Archive for July, 2010

Topic; Ancient Bees

Egyptian bee keepers

Honeybee remains found in a 3,000-year-old apiary have given archaeologists a one-of-a-kind window into the beekeeping practices of the ancient world.

“Beekeeping is known only from a few Egyptian sources, from a few tombs and paintings. No actual hives have been found,” said Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Amihai Mazar.

The hives were uncovered in 2007 at an excavation in Tel Rehov, Israel, home to the flourishing Bronze and Iron Age city of Rehov. Mazar and his team found more than 100 hives, capable of housing an 1.5 million bees and producing half a ton of honey.

In a paper published June 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers analyzed bees preserved in honeycomb that was charred, but not completely burnt by fire that likely destroyed the rest of the apiary.

Unfortunately for would-be makers of ancient honey, heat damaged the bees’ DNA, making it impossible to revive their genes in modern bees. But the researchers were at least able to identify them as Apis mellifera anatoliaca, a subspecies found only in what is now Turkey. It’s possible that A. m. anatoliaca’s range has changed, but more likely that Rehov’s beekeepers traded for them.

Local bees are notoriously difficult to handle. During the 20th century, when beekeepers tried to establish a modern industry in Tel Rehov, they ended up importing A. m. anatoliaca — a literally sweet example of history repeating itself.

Original article:


By Brandon Keim 



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Topic Wine in Mesopotamia


A "banquet" scene on an impression of a lapis cylinder seal from Queen Pu-abi's tomb

It has usually been argued that barley beer was the alcoholic beverage of choice in ancient Sumer, since the hot, dry climate of southern Iraq makes it difficult to grow grapevines, and the textual evidence for viniculture and winemaking in Mesopotamia is minimal before the 2nd millennium B.C. But based on chemical evidence for wine inside jars that could’ve been used to transport and serve it, wine was probably already being enjoyed by at least the upper classes in Late Uruk times (ca. 3500-3100 B.C.). Early Dynastic cylinder seals depict the royalty and their entourages drinking beer with tubes/straws from large jars and a second beverage—presumably wine—from hand-held cups.

The wine imported into lowland Greater Mesopotamia could have been brought from the northern Zagros Mountains of Iran or other parts of the Near East, at least 600 kilometers away. The 5th century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus describes shipping wine down the Euphrates or Tigris from Armenia at a much later period: round skin boats were loaded with date-palm casks of wine and delivered to Babylon. River transport was also an option in the Late Uruk Period. But if the demand for the beverage were great enough, transplantation of grapevines to closer locales in the central Zagros and possibly as far south as Susa would be anticipated. When the Late Uruk trade routes were suddenly cut off at the end of the period, the pressure to establish productive vineyards closer to the major urban centers would have intensified.

Future excavation will be decisive in tracing the prehistory of viniculture and winemaking in this region of the ancient Near East; already there is a strong indication that the domesticated grape plant had already been transplanted there as early as the mid-3rd millennium B.C. Elamite cylinder seals, foreshadowing similiar scenes on Assyrian reliefs some two millennia later, depict males and females seated under grape arbors, drinking what is most likely wine.

Original article:

Penn Museum

Did you know…?
Museum scientists have analyzed what participants ate and drank at the final funerary feast of King Midas at
Gordion (ca. 700 B.C.) and discovered that it was lamb stew and a mixed fermented beverage of wine, barley beer, and honey mead!

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Topic: More on Wine in Ancient Egypt

Remember-before the grape-came honey which the Ancient Egyptians had- before I explore that subject and Mead(honey wine) I thought I should give you more background on the grape-prepare to be surprised, I know I was at what I just read about paeolithic man and yhe beginings of Mead. 

The wild grape never grew in ancient Egypt. Yet a thriving royal winemaking industry had been established in the Nile Delta—most likely due to Early Bronze Age trade between Egypt and Palestine, encompassing modern Israel,the West Bank and Gaza, and Jordan—by at least Dynasty 3 (ca. 2700 B.C.), the beginning of the Old Kingdom period. Winemaking scenes appear on tomb walls, and the accompanying offering lists include wine that was definitely produced at vineyards in the Delta. By the end of the Old Kingdom, five wines—all probably made in the Delta—constitute a canonical set of provisions or fixed “menu,” for the afterlife.

The evidence for winemaking in the Delta during the preceding Early Dynastic Period (Dynasties 1 and 2) is more inferential. Rather than recording a large number of wine jars in an offering list, actual jars in large quantities were buried in the tombs of the pharoahs at Abydos and those of their families at Saqqara, the main religious centers. The jars are stoppered with a round pottery lid and a conical clay lump that was pressed over the lid and tightly around the rim. The clay stopper was generally impressed with multiple cylinder seal impressions giving the name of the pharoah.

While chemical tests have yet to verify that the Dynasty 1 and 2 jars contained wine, less common seal impressions on the jar stoppers do include hieroglyphic signs for “grapevine/vineyard” (see drawing at top of page) and possible geographic locations (e.g., Memphis, the northern capital, near Saqqara), in addition to the king’s name. Such seals have been interpreted as a primitive kind of wine label, possibly giving the location of the winery and its owner. The impressions with only the king’s name might then be an abbreviated form of registration for jars that generally contained wine. Viniculture in Egypt must have taken some time to develop, and the Early Dynastic “wine jars” may well represent the first “fruits” of the nascent industry.

Is it possible to know when the first grapevines were transplanted to the Nile Delta? The answer is vital for understanding the prehistory of an industry that eventually spread over the entire Delta, to the large western oases, and even to towns on the upper Nile where the climate would seem to preclude viniculture. The domesticated grapevine could only have come from some region of the Levant that was already exploiting it, and many specialists—farmers, horticulturists, traders, and above all, vintners—would’ve been involved in the establishment and success of the developing industry.

The grapevine hieroglyphic itself (pictured above), showing a grapevine trained to run along a trellis or arbor, indicates that the Early Dynastic viniculture was quite sophisticated.

Original article:

Penn Unuversity

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Topic Wine

The topic of wine has a long history so before I go into my own beginnings of mead making I’ll try to cover some ancient history of honey wine( grape too), and honey itself. I might cover some of the material mentioned by earlier blogs but it is not my intention to duplicate material.

In the following from Penn Univ.  I notice no specific reference to honey wine but it is possible that it was but not mentioned as much as beer, since beer was available to everyone not just the wealthy.

From Penn UniversityOrigins and history of ancient wine:


Fermented beverages have been preferred over water throughout the ages: they are safer, provide psychotropic effects, and are more nutritious. Some have even said alcohol was the primary agent for the development of Western civilization, since more healthy individuals (even if inebriated much of the time) lived longer and had greater reproductive success. When humans became “civilized,” fermented beverages were right at the top of the list for other reasons as well: conspicuous display (the earliest Neolithic wine, which might be dubbed “Chateau Hajji Firuz,” was like showing off a bottle of Pétrus today); a social lubricant (early cities were even more congested than those of today); economy (the grapevine and wine tend to take over cultures, whether Greece, Italy, Spain, or California); trade and cross-cultural interactions (special wine-drinking ceremonies and drinking vessels set the stage for the broader exchange of ideas and technologies between cultures); and religion (wine is right at the center of Christianity and Judaism; Islam also had its “Bacchic” poets like Omar Khayyam).

Whatever the reason, we continue to live out our past civilization by drinking wine made from a plant that has its origins in the ancient Near East. Your next bottle may not be a 7000 year old vintage from Hajji Firuz, but the grape remains ever popular—cloned over and over again from those ancient beginnings

Neolithic Period:

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 If winemaking is best understood as an intentional human activity rather than a seasonal happenstance, then the Neolithic period (8500-4000 B.C.) is the first time in human prehistory when the necessary preconditions for this momentous innovation came together.
Most importantly, Neolithic communities of the ancient Near East and Egypt were permanent, year-round settlements made possible by domesticated plants and animals. With a more secure food supply than nomadic groups and with a more stable base of operations, a Neolithic “cuisine” emerged.
Using a variety of food processing techniques—fermentation, soaking, heating, spicing—Neolithic peoples are credited with first producing bread, beer, and an array of meat and grain entrées we continue to enjoy today.
Crafts important in food preparation, storage, and serving advanced in tandem with the new cuisine. Of special significance is the appearance of pottery vessels around 6000 B.C. The plasticity of clay made it an ideal material for forming shapes such as narrow-mouthed vats and storage jars for producing and keeping wine After firing the clay to high temperatures, the resultant pottery is essentially indestructible, and its porous structure helps to absorb organics.
A major step forward in our understanding of Neolithic winemaking came from the analysis of a yellowish residue inside a jar (see photo at top of page) excavated by Mary M. Voigt at the site of Hajji Firuz Tepe in the northern Zagros Mountains of Iran. The jar, with a volume of about 9 liters (2.5 gallons) was found together with five similar jars embedded in the earthen floor along one wall of a “kitchen” of a Neolithic mudbrick building, dated to ca. 5400-5000 B.C. The structure, consisting of a large living room that may have doubled as a bedroom, the “kitchen,” and two storage rooms, might have accommodated an extended family. That the room in which the jars were found functioned as a kitchen was supported by the finding of numerous pottery vessels, which were probably used to prepare and cook foods, together with a fireplace.


Original Article:

Penn Museum 

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No Time

Well I’ve had more than my share of travel, packing and such this past weekend so I’m behind on this blog but I can   share with you one thing-my mead turned out fantastic-liked by those who had tasted mead before and by those who had not!  Most of all I am pleased with it- but more on that soon!

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Topic-Me and Mead

On vacation today-back on Tuesday with a blog about the oldest of the fermented drinks-Mead and my firs try at making it.

I will be tasting it along with friends-today, but of course I’v tried it along the way and am pleased with my first atempt. Pitfalls and a lot of yelling -, plus hours( ok it just seamed like hours) watching the airlock for a sign of bubbles-showing fermentation—–more later, pictures too—-



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What plant genes tell us about crop domestication | Newsroom | Washington University in St. Louis.

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