Archive for December, 2010

Topic New Year

Picture of Robert Burns


Happy New Year everyone and thank you for reading my blog! I hope you will continue to read what I write about ancient foods.  I hope to bring you more on my mead making, and sourdough bread with ancient grains this year( I now have a grain mill for grinding). I also hope to make ancient Egyptian beer this year!

I thought if you haven’t seen this article it might be of interest even though it’s not on food.

New Year’s Eve is one of those love-it-or-hate-it holidays. But no matter how you feel about celebrating, odds are you’re going to hear “Auld Lang Syne” at least 500 times. There is no escape.

Naturally, Web searches on the song pop like champagne corks on New Year’s Eve. Our guess is that folks simply want to know what the song actually means. After all, it’s not often that people belt out a tune that they don’t really understand. Well, wonder no more. Here’s the scoop on the song that is mandatory for one night every year.

According to the good people at TLC, the song is an “extremely old Scottish song that was first written down in the 1700s.” The poet Robert Burns often gets credit for the words.

Or at least some of them. People often belt out their own lyrics. A site dedicated to the great poet explains, “In spite of the popularity of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ it has aptly been described as ‘the song that nobody knows.’ As for the the music, it’s more of a traditional folk song.”

So, what do the words actually mean? Basically, the words “auld lang syne” translate into “for days past,” “days gone by,” or “for the sake of old times,” depending on whom you ask. But no matter what the literal translation is, the sentiment is the same. It’s a song that aims to honor the good old days on a night that’s all about ringing in the new.

Want to print your own copy of the lyrics so you can sing the real words at the stroke of midnight? Check out RobertBurns.org, and let incorrect lyrics be forgot…

Original article on yahoo Shine

by gramps  on Dec 22, 2010

Here is what Wikipedia has to say plus a link to see the lyrics of the song in its numerous versions

Auld Lang Syne” (Scots pronunciation: [ˈɔːld lɑŋˈsəin]: note “s” rather than “z”)[1] is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788[2] and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294). It is well known in many English-speaking (and other) countries and is often sung to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight. By extension, its use has also become common at funerals, graduations, and as a farewell or ending to other occasions.

The song’s Scots title may be translated into English literally as “old long since”, or more idiomatically, “long long ago”,[3] “days gone by” or “old times”. Consequently “For auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, is loosely translated as “for (the sake of) old times”.

The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” is also used in similar poems by Robert Ayton (1570–1638), Allan Ramsay (1686–1757), and James Watson (1711) as well as older folk songs predating Burns.[4] Matthew Fitt uses the phrase “In the days of auld lang syne” as the equivalent of “Once upon a time…” in his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language.



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Topic Ancient Wheat-Salt


Dr Rana Munns with genetically ancient wheat


 Two recently discovered genes from an ancient wheat variety have led to a major advance in breeding new salt-tolerant varieties.

In a recent set of papers published in the journal Plant Physiology researchers describe the two genes – known as Nax1 and Nax2. The genes work by excluding salt from different parts of the plant: one from the roots, the other from the leaves. The discovery of the two genes is the subject of international patents.

“The two genes originally came from a wheat ancestor, Triticum monococcum,” says research team leader, CSIRO Plant Industry’s Dr Rana Munns. “They were unwittingly crossed into a durum wheat line about 35 years ago and are normally not present in any modern wheat.”

The project began when the CSIRO team used a highly accurate selection method – based on their understanding of how plants tolerate salt – to identify wheat varieties that could cope with higher salinity. They were particularly interested in the premium-priced durum wheat, which is much more salt-sensitive than bread wheat.

“We screened a hundred durum wheats from the Australian Winter Cereals Collection at Tamworth, which contains tens of thousands of wheat types,” Dr Munns says. “Highlighting the fact that the science of plant breeding sometimes relies on an element of good fortune, we were lucky to find the durum variety with the ancient genes straight away, otherwise we might have been looking for years.”

The team used their knowledge of the two genes to construct molecular markers, which are now in use in CSIRO’s wheat breeding program. A durum wheat variety as salt-tolerant as bread wheat is in advanced field trials and could be commercially available in three years. Even better durum wheats are in development and the program has been expanded to include bread wheat.

“Bread wheat is quite tolerant to salt, but we think it too can be improved. Our aim is to eventually produce wheats able, like barley, to grow in highly saline soils,” Dr Munns says.

Over six per cent of the world’s arable land is affected by salinity. Salt tolerant crops can provide farmers with income for remediation, as well as helping to stabilise soil from wind and water erosion.

The research is a collaborative project between CSIRO, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, the University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the CRC for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity.

Original article:



Domestic Einkorn-Triticum_monococcum

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Topic  Ancient Fish Traps

Comox Valley, Vancouver Island BC


Radio carbonating strengthens case for National Historic Site

Some of the ancient fish traps in the Courtenay Estuary are way older than first imagined.

Radiocarbon dating of the remains of wooden stakes pounded in to the mud has revealed some date back almost 1400 years.

The results, announced on Tuesday, could strengthen the case to designate the estuary as a National Historic Site.

Archaeologist Nancy Greene and her husband, geologist David McGee, have been investigating the mystery of the fish traps for years.

They estimate there are the remains of perhaps 150,000 stakes in the estuary, although many are not immediately obvious as the remnants are below the mud.

But at low tide, the remains of huge numbers are visible, and careful mapping of 14,000 of them using GPS equipment has exposed intricate patterns.

They include large heart and chevron-shaped compounds, with long straight lines of stakes once used to help guide fish, particularly salmon and herring, into the traps as tides receded.

Fragments of basketry and cord have been found buried in the mud, indicating that many stakes were linked like fences to create pens to prevent fish escaping.

While a handful of stakes were scientifically dated six years ago – a process that proved that some had been in place for centuries – Greene and McGee realized a much larger sampling was needed to progress the research to the next level.

A wider sampling would not only provide more precise dates for the structures, but also help unravel the mystery of overlapping patterns. But the cost was prohibitive.

To the rescue came the specially-created ‘Stick in the Mud Club,’ an idea conceived by regional district Area B director Jim Gillis and Project Watershed vice-chair Paul Horgen.

The idea was each member of the new club would put up $500 to cover the costs of scientifically dating a stake, with a target of getting at least 40 analyzed. The end result topped that, with enough money raised to date 46.

A host of individuals, groups and local governments stepped forward to join the club, and on Tuesday each was presented with a certificate of appreciation, including the date of their stake now the results are in.

Greene gave an illustrated presentation on the outcome of the research to coincide with the distribution of certificates at the Black Fin Pub in Comox.

She said the oldest date for a stake was 1360 years, and the youngest around 170 years, all before Europeans settled in the Comox Valley.

Because the stakes had been sampled from various parts of the estuary, what could be gleaned from the results was spectacular, she said. Groups of stakes of a similar age had helped define specific patterns of fish traps from different eras.

“We now have the scientific evidence for something that is extremely rare – maybe unique in North America,” she said.

“The estuary has the merits to be a National Historic Site and these new dates could nail it,” Greene added.

The latest radiocarbon results pushed the earliest trap dates back a further 200 years and had allowed “a whole range of questions to be answered.”

She added: “There’s no doubt now that this is the biggest, most sophisticated and intense fishing site ever recorded in Canada.

“Some of the traps are 140ft across and had the capability of catching immense numbers of fish, capable of feeding a vastly larger population than we imagined.

“The First Nations knew how to fish on a huge scale but they did it sustainably. There’s a lesson to be learned from that.”

Greene said the research to date would now be written up for publication in a professional journal, with full acknowledgement to the community input to the project.

“The community has really supported our research, especially through the Stick in the Mud Club. We could not have reached this point without that support,” she said.

Gillis said he was delighted with the outcome of the fundraising and research and looked forward to the next stage of the project.

When he originally wanted to get people to sponsor a stake and part with $500, he had some difficulty getting traction.

Then he pitched the idea to Comox Mayor Paul Ives who, he recalled, had responded: ‘Why should I be interested in a bunch of sticks in the mud?’

“What he said got me thinking,” said Gillis. “‘Stick in the Mud’ would be a great phrase to draw attention to the project, so the idea of the club was born.”

Ives soon signed up as a member, putting $500 of his own in to the pot and later his council also joined.

At Tuesday’s event, Ives said what had been discovered had really opened his eyes to the estuary’s historic as well as natural significance.

“The magnitude of this is really quite mind boggling,” he commented. “A lot more people were living here at one time than most people realize.”

* Anyone wanting to be involved in the bid to seek National Historic Site status for the estuary is asked to contact Paul Horgen at 250-339-4038 or email p.horgen@utoronto.ca

Original article:


By Philip Round, Comox Valley Echo
December 3, 2010


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Topic European Farming

Genetic matrilineal distances between 55 modern Western Eurasian populations and Neolithic Linear Pottery Culture


More information about the map above.

Mapped genetic distances are illustrated between 55 modern Western Eurasian populations and the total of 42 Neolithic LBK samples (A) or the single graveyard of Derenburg (B). Black dots denote the location of modern-day populations used in the analysis. The coloring indicates the degree of similarity of the modern local population(s) with the Neolithic sample set: short distances (greatest similarity) are marked by dark green and long distances (greatest dissimilarity) by orange, with fainter colors in between the extremes. (Credit: Haak W, Balanovsky O, Sanchez JJ, Koshel S, Zaporozhchenko V, et al. Ancient DNA from European Early Neolithic Farmers Reveals Their Near Eastern Affinities. PLoS Biology, 2010; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000536)

A team of international researchers led by ancient DNA experts from the University of Adelaide has resolved the longstanding issue of the origins of the people who introduced farming to Europe some 8000 years ago.

A detailed genetic study of one of the first farming communities in Europe, from central Germany, reveals marked similarities with populations living in the Ancient Near East (modern-day Turkey, Iraq and other countries) rather than those from Europe.

Project leader Professor Alan Cooper, Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide, says: “This overturns current thinking, which accepts that the first European farming populations were constructed largely from existing populations of hunter-gatherers, who had either rapidly learned to farm or interbred with the invaders.”

The results of the study have been published today in the online peer-reviewed science journal PLoS Biology.

“We have finally resolved the question of who the first farmers in Europe were — invaders with revolutionary new ideas, rather than populations of Stone Age hunter-gatherers who already existed in the area,” says lead author Dr Wolfgang Haak, Senior Research Associate with ACAD at the University of Adelaide.

“We’ve been able to apply new, high-precision ancient DNA methods to create a detailed genetic picture of this ancient farming population, and reveal that it was radically different to the nomadic populations already present in Europe.

“We have also been able to use genetic signatures to identify a potential route from the Near East and Anatolia, where farming evolved around 11,000 years ago, via south-eastern Europe and the Carpathian Basin (today’s Hungary) into Central Europe,” Dr Haak says.

The project involved researchers from the University of Mainz and State Heritage Museum in Halle, Germany, the Russian Academy of Sciences and members of the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, of which Professor Cooper is a Principal Investigator and Dr Haak is a Senior Research Associate.

The ancient DNA used in this study comes from a complete graveyard of Early Neolithic farmers unearthed at the town of Derenburg in Saxony-Anhalt, central Germany.

“This work was only possible due to the close collaboration of archaeologists excavating the skeletons, to ensure that no modern human DNA contaminated the remains, and nicely illustrates the potential when archaeology and genetics are combined,” says Professor Kurt Werner Alt from the collaborating Institute of Anthropology in Mainz, Germany.

Original article:



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Topic Salt Mine


Duzdagi salt mine


Duzdagi stone hammers- early bronze age

Archeologists have recently provided proof that the Duzdagi salt deposits, situated in the Araxes Valley in Azerbaijan, were already being exploited from the second half of the 5th millennium BC. It is therefore the most ancient exploitation of rock salt attested to date. And, to the researchers’ surprise, intensive salt production was carried out in this mine at least as early as 3500 BC.

This work, conducted in collaboration with the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences and published on 1st December 2010 in the journal TÜBA-AR, should help to elucidate how the first complex civilizations, which emerged between 4500 BC and 3500 BC in the Caucasus, were organized.

The economic and symbolic importance of salt in ancient and medieval times is well known. Recent discoveries have shown that salt most probably played a predominant role in protohistoric societies, in other words those that preceded the appearance of writing. How is salt obtained? The two most widely used techniques are based on the extraction of rock salt, in other words a sedimentary deposit containing a high concentration of edible salt (2), and the collection of sun-dried salt in salt marshes, for example. Knowledge of the techniques used in former times to exploit raw materials such as salt, obsidian (3) or copper enables archeologists to deduce essential information on the needs and the level of complexity of ancient societies. In the Caucasus, the first traces of intensive exploitation of rock salt appeared at the very moment when these protohistoric societies were undergoing profound economic and technological changes, particularly with regard to the development, for the first time, of copper metallurgy.

In order to understand these interactions, CNRS researcher Catherine Marro and her team have been exploring the Araxes basin (Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan) for the last ten years or so. The archeologists have been focusing particularly on the Duzdagi (4) salt mine situated in Azerbaijan, more specifically beside the old medieval Silk Road linking Tabriz (in the north west of Iran) with Constantinople. Until now, the oldest traces of exploitation of this deposit, which is still in activity, went back to the 2nd millennium BC. This dating was based on the fortuitous discovery in the 1970s of an ancient collapsed gallery that contained the remains of four workers buried with their tools.

In 2008, a French-Azerbaijani team directed by Marro and her colleague Veli Baxsaliyev began a systematic exploration of the Duzdagi mine. The team then made an inventory of a large number of remnants (tools, ceramics, etc.), the oldest of which date back to 4500 BC. It is the first time that artifacts from this period have been discovered in such large numbers in a salt mine. The researchers have thus been able to demonstrate that exploitation of this salt mine has been going on for a very long time, extending back at least to the second half of the 5th millennium BC: Duzdagi is therefore the oldest exploitation of rock salt known to date (5).

Another remarkable fact is that the abundance of artifacts dating from the early Bronze Age suggests that the Duzdagi mine was intensively exploited from as early as the 4th millennium BC. Hundreds of stone picks and hammers have in fact been found near the entrances of collapsed tunnels. The frequent presence nearby of ceramic pottery fragments specific to the culture known as “Kuro-Araxes” has made it possible to date these archeological artifacts. Their spatial and chronological distribution was analyzed by a geographic information system, combining satellite photos (Spot 5), aerial photos taken from a kite and the plotting of artifacts by DGPS, a sort of enhanced global positioning system. Such intensive extraction suggests that the salt from Duzdagi was not limited to local use by small self-sufficient communities. It was undoubtedly distributed, within a still unknown economic framework, to more far-off destinations. Furthermore, it appears that the extracted salt was not accessible to all of the communities in the Araxes Valley. Its exploitation from the 5th millennium BC seems to have been the prerogative of certain prominent groups.

This work raises a lot of questions. Who and what was the salt intended for in the 5th and 4th millennia BC. How were the communities that exploited these deposits organized? What were the political and economic links between the different regional sites (villages, workshops and mines), etc.? To find part of the answers, the archeologists hope to excavate the collapsed tunnels of this deposit, which covers more than 6 km2, in the near future.

The explorations carried out on this site in 2008 and 2009 benefited in particular from funding from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and CNRS, as well as CNES support through the ISIS program. They were performed in collaboration with the Azerbaijan National Academy of Science.

Original article:



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Topic: Coca Leaves 

dried coca leaves


The modern coca plant has ancestors with the same chemical properties


While not eaten as such, still this article is an interesting read-remember coke used to contain traces of cocaine when it was first marketed and was perscribed for a number of medical conditions!

Peruvian foraging societies were already chewing coca leaves 8,000 years ago, archaeological evidence has shown.

Ruins beneath house floors in the northwestern Peru showed evidence of chewed coca and calcium-rich rocks.

Such rocks would have been burned to create lime, chewed with coca to release more of its active chemicals.

Writing in the journal Antiquity, an international team said the discovery pushed back the first known coca use by at least 3,000 years.

Coca leaves contain a range of chemical compounds known as alkaloids. In modern times, the most notable among them is cocaine, extracted and purified by complex chemical means.

But the chewing of coca leaves for medicinal purposes has long been known to be a pastime at least as old as the Inca civilisation.

Other alkaloids within the leaves have mildly stimulating effects, can reduce hunger and aid digestion, and can mitigate the effects of high-altitude, low-oxygen environments.

Evidence of the chewing of the leaves has been found from around 3,000 years ago, but the addition of calcium-rich substances – which draw out far more of the alkaloids – was seen to be a much more recent development.

Now, Tom Dillehay of Vanderbilt University in the US and his colleagues have found evidence both of chewed leaves and calcium-rich rocks that were burned and scraped to supply ash for chewing.

The evidence was found beneath the buried floors of the homes of foraging peoples from northwestern Peru, where the conditions were favourable to preserve what is normally a fleeting, organic remnant of a bygone civilisation.

The samples were dated to about 8,000 years, but Dr Dillehay told BBC News that a further surprise was the distribution of the finds.

“We found it not so much in a household context, as if it was something that was heavily used by a lot of people, but rather… restricted to certain households of individuals and produced in a sort of public context – not individualised,” he explained.

“The evidence we have suggests that unlike in Western societies – where if you’ve got the economic means you can have access to medicinal plants – that seems not to be the case back then.”

More than providing an archaeological perspective on the ancient civilisation, however, the find provides evidence that feeds into a current debate.

International moves are being made to curb coca production in the Andes because of its association with cocaine, but Dr Dillehay argues there is far more to the plant.

“Some have argued that (coca chewing) is a fairly recent historical tradition – meaning the last several centuries or a thousand years – but it’s a deeply-rooted economic, social and even religious tradition in the Andes.”

Peter Houghton of King’s College London, editor of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, told BBC News that the finds were “significant” in terms of pushing the date back for the first known coca chewing – in particular finding both leaves and calcium-bearing rocks in the same place.

That the consumption appears to have been restricted to few would not be surprising, he told BBC News.

“The evidence is that the widespread use amongst the people in that part of Peru and Bolivia is a comparatively recent thing; before then it was restricted to a privileged class.”

Original article:


By Jason Palmer


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Topic: Ancient Fruit, nuts and grasses found

Millet Grain ready to harvest




XI’AN, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) — Chinese archeologists have found an ancient fruit cellar containing well-preserved apricot and melon seeds from more than 3,000 years ago in today’s Shaanxi Province.

The cellar was a rectangular pit about 105 cm long, 80 cm wide and 205 cm deep, said Dr. Sun Zhouyong, a researcher with the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archeology.

Sun and his colleagues found the pit in 2002, about 70 cm underground the Zhouyuan site, ruins of Western Zhou dynasty (1046-771 BC) 100 km from Xi’an. After eight years of research, they concluded it was a cellar used to preserve fruits for aristocrats.

In each corner of the pit, Sun and his colleagues found a little round hole. “We assume the cellar had something like a shade that was fixed on the four holes but had decayed over the years.”

Inside the cellar the researcher could see, even with naked eye, huge piles of nuts and seeds.

“We sorted them out with care, and found about 500 apricot nuts — 108 of which were complete with carbonized pulp, at least 150 melon seeds and 10 plum seeds,” said Sun.

They also found millet and grass seeds.

“Most of the seeds were intact and very few were carbonized,” said Sun. “It was so amazing that scientists who conducted lab work suspected they were actually put away by rodents in more recent times.”

Sun and his colleagues sent three apricot nuts to Beta Analytic in Florida, the United states, last year for carbon 14 test to determine their age.

“The test results indicated they were about 3,000 years old, dating back to a period between 1380 B.C. and 1120 B.C.,” said Sun. “Seemingly the fruits had been stored in an acidic and dry environment, so dehydration was extremely slow and the nuts were not carbonized even after so many centuries.”

Zhouyuan site, where the cellar was unearthed, was believed to be a dwelling place for Duke Danfu, an early leader of the Zhou clan. It was known as the cradle of the Western Zhou Dynasty, one of the earliest periods of China’s written history.

“Presumably, the aristocrats had stored fruits in their family cellar,” said Sun.

The cellar, with roughly 1.7 cubic meters of storage, could store up to 100 kilograms of fruits, he said.

The Book of Rites, a Chinese history book compiled in the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-9), put melons, apricots, plums and peaches among the 31 categories of food favored by aristocrats of the time. It said people in the Zhou Dynasty had also learned to grow fruit trees in orchards.

A poem in the “Book of Songs”, a collection of poetry from the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century -771 BC) to the Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 475 BC), says food kept in “ling yin” — meaning cool places — will stay fresh for three days in the summer.

Before the fruit cellar was reported, archeologists in Shaanxi Province found a primitive “icebox” that dated back at least 2,000 years ago in the ruins of a temporary imperial residence of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 207 BC).

The “icebox”, in the shape of a shaft 1.1 meters in diameter and 1.6 meters tall, was unearthed about 3 meters underground in the residence.

Original article:


Editor Zhang Xiang



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