Archive for September, 2010

Topic Ancient feast

2nd article on this subject-more info, picture too.

The excavation site at Hilazon Cave in the Lower Galilee in 2006.Photo by: Naftali Hilger

Burial site of female shaman found close to Sakhnin includes funeral fetish objects.

An archaeological site near Sakhnin has turned up evidence of a ritual meal going back some 12,000 years, far earlier than researchers had previously thought such events took place.

Over the years archaeologists have found considerable evidence of large-scale funeral feasts from the Neolithic (New Stone Age ) era onward. That period was characterized by the rise of agriculture, which spurred mankind’s transition from a nomadic to a sedentary way of life. That revolutionary change, roughly 9,500 years before the common era, was attended by the development of collective rites and rituals, which helped ease the transition from a foraging existence to a farming one.

The burial pit uncovered this year in a cave in the Lower Galilee suggests such collective rites were being practiced as early as the Upper Paleolithic (Late Stone Age ), more than 12,000 years ago.

A Hebrew University team led by Dr. Leore Grosman has discovered remnants of a funeral feast held by members of the Netufian people, a prehistoric culture that lived across the Levant region. The feast appears to have marked the burial of a female shaman, and in addition to her body, the site contains 50 complete tortoise shells and body parts of a wild boar, eagle, cow, leopard, two martens and a complete human foot.

The grave was excavated at Hilazon Cave, near the Sakhnin, in the Lower Galilee. The dig started in 1995, and since then archaeologists have discovered three large pits containing the remains of 26 people.

In an article published yesterday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, Grosman and colleagues Dr. Natalie D. Munro, of the University of Connecticut, and Prof. Anna Belfer-Cohen, who like Grosman is at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, describe the grave as “providing a rare opportunity to investigate the ideological shifts that must have accompanied these socioeconomic changes.”

The researchers said the grave contained at least 300 kilograms of meat, enough to feed a number of large families. The tortoises alone, they said, could have fed at least 35 people.

The researchers said the funeral feast represented part of the new cultural apparatuses that developed to help ease the transition into new ways of life. “This period saw the establishment of relations between individuals and large societies, and the passage into family units,” Grosman said yesterday. “Rituals like the funeral feast were held to that end,” she said.

“The Natufians are the first culture that employed cemeteries. Essentially these are testimony to the sedentary life and complex cultural rites that had not been seen beforehand,” Grosman said. “Members of the Natufian culture have one leg in the Neolithic and another in the Palaeolithic. These latest finds help us understand that transition.”

Original article:


by Asaf Shtull-Trauring



Read Full Post »

Topic: Discovery of ancient feast

This is the first of two articles I found on the subject-each has different info so I’ll put one up today and one Wed.

Anthropologists have unearthed the leftovers of the world’s first known organized feast, which took place around 12,000 years ago at a burial site in Israel, according to a new study.

Based on the findings, approximately 35 guests ate meat from 71 tortoises and at least three wild cattle while attending this first known human-orchestrated event involving food.

The discovery additionally provides the earliest known compelling evidence for a shaman burial, the apparent reason for the feasting. A shaman is an individual who performs rituals and engages in other practices for healing or divination.

In this case, the shaman was a woman.

“I wasn’t surprised that the shaman was a woman, because women have often taken on shamanistic roles as healers, magicians and spiritual leaders in societies across the globe,” lead author Natalie Munro told Discovery News.

Munro, a University of Connecticut anthropologist, and colleague Leore Grosman of Hebrew University in Jerusalem excavated and studied the shaman’s skeleton and associated feasting remains. These were found at the burial site, Hilazon Tachtit cave, located about nine miles west of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

According to the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the grave consisted of an oval-shaped basin that was intentionally cut into the cave’s floor.

“After the oval was excavated, the sides and bottom of the floor were lined with stone slabs lined and plastered with clay brought into the cave from outside,” said Munro.

The 71 tortoise shells, previously butchered for meat removal, were found situated under, around and on top of the remains of the woman. The woman’s skeleton indicates she suffered from deformities that would have possibly made her limp and “given her an unnatural, asymmetrical appearance.” A large triangular stone slab was placed over the grave to seal it.

Bones from at least three butchered aurochs — large ancestors of today’s domestic cattle — were unearthed in a nearby hollow. An auroch’s tail, a wild boar forearm, a leopard pelvis and two marten skulls were also found.

The total amount of meat could have fed 35 people, but it is possible that many more attended the event.

“These remains attest to the unique position of this individual within her community and to her special relationship with the animal world,” Munro said.

Before this discovery, other anthropologists had correctly predicted that early feasting might have occurred just prior to the dawn of agriculture.

Harvard’s Ofer Bar-Yosef, for example, found that fig trees were being domesticated in the Near East about 11,400 years ago, making them the first known domesticated crop. Staples such as wheat, barley and legumes were domesticated in the region roughly a thousand years later. Full-scale agriculture occurred later, about 10,000 years ago.

As agriculture began, however, “there was a critical switch in the human mind: from exploiting the earth as it is to actively changing the environment to suit our needs,” Bar-Yosef said.

Munro agrees and thinks the change could help to explain the advent of communal feasting.

“People were coming into contact with each other a lot, and that can create friction,” she said. “Before, they could get up and leave when they had problems with the neighbors. Now, these public events served as community-building opportunities, which helped to relieve tensions and solidify social relationships.”

Original article:


By Jennifer Viegas


Read Full Post »

Topic: What’s for dinner?

Dig in Utah

Archaeologists and anthropologists at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah, USA have been excavating the North Creek Shelter in that state and discovered what was for dinner there 11,000 years ago.

 Joel Janetski, PhD, anthropologist and professor at BYU, led the study and explained in a BYU August 23 announcement that, “Ten thousand years ago, there was a change in the technology with grinding stones appearing for the first time. People started to use these tools to process small seeds into flour.”

Prior to the grinding technology that produced mush and flour made from “sage, salt bush and grass seeds,” the menu supposedly consisted of “duck, beaver and turkey,” then “sheep became more common,” and “deer was a staple” both pre- and post-mush.

More details of the BYU team’s findings are to be published in the August archeology print journal Kiva:

Original article:



Read Full Post »

Topic: Using tools

Stone tools from mofified bones 3.4 million years old-Dikika, Ethiopia

Fossilized bones scarred by hack marks reveal that our human ancestors were using stone tools and eating meat from large mammals nearly a million years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study that pushes back both of these human activities to roughly 3.4 million years ago. 

The first known human ancestor tool wielder and meat lover was Australopithecus afarensis, according to the study, published in the latest issue of Nature.  This species, whose most famous representative is the skeleton “Lucy,” was slender, toothy and small-brained.

“By pushing the date for tool use and meat eating in our lineage back by around 1 million years, our finds show that tool use and meat eating was not unique to (the genus) Homo, a widely accepted notion in our field,” co-author Zeresenay Alemseged told Discovery News. 

“Also, by showing that A. afarensis was involved in these activities, we showed that you do not need a large brain to do this,” added Alemseged, director of the Department of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences.

“This is a kind of find that will force us to revise our human evolution and anthropology textbooks.” 

He and his colleagues from the Dikika Research Project made the determinations while working in the Afar Region of Ethiopia. There they unearthed two fossilized bones bearing stone tool marks. One of the bones belonged to a large, buffalo-sized, hoofed mammal, while the other was possibly from an Impala, gazelle or antelope.

Various types of electron microscopy, along with chemical analysis, determined that cut marks were inflicted while one or more individuals carved meat off the bones with a sharp stone tool. Percussion marks were also created when a stone tool broke open the bones to extract their nutritious marrow.  

The fossilized bones were found sandwiched between volcanic deposits, which permitted reliable dating of them. Before this discovery, the world’s oldest human evidence for butchery dated to 2.5 million years ago and came from Bouri and Gona, Ethiopia. No human remains were found in association with those fossilized prey bones, but A. afarensis remains were previously unearthed near the recent Afar Region discoveries.

Since the Afar stone tools were transported to the kill or scavenge site from nearly four miles away, A. afarensis must have valued the sharp objects. What’s unclear, however, is whether or not the ancient hominids made the stones themselves, or just picked already sharp stones up from the ground.

Lead author Shannon McPherron told Discovery News that he and his team plan to next look for “the locations on the landscape where A. afarensis (likely) broke one stone with another to create a sharp-edged flake.” 

“This activity leaves behind debris, unused flakes and perhaps the stone from which the flakes were removed, which we can recognize as evidence of stone tool manufacture,” said McPherron, a Paleolithic archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 

Alemseged added that “meat consumption has definitely contributed greatly to tool technology.” 

Archaeologist David Braun of the University of Cape Town agrees. In a separate Nature commentary, Braun wrote that improved butchery methods “may have set the stage for a greater reliance on animal tissues and more sophisticated stone-tool production.” 

Since fossils for A. afarensis have been found in Kenya and Tanzania, in addition to Ethiopia, Braun is hopeful that future research can determine if this species was “a habitual tool user” or not. 

“More surprises surely await us in the fossil-rich sedimentary basins of East Africa,” Braun concluded

Original Article:


By Jennifer Viegas


Read Full Post »

Topic: Ancient Hunters

artifacts from Nowray dig

Climate change is exposing reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings’ ancestors faster than archaeologists can collect it from ice thawing in northern Europe’s highest mountains.

“It’s like a time machine…the ice has not been this small for many, many centuries,” said Lars Piloe, a Danish scientist heading a team of “snow patch archaeologists” on newly bare ground 1,850 meters (6,070 ft) above sea level in mid-Norway.

Specialized hunting sticks, bows and arrows and even a 3,400-year-old leather shoe have been among finds since 2006 from a melt in the Jotunheimen mountains, the home of the “Ice Giants” of Norse mythology.

As water streams off the Juvfonna ice field, Piloe and two other archaeologists — working in a science opening up due to climate change — collect “scare sticks” they reckon were set up 1,500 years ago in rows to drive reindeer toward archers.

But time is short as the Ice Giants’ stronghold shrinks.

“Our main focus is the rescue part,” Piloe said on newly exposed rocks by the ice. “There are many ice patches. We can only cover a few…We know we are losing artefacts everywhere.”

Freed from an ancient freeze, wood rots in a few years. And rarer feathers used on arrows, wool or leather crumble to dust in days unless taken to a laboratory and stored in a freezer.

Jotunheimen is unusual because so many finds are turning up at the same time — 600 artefacts at Juvfonna alone.

Other finds have been made in glaciers or permafrost from Alaska to Siberia. Italy‘s iceman “Otzi,” killed by an arrow wound 5,000 years ago, was found in an Alpine glacier in 1991. “Ice Mummies” have been discovered in the Andes.


Patrick Hunt, of Stanford University in California who is trying to discover where Carthaginian general Hannibal invaded Italy in 218 BC with an army and elephants, said there was an “alarming rate” of thaw in the Alps.

“This is the first summer since 1994 when we began our Alpine field excavations above 8,000 ft that we have not been inundated by even one day of rain, sleet and snow flurries,” he said.

“I expect we will see more ‘ice patch archaeology discoveries’,” he said. Hannibal found snow on the Alpine pass he crossed in autumn, according to ancient writers.

Glaciers are in retreat from the Andes to the Alps, as a likely side-effect of global warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, the U.N. panel of climate experts says.

The panel’s credibility has suffered since its 2007 report exaggerated a thaw by saying Himalayan glaciers might vanish by 2035. It has stuck to its main conclusion that it is “very likely” that human activities are to blame for global warming.

“Over the past 150 years we have had a worldwide trend of glacial retreat,” said Michael Zemp, director of the Swiss-based World Glacier Monitoring Service. While many factors were at play, he said “the main driver is global warming.”

In Norway, “some ice fields are at their minimum for at least 3,000 years,” said Rune Strand Oedegaard, a glacier and permafrost expert from Norway’s Gjoevik University College.

The front edge of Jovfunna has retreated about 18 meters (60 ft) over the past year, exposing a band of artefacts probably from the Iron Age 1,500 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating. Others may be from Viking times 1,000 years ago.

Juvfonna, about 1 km across on the flank of Norway’s highest peak, Galdhoepiggen, at 2,469 meters, also went through a less drastic shrinking period in the 1930s, Oedegaard said.


Inside the Juvfonna ice, experts have carved a cave to expose layers of ice dating back 6,000 years. Some dark patches turned out to be ancient reindeer droppings — giving off a pungent smell when thawed out.

Ice fields like Juvfonna differ from glaciers in that they do not slide much downhill. That means artefacts may be where they were left, giving an insight into hunting techniques.

On Juvfonna, most finds are “scare sticks” about a meter long. Each has a separate, flapping piece of wood some 30 cm long that was originally tied at the top. The connecting thread is rarely found since it disintegrates within days of exposure.

“It’s a strange feeling to be tying a string around this stick just as someone else did maybe 1,500 years ago,” said Elling Utvik Wammer, a archaeologist on Piloe’s team knotting a tag to a stick before storing it in a box for later study.

All the finds are also logged with a GPS satellite marker before being taken to the lab for examination.

The archaeologists reckon they were set up about two meters apart to drive reindeer toward hunters. In summer, reindeer often go onto snow patches to escape parasitic flies.

Such a hunt would require 15 to 20 people, Piloe said, indicating that Norway had an organized society around the start of the Dark Ages, 1,500 years ago. Hunters probably needed to get within 20 meters of a reindeer to use an iron-tipped arrow.

“You can nearly feel the hunter here,” Piloe said, standing by a makeshift wall of rocks exposed in recent weeks and probably built by an ancient archer as a hideaway.

Original article:

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

JUVFONNA, Norway | Tue Sep 14, 2010


Read Full Post »

Topic: Ancient Bakery

Ancient Egpotian Bakery site

The smell of freshly baked bread wafted through Egypt’s western desert more than 3,500 years ago, according to new findings at the El-Kharga Oasis announced on Wednesday.

During excavation work for the Theban Desert Road Survey, a project to map the ancient desert routes in the Western desert, a team of Egyptian and US archaeologists from Yale University stumbled upon the remains of what appears to be an ancient bakery town.

About 1 km (0.6 miles) long from north to south and 250 meters (820 feet) wide from east to west, the settlement dates to the Second Intermediate Period (about 1650-1550 B.C.).

According to John Coleman Darnell, who led the Yale mission, archaeological evidence indicates that the site was an administrative center along the bustling caravan routes which connected the Nile Valley and the western oasis with points as far as Darfur in western Sudan.

Indeed, the archaeologists unearthed large mudbrick structures similar to  administrative buildings previously found in several sites in the Nile Valley.

But the most interesting features were the remains of a bakery. Making bread on a massive scale was the main occupation for the majority of the inhabitants, said Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The archaeologists unearthed two ovens and a potter’s wheel. This was used to make the ceramic bread molds in which the bread was baked.

The large debris dumps outside the bakery suggests that the settlement produced bread in such large quantities that it may have even been feeding an army, Hawass said in a statement.

Early studies on the site revealed that the settlement had quite a long life. It began during the Middle Kingdom (2134-1569 B.C.) and lasted to the beginning of the New Kingdom (1569-1081 B.C.). 

However the site was at its peak from the late Middle Kingdom (1786-1665 B.C.) to the Second Intermediate Period (1600-1569 B.C.).

Photo: Excavating the bakery – Courtesy of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities

Original Article


By  Rossella Lorenzi

Read Full Post »

Topic; Byzantine Winery

Ancient Winery in Bulgaria

Bulgarian archaeologists have explored further a Late Antiquity fortress located near the town of Byala on the St. Atanas Cape on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast that they found last year.

The team of archaeologists from the Varna Archaelogy Museum led by Prof. Dr. Valeri Yotov has uncovered a number of new details of the early Byzantine fortress, including what is believe to be the discovery an ancient winery.

The “winery” consisted of two stone buildings connected with an wooden passage. One of the buildings was filled up with grapes, which was then pressed with large rectangular stones.

According to the archaeological team, similar wineries have been found the Caucasus, the Crimean Peninsula, Serbia, Israel.

Yotov has pointed out that there are several supposed ancient wineries found in Bulgaria but none of them has been explicitly proven to have been used for wine-making so the tests, whose results are yet to come out, might make the new discovery the first properly uncovered ancient winery in the country.

He said the last such “winery” was found in Israel at the beginning of 2009, and is believed to have been the largest in the Byzantine Empire.

Yotov thinks the winery of the fortress near Byala was part of a monastery. He also said the tourists who already visited the site of the still ongoing excavations in the fortress were impressed the most by the winery.

His team has been digging near Byala after they rediscovered the fortress near the Cape of St. Atanas last summer.

They have already uncovered an early Christian church and much of the fortress walls.

The fortress near Byala is located on an area of 38-40 decares, and is dated back to the time of the Byzantine Emperors Anastasius I (491-518 AD), and Justinian I (527-565 AD). The only previously known information about the fortress comes from a note from 1892 of the brothers Hermingild and Karel Skorpil, the founders of Bulgarian archaeology, and a short expedition in the 1970s. Ancient Greek geographer Strabo mentions in his writings of a fortress called Larisa to the south of Odessos (today’s Varna) but it is still unclear whether the fortress discovered by the Bulgarian archaeologists is in fact Larisa.

Original article:



Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: