universities on this project and that they planned to conduct DNA analyses and other scientific evaluations of the lentil plants as they grew, seeing a critical opportunity to analyze the characteristics of plants from millennia ago. The seeds found at the Seyitömer site will pave the way for further research in the field of genetically modified foods and the organic food movement, as scientists say the seeds display morphological differences from the lentil plants of today. An archaeological team from Dumlupınar University had found a container holding seeds during an excavation in Seyitömer. While many were burned and useless, three of them were not and formed the basis for the current project.

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Topic: Salt gatherers:

I have done a bit of reading since I posted the article on the Miwok Indians being identified as salt garthers and traders,

Here are a cople of links to articles on Indian Country Today that might be oF intrest-.

More on the subject of salt later as it affected all of the ancient world-one way or another.

Sierra Nevada Paiutes called Salt People

This looks like the original article about the Miwok also on Indian Country Today.

Ancient Miwok harvested salt

Below is a photo of the basins in question.

Salt Basins

interesting find-no matter what the orgin.

Joanna Linsley-Poe


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Topic: Foods past and present 

Preserved Lemons

It’s almost a month since I set out to recreate preserved lemons to use in my favorite Moroccan recipes. If you’ve ever bought preserved lemons you know just how pricey they are and how little you get in return. I wanted to make chicken with preserved lemons and olives in my new tagine so I paid just around nine dollars for two lemons to create my dish-never again.

It takes a bit of time to make and around a month to sit and marinate in the brine but for about six dollars I now have a quart jar with 10 lemons in it. There is just something magical about creating foods like this and the fact that lemons, are an important staple of Moroccan cuisine and have been such for a long time only enhances the pleasure for me.

According to Food Timeline and other sources I have checked the exact origin of lemons is unknown. They belong to the Citrus family of trees and probably came from northern India.

To quote the Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson, 1999:

“”Lemon The fruit of Citrus medica, a tree whose original home may have been in the north of India. It only reached the Mediterranean towards the end of the 1st century AD, whemn the Romans discovered a direct sea route from the sourthern end of the Red Sea to India. Tolkowsky…adduces complex arguments in favour of this view (as against the earlier view that the lemon did not arrive until the 10th century), and refers to frescos found at Pompeii (and therefore prior to AD 70) which show what he regards as indisputably lemons; also a mosaic pavement probably from Tusculum…of about 100 AD in which a lemon is shown with an orange and a citron. Thus the fruit which can reasonably be regarded as the most important for European cookery was a comparatively late arrival. Nor was its use in cookery, as an acid element, appreciated at once. Nor, indeed, was there a Latin word for lemon. It seems likely that in classical Rome the fruit was treated as a curiosity and a decoration, and that lemon trees were not grown in Italy until later. The Arabs seem to have been largely responsible for the spread of lemon cultivation in the Mediterranean region…Arab traders also spread the lemon eastward to China…During the Middle Ages lemons were rare and expensive in N. Europe, and available only to the rich…Lemons reached the New World…in 1493, when Columbus, on his second voyage, established a settlement on Haiti.”

According to History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, 1992:

“”The lemon…owes its name entirely to the botanists, for it was unknown to classical writers. However, it was widely used from the Middle Ages onwards. It was regarded as an essential in the seventeenth century…Originally from the foothills of the Kashmir, the lemon did not reach China…until around 1900BC. In China, it was given the name limung, which it retained almost unchanged when it moved on to Persia and Media. From the tenth century AD onwards the Arabs, who called it li mum…took it all around the Mediterranean basin, eastwards to Greece by way of Constantinople, westwards to Spain by way of Maghreb and Fezzan. The Spanish and Russians retained the name limon, which becomes lemon in English…”

So much for a bit of history, lemons have been around for quite a long time and are a staple in many dishes.

Preserved lemons are nothing if not easy. All you need are the lemons, coarse sea salt and a sterilized container (preferably glass).

I used a quart mason jar, which holds 10 small lemons.

This recipe for preserved lemons (known in Morocco as l’hamd mrakad), I adapted from a recipe in Modern Moroccan by Ghillie


Preserved Lemon Recipe

10 small lemons

5 large lemons-juiced

5-10 tbsp coarse sea salt

1-quart mason jar-sterilized

1 small baby teaspoon is handy if you have one otherwise the smallest spoon you have.

Wash and dry the small lemons. Cut a thin slice from the top of each lemon and several vertical cuts three-quarters of the way through the fruit, making sure not to cut all the way through.

Stuff each lemon with plenty of salt (here’s where the small spoon comes in handy). Pack the lemons into the quart jar so they are squashed together.

Leave the lemons for 3-4 days to allow the skins to soften, and then press them down again.

Wash and juice the large lemons and pour enough of the juice into the jar to cover the salted lemons completely.

Store the lemons for at least 1 month before using. Simply rinse off the salt and use according to the recipe.

Note: When I first put the lemons in my quart jar only 6 would fit, but after a day or so I was able to put in 4 additional. Try that before you put in the juice if you have the same situation.

Original Article

By Joanna Linsley-Poe

AncientFoods April 21,2010

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Topic: Avocados and Millet

Avocado Tree

Certain foods, such as avocados and millet, have been associated with religion, healing, love, mortality, status and beauty. Look through any ancient literature, and you will see illuminating accounts of various foods and their “magical” powers on the human mind, soul and body. Therefore, it is no surprise that many of these myths and folklores play an important role in our own food choices today.

Many of these claims date back to as far as 2000 B.C. Whether there is any accuracy to these references, no one can really say. While a lot of these accounts cannot be proven, one thing is certain: the two foods featured here are of great nutritional importance.

Avocados – Ancient Aztec, Mayan and Inca cultures believed that avocados nourished the body externally as well as internally.

Mayan folklore tells how the famous Indian, Seriokai, was able to trace his unfaithful wife to the end of the world. The lovers adored avocados and ate them wherever they went. Seriokai followed the young trees, which sprang from the discarded seeds.

In Mexico, the avocado has long been considered an aphrodisiac. An old Aztec legend describes how young and beautiful maidens were kept in their rooms for protection during the height of the avocado season.

Nutritionally speaking, the avocado is good source of Protein, Vitamins A, C and E, and the B Vitamins thiamin, riboflavin and niacin and the mineral magnesium and other trace minerals. It is also high in potassium. (One cup of avocado cubes has about 900 mg.) Avocados are low in calories, contain no cholesterol and are low in sodium, making this plant a good choice for people on low sodium and low cholesterol diets. Moreover, since the avocado possesses natural oils, it helps lower the bad cholesterol. It is easy to understand why these ancient cultures made such claims to this unique fruit.

Millet Grain ready to harvest

Millet – Once known as Panicum Spontaneum, millet has been growing as a cultivated plant since Neolithic times. As early as 2700 B.C., millet was ranked among the five most vital plants in China and was used as part of their religious ceremonies. The Romans used millet to produce a kind of mix porridge.

Due to millet’s inability to grow in the winter, this tiny, round yellowish grain was not able to compete for the rank of a principal crop as were barley and wheat in certain regions of the Mediterranean. Adry hot climate and an arid soil were important if the cultivation of millet was to reach its fullest potential.

Today, the United States grows millet freely, but summer heat is not sufficient to bring the grain to its complete perfection. However, the use of millet in America has been adapted to produce a variety of staple foods namely, flour, syrup and bread and secondary products such as alcoholic beverages, fuel and paper. Millet is also used in feeding livestock, poultry and wild birds.

Millet is important in Africa, the Far East and India since the bulk of their food consumption is from grain. North Africa, the East Indies and Canada are just a few of the regions that grow millet.

This ancient and nourishing grain is rich in carbohydrates, protein, fat, the B Vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, and minerals. Millet also contains all of the essential amino acids. This grain can be purchased in any health food store and most Asian food markets. Moreover, because of its ability to increase in volume during cooking, millet is a great old grain to have around the kitchen.

Original Article:


July,2008 by hmcs

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Topic: Signs of Monks like style-in the toilet

Irish's Monks Belt Buckle

ARCHAEOLOGISTS IN Kilkenny have discovered new evidence of the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by a medieval Irish monk.

This was unearthed recently during ongoing excavations that prove at least some senior clergy feasted on roast swan, T-bone steaks and imported fine French wines. This, despite their public image as men who professed poverty and who were supposed to be devoted to “the simple life”.

A 14th-century toilet, known as a “garderobe”, was also excavated.

The archaeological dig is taking place in the grounds of Rothe House, an early 17th-century Irish merchant’s town residence and garden situated in the centre of Kilkenny city. But the excavations have uncovered evidence of a previous “town house” there which belonged to Cistercian monks.

Róisín McQuillan, manager of Rothe House, said the original dwelling was the “city pad” of the Abbot of Duiske Abbey – an important Cistercian monastery located by the river Barrow at Graiguenamanagh, some 30km (20 miles) away. The dig has confirmed that successive abbots “enjoyed the high life in the city while the rest of the monks lived a simple, ascetic existence at the abbey”.

Archaeologist Cóilín Ó Drisceoil, who led the team, said “the garderobe was the medieval equivalent of a luxury jacks” and the significance of the “quite rare discovery” was that “it provides an important insight into how a medieval abbot lived”.

Bones discovered showed the abbot would have “eaten roast swan and the best cuts of beef – including T-bone steaks”. The senior monk would have drunk French wine – then a symbol of real wealth – imported from Bordeaux through New Ross port.

A garderobe was a small room built on to the outside wall of the upper floor of a medieval house. The toilet mechanism consisted of a hole in the ground surrounded by a wooden seat. Waste travelled down through a chute into a stone-built cess-pit in the garden.

Kitchen waste would also have been disposed of via the chute.

Among the finds made by the team were bones from swans and various choice cuts of beef; fragments of pottery wine jugs imported from Bordeaux; and “an intact stool” in which a fruit stone – possibly apricot – is embedded.

But the most startling discovery was a rusting belt buckle. Mr Ó Drisceoil said: “You can just imagine that moment six centuries ago – now frozen in time – when the abbot’s belt slipped into the loo and vanished”. Although the leather belt has long since rotted way, the buckle is still intact.

He explained that “the abbot’s ‘good times’ came to an end when he was booted out” and both his town house and the abbey were confiscated by the state when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in Ireland under legislation introduced in 1537.

The Kilkenny site was then acquired by the wealthy Rothe family who built a lavish residence consisting of three Elizabethan-style cut-stone houses. Rothe House has been restored and is today a major tourist heritage attraction.

Original article:




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