Archive for September, 2011

Topic: Turning to farming

English Channel Islands

Archaeologists are investigating islands around Britain to find out why our ancestors gave up
being hunter-gatherers 6,000 years ago and turned to farming.

Academics from the universities of Southampton and Liverpool
are hoping to shed new light on the long-standing debate about whether the
change around 4,000BC was due to colonists moving into Britain or if the
indigenous population gradually adopted the new agricultural lifestyle

The experts will be excavating three island groups in the
western seaways – the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly and the Outer
Hebrides – to understand what sailing across this area would have been like in

Fraser Sturt, from the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton,
said: “How people changed from hunter-gatherers to agricultural lifestyles is
one of the big questions in archaeology.

“We know that the first signs of domestication occurred in
the Middle East around 10,000BC and reached France by 5,000BC. However, it
appears to be another 1,000 years before Neolithic farming activities reached

“We are investigating why this happened by looking at
changing social practices, possible environmental impacts and the nature of
maritime technology and communication.”

Recent archaeological findings, such as French pottery in
Scotland, suggest that colonisation from the continent could be one possible
explanation for this shift in lifestyle.

Studies show that the first colonists are likely to have
travelled across the western seaways, but there has been very little excavation
of the islands to prove this theory.

Duncan Garrow, from the University of Liverpool’s School of
Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, added: “Archaeological findings, such as
the bones of farm cattle from the fifth millennium BC and European pottery, and
advances in radiocarbon techniques have given new life to the theory that
European colonists settled in Britain and brought farming practices with them.

“To understand how possible this could have been, however, we
need to turn our attention away from the mainland and towards the seas that form
an important travel link between the islands around Britain.

Scilly Isles

“We are excavating on the Channel Islands, Isles of Scilly
and in the Outer Hebrides, which form part of an important maritime zone that
surprisingly has been given little scholarly attention in the past.

“We are constructing a database of all known fifth and fourth
millennium occupation sites in and around each island group and starting a
programme of radiocarbon dating to understand the chronology of activity within
the western seaways.

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research

Outter Hebrides

Original article:


By Martin Halfpenny



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Topic Desert Oasis

Jordan- Ancient oasis sheds light on early humans.

Ayn Qasiyya excavation

excavations at qasr kharaneh

Original article:


Jordan Times


Photo of Qasr Kharaneh

from kharaneh.blogspot.com

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Topic: Basketmaker III period brings agricultural way of life.


Before Mesa Verde | Popular Archaeology – exploring the past.

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Topic: Ancient Grouper-Imagine how many it could feed

Don’t forget to take a look at my new blog Northwest Culinary Adventures. I will be posting every Tuesday and Thursday for now. I’ll share some recipes, restaurant and book reviews and I’ll visit many of Oregon wineries and post on what’s good and what isn’t.

This ancient Roman mosaic from the Bardo National Museum in Tunis shows a giant grouper swollowing a fisherman. Courtesy of Trainito.

The dusky grouper, one of the major predators in the Mediterranean sea, used
to be so large in antiquity that it was portrayed as a “sea monster,” a new
study into ancient depictions of the endangered fish has revealed.

“Amazingly, ancient mosaic art has provided important information to
reconstruct this fish’s historical baseline,” Paolo Guidetti of the University
of Salento in Italy, told Discovery News.

Considered one of the most flavorful species among the Mediterranean fish,
the dusky grouper (Epinephelus marginatus) is a large, long-lived,
slow-growing, protogynous hermaphrodite fish (with sex reversal from female to
male). It can be found mainly in the Mediterranean, the African west coast and
the coast of Brazil.

Having faced harvesting for millennia — grouper bones have been found in
human settlements dating back more than 100,000 years — this species has been
decimated in recent decades by commercial and recreational fishing. It is now
categorized as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature
(IUCN) Red List.

The recovery of endangered fish species requires a careful evaluation of some
key elements, such as abundance, size structure, and spatial distribution. Such
evaluation usually involves comparing unfished areas with unprotected sites.

“But most such marine protected areas are too small and ‘young’ (established
a few decades ago, at most) to provide information on ‘pristine’ conditions,”
Guidetti and colleague Fiorenza Micheli, a professor of marine ecology at
Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, wrote in the current issue of Frontiers
in Ecology and the Environment

To look farther back into the grouper’s history, the researchers examined
hundreds of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman paintings and mosaics depicting fishing
scenes and fish.

At the end, they focused on 23 mosaics which represented groupers. In 10 of
the 23 mosaics, dating from the 1st to 5th centuries, groupers were portrayed as
being very large.

Indeed, the ancient Romans might have considered groupers some sort of “sea
monsters” able to eat a fisherman whole, as shown in a 2nd century mosaic from
the Bardo National Museum in Tunis.

The mosaics also indicated that groupers lived in shallow waters much closer
to shore, and were caught by fishermen using poles or harpoons from boats at the
water’s surface.

“It’s a technique that would surely yield no grouper catch today,” said the

Although there are no known instances of dusky groupers attacking human
swimmers, the art depictions are very “informative,” said the researchers.

“These representations suggest that groupers were, in ancient times, so large
as to be portrayed as sea monsters and that their habitat use and depth
distribution have shifted in historical times,” Guidetti and Micheli wrote.

Ancient Roman authors such Ovid (43 B.C. – 18 A.D.) and Pliny the Elder ((23
A.D. – 79 A.D.) reported that groupers were fished by anglers in shallow waters,
where they are now rare if not completely absent.

According to their accounts, fish were so strong they could break fishing

The researchers noted that grouper populations in marine reserves now show
signs of returning to their historical sizes and depths, with groupers moving
into shallower waters.

Achieving population abundances five to 10 times greater than those in
unprotected areas of the Mediterranean, groupers in no-take reserves can reach
sizes of 35-40 inches (versus 20-24 inches for groupers at fished sites).

“Ancient art provides a link between prehistorical and modern evidence and
suggests that shallow near shore Mediterranean ecosystems have lost large, top
predators and their corresponding ecological roles,” the researchers concluded.

Dusky grouper. Courtesy of Albert Kok/Creative Commons.

Original article:


By Rossella Lorenzi
Tue Sep 13, 2011

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Topic: Golden Ball Tavern-Mixing food and politics

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A tavern in Petersburg Virginia  served as an important meeting venue for  America’s founding fathers and later  British officers during the  American Revolution, but it is the food eaten by  the clientèle that  interests Dr. Elizabeth Moore, curator of archaeology at the  Virginia  Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.

In the 18th century,  taverns were among the few public places where people  (primarily men)  could gather to discuss the issues of the day.

“Taverns were  places where America’s founding fathers could come  together to test  ideas, to discuss the latest injustices, and to foment  revolution,” Moore said.

The Golden Ball Tavern, formerly located in the Old  Towne, Petersburg, was  the site of significant Revolutionary War  activity, with British officers  having been quartered at the tavern in  1781.  In 1784, the Virginia  General Assembly established the tavern as a  meeting place of the courts and  the common council.  From 1781 to 1790,  the Golden Ball Tavern was one of  the city’s best-known hostelries.

Moore  is currently analysing animal remains from pigs, cows, lambs,   chickens, and various wild game served at the Golden Ball Tavern during the 18th  century.  While the bones don’t reveal much  about revolution, they can  provide clues to some of the important  economic changes occurring at the  time.

“The growth of a market  economy with standardized butchery practices and  controlled distribution  of goods was a major change for colonists in growing  urban areas,” Moore said. “As some areas shifted from primarily  agrarian activities  in a frontier context to becoming urban centres with people  who did lots  of things other than grow food, it became necessary for food to  become  increasingly provided in the marketplace instead of the  home-place.”

Moore  is working with staff at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources  (DHR) and Diffusion Laboratory to study the town and environs of   Petersburg in the 1700s. The 1764 deposit at the Golden Ball Tavern site is only  one of the  components revealed during excavations which began in 2008.   The site also contains evidence  from the time of Ft. Henry (1645) and, deeper  still, a  Late Woodland Native American village (AD 1400-1600).

Excavations were  conducted through a partnership among the Prince George  County Regional  Heritage Center, DHR, the City of Petersburg, Richard Bland  College, and  the Historic Petersburg Foundation.  Volunteers from the  Archaeological  Society of Virginia assisted with the excavations.

With the large  number of osteological remains collected from the site and the  time needed  to process and document the various collected items, Moore and her   colleagues rely heavily on the work of volunteers in the labs.  The   Archaeology Lab at the Virginia Museum of Natural History regularly  hosts  volunteers of a variety of ages with diverse backgrounds.

Original Article:



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Topic: Outhouse gives up information to archaeologists

The find comes as archaeologists are busy excavating many areas around the city in advance of construction of a new Metro line. Here, archaeologists dig at the site of the original Vesterport gate (Photo: Musem of Copenhagen)

Ancient loo reveals 18th-century Copenhagener’s eating habits

Two 300-year-old latrines unearthed from beneath Kultorvet Square are offering up answers about how everyday Copenhageners traded, ate and suffered in the 18th-century. And those answers are accompanied by some still powerful odours.

”Well, it smells like rotten eggs,” archaeologist and excavation expert Hoda El-Sharnouby told Politiken newspaper.

El-Sharnouby’s team made the stinky but stunning find which includes two outhouses filled with nearly 300-year-old faeces.

The privies and their contents are remarkably well-preserved, thanks to the low oxygen content in the city’s soil.

“That smell is such good news for us archaeologists, because that’s how we know that the contents are well-preserved and have not been eaten up by bacteria,” El-Sharnouby added.

With all the digging going on around Copenhagen these days as part of the Metro Cityring subway project ancient faecal finds have turned up in a few spots, but the thing that makes the Kultorvet faeces so special is that it is packed with well-preserved clues.

“There is an insane quantity – it’s going to take me months to look through it all and analyse all the contents thoroughly. But I can already see that they ate seasonal things, raspberries or blackberries, and apples. Somebody ate an apple core and it came right out the other end,” archaeobotanist Mette Marie Hald, who is in charge of analysing the plant content of the Kultorvet faeces, said.

“They ate cherries, figs and flax seeds. I have also found seeds from weeds that grow in rye fields, so they were definitely eating rye bread or rye porridge,” she added. ”We only expected to find barley porridge and local farmstead food, but we have found a whole range of plants which could possibly tell us something about trade contacts in the past.”

Less appetisingly, Hald has found evidence of intestinal worms and mites in our forefathers’ faeces.

The find may also provide new understanding about the lifestyles of the lower social classes in Copenhagen in the 1700s, because the Kultorvet toilets were apparently public facilities, accessible to all.

“It’s as close to the person, the body and everyday life as you can come,” Hald added.

The privies were used for the last time just before the great fire of 20-23 October 1728, when large parts of Copenhagen burned to the ground.

Original article:


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Before You take a look at my latest post on AncientFoods I would like to announce the start of my new blog Northwest Culinary Adventures. I also have the link on my blogroll. The blogs URL is www.aptkitchen.wordpress.com. This blog will feature some of my own recipes,and some that I find on other sources and want to share with you. In addition My husband and I will visit wineries and go to wine tastings( not always at the wineries themselves) in Oregon and Washington and I will report back. Finally I’ll do some resturant reviews, book reviews , and report on our travels around the Northwest. I hope you will take a look and come back often to this new blog. I will also have some great photos to see!

Thank you so much.

Joanna Linsley-Poe


Northwest Culinary Adventures


Topic: Neanderthal and Fish:

The Cueva Bajondillo on Andalusia's southern coast near Malaga contained remains of burned mussel shells Photo: REX

Neanderthal man lived on a diet of seafood in the caves of southern Spain much longer ago than previously thought, new archaeological findings show.

Much as modern day man enjoys tucking into a plateful of seafood paella when visiting the Costa del Sol, Neanderthals living on the Iberian coast 150,000 years ago supplemented their diet with molluscs and marine animals.

Archaeological examination of a cave in Torremolinos unearthed early tools used to crack open shellfish collected off rocks along the Iberian coast and found fossilised remains of the early meals.

The discovery is the earliest of its kind in northern Europe and shows that early man were fish eaters in Europe some 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.

The findings suggest that early coastal cavemen supplemented their hunter/gatherer diet of nuts, fruits and meat from animals such as antelopes and rabbits with seafood.

A team of archaeologists from Seville University and scientists from the National Council for Scientific Investigation (CSIC) published their research this week after a lengthy investigation involving the scientific dating of fossilised remains from the cave.

The Cueva Bajondillo on Andalusia’s southern coast near Malaga contained remains of burned mussel shells and barnacles indicating that Middle Paleolithic hominids had collected and cooked the shellfish for consumption.

The discovery suggests that Neanderthals in Europe and Archaic Homo sapiens in Africa were following parallel behavioural trajectories but with different evolutionary outcomes, the paper claims.

“It provides evidence for the exploitation of coastal resources by Neanderthals at a much earlier time than any of those previously reported,” said Miguel Cortés Sánchez who led the Seville University team.

“The use of shellfish resources by Neanderthals in southern Spain started some 150,000 years ago,” the paper concluded. “It was almost contemporaneous to Pinnacle Point (in South Africa) when shellfishing is first documented in archaic modern humans.”

Original article:


By , Madrid

3:49PM BST 15 Sep 2011

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