Archive for March, 2012

Topic Wild Ox


All cattle are descended from as few as 80 animals that were domesticated from wild ox in the Near East some 10,500 years ago, according to a new genetic study.

An international team of scientists from the CNRS and National Museum of Natural History in France, the University of Mainz in Germany, and UCL in the UK were able to conduct the study by first extracting DNA from the bones of domestic cattle excavated in Iranian archaeological sites. These sites date to not long after the invention of farming and are in the region where cattle were first domesticated.

The team examined how small differences in the DNA sequences of those ancient cattle, as well as cattle living today, could have arisen given different population histories. Using computer simulations they found that the DNA differences could only have arisen if a small number of animals, approximately 80, were domesticated from wild ox (aurochs).

The study is published in the current issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. Dr Ruth Bollongino of CNRS, France, and the University of Mainz, Germany; lead author of the study, said: “Getting reliable DNA sequences from remains found in cold environments is routine.

“That is why mammoths were one of the first extinct species to have their DNA read. But getting reliable DNA from bones found in hot regions is much more difficult because temperature is so critical for DNA survival. This meant we had to be extremely careful that we did not end up reading contaminating DNA sequences from living, or only recently dead cattle.”

The number of animals domesticated has important implications for the archaeological study of domestication.

Prof Mark Thomas, geneticist and an author of the study based at the UCL Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment: “This is a surprisingly small number of cattle. We know from archaeological remains that the wild ancestors of modern-day cattle, known as aurochs, were common throughout Asia and Europe, so there would have been plenty of opportunities to capture and domesticate them.”


Prof Joachim Burger, an author of the study based at the University of Mainz, Germany, said: “Wild aurochs are very different beasts from modern domestic cattle.

“They were much bigger than modern cattle, and wouldn’t have had the domestic traits we see today, such as docility. So capturing these animals in the first place would not have been easy, and even if some people did manage snare them alive, their continued management and breeding would still have presented considerable challenges until they had been bred for smaller size and more docile behavior.”

Archaeological studies on the number and size of prehistoric animal bone have shown that not only cattle, but also goats, sheep and pigs were all first domesticated in the Near East. But saying how many animals were domesticated for any of those species is a much harder question to answer. Classical techniques in archaeology cannot give us the whole picture, but genetics can help – especially if some of the genetic data comes from early domestic animals.

Dr Jean-Denis Vigne, a CNRS bio-archaeologist and author on the study, said: “In this study genetic analysis allowed us to answer questions that – until now –archaeologists would not even attempt to address.

“A small number of cattle progenitors is consistent with the restricted area for which archaeologists have evidence for early cattle domestication ca. 10,500 years ago. This restricted area could be explained by the fact that cattle breeding, contrary to, for example, goat herding, would have been very difficult for mobile societies, and that only some of them were actually sedentary at that time in the Near East.”

Dr Marjan Mashkour, a CNRS Archaeologist working in the Middle East added “This study highlights how important it can be to consider archaeological remains from less well-studied regions, such as Iran. Without our Iranian data it would have been very difficult to draw our conclusions, even though they concern cattle at a global scale”.

Original article:


Merch 27, 2012


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Huge ocean sunfish (Mola mola) at Outer Bay ex...

Huge ocean sunfish (Mola mola) at Outer Bay exhibit, Monterey Bay Aquarium, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topic: Fisheries of the past

In the search for sustainability of the ocean’s fisheries, solutions can be found in a surprising place: the ancient past.

In a study published on March 23 in the journal Fish and Fisheries, a team of marine scientists reconstructed fisheries yields over seven centuries of human habitation in Hawaii and the Florida Keys, the largest coral reef ecosystems in the United States, and evaluated the management strategies associated with periods of sustainability. The results surprised them.

“Before European contact, Native Hawaiians were catching fish at rates that far exceed what reefs currently provide society,” said John “Jack” N. Kittinger, co-author and an early career fellow at the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University. “These results show us that fisheries can be both highly productive and sustainable, if they’re managed effectively.” In contrast, historical fisheries in Florida were characterized by boom and bust, with serial depletions of highly valuable species for export markets. Today many species that were the target of 19th and early 20th century fisheries in Florida – including green turtles, sawfish, conch and groupers – have severely reduced populations or are in danger of extinction.

“Seven hundred years of history clearly demonstrate that management matters,” said Loren McClenachan, co-author and assistant professor of environmental studies at Colby College. “Ancient Hawaiian societies used sophisticated tools similar to innovative conservation strategies used today, like marine protected areas and restrictions on harvest of vulnerable species like sharks.” The difference, the authors explained, was in the way fisheries governance systems were structured. Regulations were developed locally with the buy-in of community members, but they were also effectively enforced with methods that now would be considered draconian. “Today, no management system comes close to achieving this balance, and as a result, resource depletion and collapse is common,” said McClenachan.

The authors were able to characterize historical catch rates in Florida and Hawaii through an extensive review of archival sources, including species-specific catch records from the 1800s and archaeological reconstructions of human population densities and per-capita fish consumption back to the 1300s. Such information is relatively rare in coral reef areas. They then characterized management regimes associated with periods of high sustained yields using a variety of sources, including published work of Native Hawaiian scholars. This work revealed that sustainable fisheries existed during periods in which regulations were strict and socially enforced in ways that were often class and gender based. For example, many vulnerable species—like sharks and marine turtles—were reserved exclusively for high priests and chiefs.

Ancient Hawaiian societies depended entirely on local resources and needed creative ways to avoid resource collapse. For example, fishpond aquaculture was used to sequester nutrients and reduce pollution on reefs. In contrast, much of today’s aquaculture requires large inputs of wild caught fish and antibiotics, often resulting in increased pollution. “Ancient Hawaiian society effectively practiced what we now call ecosystem-based management, which is something that modern society often struggles to achieve,” says McClenachan. “Incorporating some of these ancient techniques into today’s policy may be the key to sustaining our fisheries.”

The authors of the study, entitled “Multicentury trends and the sustainability of coral reef fisheries in Hawai’i and Florida,” point to the U.S. National Ocean Policy as an example of emerging attempts to manage ocean ecosystems more holistically, and local fisheries co-management as a modern way of including community members in designing effective fishing regulations. However, the authors caution that effective enforcement needs to go hand in hand with the development of local governance. “The ancient Hawaiians punished transgressors with corporal punishment,” observed Kittinger. “Clearly, we don’t recommend this, but it’s easy to see there’s room to tighten up today’s enforcement efforts.”

Historical fisheries in Florida were characterized by boom and bust, with serial depletions of highly valuable species for export markets, according to researchers at the Center for Ocean Solutions and Colby College.(Photo Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce) 

The Center for Ocean Solutions is a collaboration among Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment and Hopkins Marine Station, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Across these institutions, COS draws from about 80 scholars, researchers and educators who work on coastal and ocean ecosystems in the natural, physical and social sciences. COS also works with experienced conservation practitioners and policy experts. Located at Stanford and in Monterey, California, COS is uniquely positioned to leverage expertise and develop practical solutions to the most urgent and important ocean conservation problems.

Founded in 1813, Colby College is the 12th-oldest independent liberal arts college in the nation. Colby provides a rigorous academic program that fosters transformational relationships between students and faculty. Graduates emerge as committed leaders ready to make an impact on their world. Colby is committed to making the full experience accessible to all qualified students, regardless of their ability to pay. The college enrolls 1,825 students.

Related information:

Center for Ocean Solutions http://centerforoceansolutions.org/

Colby College http://www.colby.edu/

Original article:



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Lí­mite Chile/Argentina en el paso del Bermejo...

Lí­mite Chile/Argentina en el paso del Bermejo - paso Iglesia (Photo credit: Flodigrip's world)

I have been so amazed at the views for this blog and the countries that are watching what I post so this morning when I recieved a post from

agroekonomija this morning I decided to do the same so everyone can see who else is taking a look at Ancient Foods.

By the way I love Google translate , it lets me view blogs I wouldn’t see otherwise.

Back to ancientfood on Wednesday



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Topic: TigerNuts History and recipes


Tiger nuts are the edible tubers (also sometimes called fruits or grains), found at the end of the root system of Cyperus grass (Cyperus  esculentus L.). A member of the sedge family, along with its better-known cousin, papyrus, Cyperus Grass grows in marshy areas such as the Delta region ( in ancient times) or well irrigated areas. These tiger nuts, called Hab’el aziz in Arabic were a great source of nutrition in Egypt since at least the 5th millennium B.C. According to Tackholm, V. and Drar, M.  in  Flora of Egypt, vol II, first published in 1950 and again in 1973, it was believed by them to be the most ancient of foods found in Egypt after Emmer and Barley. Illustrations of Cyperus Grass are found in many tombs and it was even discovered in the stomachs of pre-dynastic mummies by F. Netolitzki, in The Ancient Egyptians and their influence on the Civilization of Europe by G. Elloit-Smith. 

Specimens from many sites in Egypt can be found at the Agricultural Museum of Dokki, in Cairo.

There is a great deal of debate among Egyptologists as to the ancient name assigned to this plant. Gywis the name it is normally given however the Ebers papyrus speaks of a medicine it calls “ grains of mnwh also called snw-tMnwh is the plural form of mnh, papyrus or sedge, such as Cyperus. Greek scholars, Theophrastus and Pliny associated the name of several different plants with C. esculentus (or tiger nuts).

Malinathalle was one of the plants mentioned by Theophrastus as being boiled in barley beer and then eaten as a sweetmeat. This sounds similar to the above recipe except a bit more intoxicating.

The Ancient Egyptians also used this plant for medical purposes.

They prescribed the plant in mixtures for everything from; mouth chews, enemata, dressings, ointments, to fumigations, designed to sweeten the smells of the house or clothes. In the latter form it was used with myrrh. When you consider that the Ancient Egyptians ate this plant as well as using it in their medicines (as they did with so many of the plants that grew naturally or which were cultivated). They certainly got the full value of all that the Nile had to offer them.

According to Darby in Food The Gift of Osiris, C. esculentus continues to be cultivated to this day in Egypt (most likely in the Delta region). Beyond Egypt the Arabs carried it to North Africa, Sicily and Spain.  Called Chufa in Spain it is made into a popular drink. In Egypt the tuber is ground and used in breads in addition to producing oil used in ointments and cosmetics. Finally the residue is used as fodder for animals.

Wikipedia says this on tiger nuts as a food:

The tubers are edible, with a slightly sweet, nutty flavour, compared to the more bitter-tasting tuber of the related Cyperus rotundus (purple nutsedge). They are quite hard, and are generally soaked in water before they can be eaten, thus making them much softer and giving them a better texture. They have various uses; in particular, they are used in Spain to make horchata. They are sometimes known by their Spanish name, chufa.

Tigernuts have excellent nutritional qualities, with a fat composition similar to olives and a rich mineral content, especially phosphorus and potassium. The oil of the tuber was found to contain 18% saturated (palmitic acid and stearic acid) and 82% unsaturated (oleic acid and linoleic acid) fatty acids.

Today besides human use in drinks and baked goods, Chufa( tiger nuts), are used as fish bate and food for wild turkeys, ducks, deer and hogs-who could imagine.

Such an ancient plant it is known in addition to the name tiger nut, as earth chestnut, earth almond, yellow nut grass, ground almond and rush nut. The plant is cultivated today in China, Spain and West Africa and the U,S.


Chafa seed-tigernuts

First from Ancient Egypt

Tiger nut Sweets

Grind a quantity of tiger nuts in a mortar.

Sift the flour carefully.

To the ground tiger nuts add a bowl of honey and mix to a dough.

Transfer the dough to a shallow metal (?) vessel. Place on top of the fire and add a little fat. Boil over a gentle fire until a firm paste is obtained. It must smell roasted not burnt.

Cool and shape into tall conical loaves.

According to An Ancient Egyptian Herbal by Lise Manniche, the loaves from the above recipe were made as a special offering instituted by the king for every feast anew (or alike). This recipe was on the tomb walls of Rekhmire, vizier of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (Eighteenth Dynasty) from the fifth century BC. Ms. Manniche’s translation comes from pictures on the tomb walls themselves.

These loaves called Shat were a highly valued temple offering.

Egyptian Food and Drink by Hilary Wilson also cites the bakery scene in Rekhmire’s tomb as showing the stages of preparation of triangle loaves, also made with ground tiger nuts and sweetened with dates and honey.

From modern day Spain here is a recipe for Horchata made from Chura (tiger nuts).

Horchata is a drink that is made from extracting the flavor from different nuts depending on the desired taste.  Horchata from Chufas is a very popular and refreshing summer drink in the region of Valencia, Spain where many acres are grown for that purpose.  Chufas and Horchata were brought to Spain by the Moors when they came in the eighth century.  The Spanish brought them to the New World.

Horchata from Chufa


1 lb. Chufas
1 lb. Sugar
2.5 Quarts of Water
1 Cinnamon Stick

Clean the chufas well by rubbing them between your hands while rinsing them in clean water.  Repeat until chufas are clean (rinse water remains clean when chufas are rubbed between your hands).

Cover with 4 inches of water and soak for 12 to 14 hours.

After soaking, rinse the chufas again in clean water, changing the water until it is completely clear, then drain off all the water.

Mash the chufas or put them in a blender – to make them into a soft paste. Add a little water if needed.

Add the 2.5 quarts of water to the paste that you have made and put in the cinnamon stick. Let it sit in a cool place (like a fridge) for 2 hours.

Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Strain the mix through a mesh filter to remove the larger particles, and then through a damp fine-cloth filter.  If the cloth filter did not strain the liquid enough, there are two options here:

a.) Repeat until the strained liquid does not have any large particles left.

b.) Fold or double fold your damp cloth filter and pass the liquid through the filter slowly.

The smooth milky liquid can be served as is, placed in the fridge to be served chilled later or placed in the freezer, stirring occasionally to prevent it from freezing solid, and served in slushy form.


Darby, W: Food gift of Osiris

Manniche, L: An Ancient Egyptian Herbal

Wilson, H: Egyptian Food and Drink


Chafa.com-Glendale Enterprises

Original Article:

Bu Joanna Linsley-Poe

copyright 2012

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Topic: Let the games begin


Iron age burial site

Beer and bling in Iron Age Europe.


Original Article:


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 Topic: Fish sauce

If you’re like me, the last post on the convoluted origins of our favorite fermented condiment—ketchup—probably left you wondering: What is the difference between Roman garum than modern Thai fish sauce?

What little I know comes from an experiment performed by Sally Grainger, author of Cooking Apicus, recounted in the book Cured, Fermented and Smoked Foods. Grainger is a British chef and an experimental archeologist. She looked at studies on fish sauce amphorae (ceramic vessels) from archeological sites in Spain and North Africa. One of her more fascinating sources comes from a 2,000-year-old shipwreck discovered off the coast of Grado, Italy. The ship was full of fish—maybe even live ones. Italian researchers found that the vessel contained what amounts to a giant fish tank—a hydraulic system capable of transporting 440 pounds of live parrotfish (Scarus ssp.) from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. The wreck also contains 600 amphorae, some with well-preserved fish sauce inside.

Using these studies and a recipe from Geoponica, a 10th century collection of agricultural lore, as a guide, Grainger added salted sardines (Pilchardus sardines) and sprats (Sprattus sprattus) to barrels, put the barrels in a greenhouse, and covered the tops with cardboard. Then she waited two months. What’s surprising, Grainger found, was that the recreated ancient fish sauce appeared to be a lot less salty than its modern Southeast Asian counterparts, with just as much protein. Salt slows down the enzymatic process, so industrial-scale fish sauces today—what you might otherwise think of cheaply made “fast” food—actually take longer to make than the ancient brews. In other words, this old, “slow food” fermented faster.

On one final note, for those of you interested in doing some fishy home-brewing, Ken Albaba, author of the forthcoming Lost Arts of Hearth and Home, told me he made a batch last year. Albaba said it was fun and, moreover, “Not stinky in the least. Almost pure umami in fact.”

Original Article:

smithsonian magazine

by Peter Smith, March 1,2012

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Topic: Soda Bread

Happy St Patricks Day

I could’t let the holiday go this year without sharing with you one of my favorite recipes and a small bit of history!


Until recently, for the most families in rural Ireland, travel meant infrequent trips to the nearest livestock market.  So yeast was hard to obtain and bought bread was a rarity. The traditional bread of Ireland was made at home, baked in a he4avy iron pot set over a peat fire, with hot peats covering the lid. These breads are quickly made, with no lengthy kneading or rising requirement. They are given a light texture and a wonderful taste by a combination of acidic buttermilk or soured milk and the alkaline baking soda.

*Soda breads are made to be eaten soon after baking.

Note: In the original recipe self-rising flour is used.

If you go this route you may follow the recipe below but omit the baking powder and baking soda from the recipe.

I converted the recipe for my own use and have made it several times with excellent results.

Also the original recipe used 4 squares of semisweet chocolate, which I tried but changed to chips for a more even distribution of the chocolate.

Irish Chocolate Chip Soda Bread

3   cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1  teaspoon  fine sea salt

2  teaspoons  sugar

2    teaspoons  baking powder

1/2   teaspoon  baking soda

3  tablespoons  butter — cold,diced

4 ounces  milk chocolate chips

1 1/4  cups  buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease one baking sheet. You may use parchment paper or a sillpat on the baking sheet instead.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the diced butter and rub in using the tips of your fingers, lifting your fingers well above the bowl to get plenty of air into the mixture. When the mixture looks like bread crumbs, stir in the chocolate, then mix to a form dough with the buttermilk.

Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for a few seconds. Shape into a round loaf about 1 1/4 inches thick. Put onto prepared baking sheet and score into 8 triangles.

Bake immediately for 30-35 minutes or until the loaf turns a golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Eat warm straight from the oven.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 281 Calories; 9g Fat (28.3% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 16mg Cholesterol; 296mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 0 Non-Fat Milk; 2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

*Once thoroughly cooled, the loaf can be frozen for up to a month. Thaw completely, then warm before eating.

Serving Ideas: Serve warm with butter, clotted cream, and a fine Irish tea.

soda bread


Recipe By: Joanna Linsley-Poe

Serving Size  : 8

Categories: Quick Breads

“Adapted from a recipe in “Country Breads of the World “by linda Collister and Anthony Blake”

Copyright: 2000

Yield:   “1 loaf”

photos from “Country Breads of the World

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