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Archive for November, 2012

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Topic Stone Age Wine

ELAZIG, Turkey — There are easier places to make wine than the spectacular, desolate landscapes of southeast Turkey, but DNA analysis suggests it is here that Stone Age farmers first domesticated the wine grape.
Today Turkey is home to archaeological sites as well as vineyards of ancient grape varieties like Bogazkere and Okuzgozu, which drew the curiosity of the Swiss botanist and grape DNA sleuth Jose Vouillamoz, for the clues they may offer to the origin of European wine.
Together with the biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern, Vouillamoz has spent nearly a decade studying the world’s cultivated and wild vines.
“We wanted to collect samples from wild and cultivated grape vines from the Near East — that means southeastern Anatolia, Armenia and Georgia — to see in which place the wild grape was, genetically speaking, linked the closest to the cultivated variety.”
“It turned out to be southeastern Anatolia,” the Asian part of modern Turkey, said Vouillamoz, speaking at the EWBC wine conference in the Turkish city of Izmir this month. “We propose the hypothesis that it is most likely the first place of grape vine domestication.”
McGovern’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania Museum also provided archaeological evidence of wine’s Anatolian roots after analysing residues of liquid recovered from vessels thousands of years old.
Author of “Uncorking the Past” and “Ancient Wine”, McGovern used a sensitive chemical technique to look for significant amounts of tartaric acid — for which grapes are the only source in the Middle East.
While Georgia, Armenia and Iran all played a role in ancient winemaking, preliminary evidence from pottery and even older clay mineral containers, seems to place the very first domestication of the wild Eurasian grape Vitis vinifera in southeastern Anatolia sometime between 5,000 and 8,500 BC, McGovern said.
Southeast Anatolia is part of the Fertile Crescent, the name given to a vast area stretching through modern-day Iraq and Iran to the Nile Valley in the south, widely seen as the birthplace of the eight so-called “founder” crops — from chickpea to barley — that are the world’s first known domesticated plants.
Evidence found by the research duo suggests that for wine too, hundreds of today’s grapes find their roots in “founder” varieties descended from the wild grapes of the region.
Through DNA profiling, Vouillamoz says he has isolated 13 of these “founder” grapes by tracing the family trees of European fine wine grapes.
He believes farmers across southeast Anatolia or the Near East started domesticating the wild Vitis vinifera grape around the same time — giving rise to the 13 “founders”.
This, he says, debunks the long-held notion that most Western European grapes were introduced independently from the Middle East, Near East or Egypt, Turkey or Greece, at different times and in different places.
One of the “founders”, Gouais Blanc, is a good example.
“He gave birth to at least 80 varieties in western Europe, including Chardonnay, Gamay, Furmint, and Riesling,” said Vouillamoz, who recently co-authored, “Wine Grapes,” a monumental opus on 1,368 vine varieties. “I call it the Casanova of grapes.”
Standing in a gully between Elazig and Diyarbakir, Daniel O’Donnell, chief winemaker at the Turkish winery Kayra, gestured to the great expanse of mountains where wild grape vines still grow in gullies and washes.
“It is a wine-making pilgrimage to come back here and find, genetically, 8,000, 9,000-year old vines,” said O’Donnell, who arrived here from California in 2006.
“It’s mind-blowing to be a Napa guy paying attention to the fine details, the minutiae of wine making, and come here.”
But this heritage is now under threat.
In the Kurdish Diyarbakir region, where women on subsistence farms tend the vines and goats do the pruning, phylloxera is killing vineyards that have not been grafted onto disease-resistant rootstock.
“Unfortunately, phylloxera has arrived here. Every year we see the vines die,” said Murat Uner, wine production manager at Kayra.
Phylloxera annihilated vineyards in Europe in the late 19th century. Wild vines are somewhat protected by their eco-system, but cultivated vines are extremely vulnerable.
“We explain it to them, but they don’t want to listen,” says Uner.
The frustration is shared by winemakers who are trying to develop the Turkish wine industry, and experts who fear the loss of an irreplaceable genetic diversity within these ancient varieties.
“They are incredibly lucky to have this,” said Vouillamoz. “It has been lost in many places.”

Original article:
By Suzanne Mustacich
google.com/ hosted news

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Topic: Ancient life in the Levent

Eastern valley shows off traces of Neolithic Age

MALATYA – Anatolia News Agency

Home to humans in every age, cultural officials have determined that the Levent Valley in the eastern Anatolian province of Malatya possesses traces of life going back 10,000 years

The Levent Valley is home to thousands of large and small caves carved by the human hand, according to officials. There are still 20 villages in the village (L). AA photo

Recent archaeological work in the Levent Valley in the eastern province of Malatya’s Akçadağ district has revealed traces of life from the Neolithic Age.

Levent İskenderoğlu, chairman of Malatya’s branch of the Conservation Implementation and Control Branch (KUDEB), said the 28-kilometer-long Levent Valley was a very attractive place thanks to its geological formations.

The valley is home to thousands of large and small caves carved by the human hand, he said. “One can see the traces of life in these caves with the naked eye.”

KUDEB has recently completed inventory work in the valley, he said. “The work, carried out by scientists – KUDEB’s technical staff including art historians and archaeologists – has revealed that life existed there until the Paleolithic age. We have seen traces of life from the Neolithic period in the valley caves.

There are also traces of the Hittite, Roman, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. Life is still continuing in villages. We can say that life has been continuing in the Levent Valley, which is a natural wonder, for 10,000 years. People have chosen this area to life in every age.”

20 villages exist

Iskenderoğlu said that within the scope of the work, they had discovered the existence of 26 areas that have geological importance, adding that there were nearly 20 villages in the valley including Levent, Kozalak, Bağ and Sarıhacı.

The official also said they would publish the result of the work in a book.

Kozalak village headman Hüseyin Ünal said the former name of their village was Hartut and added that living in the valley was fantastic. “The air is clean, the water is clear, the soil is fertile in this valley. It gives happiness to people living there.”

Ünal said people in the region made a living by cultivating beans, sugar beet, apricots and chickpeas.

He said the Çerkeztepe tumulus, which is located in the spot where the Bağ and Sakalıuzun villages merge in the valley, had been declared a protected site by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, adding that there were 5,000-year-old structures between Yalınkaya and Kozalak.
November/19/2012

Original article:
hurrieyedailynews.com

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Topic Viking diet

Greenland’s viking settlers, the Norse, disappeared suddenly and mysteriously from Greenland about 500 years ago. Natural disasters, climate change and the inability to adapt have all been proposed as theories to explain their disappearance. But now a Danish-Canadian research team has demonstrated the Norse society did not die out due to an inability to adapt to the Greenlandic diet: an isotopic analysis of their bones shows they ate plenty of seals.

“Our analysis shows that the Norse in Greenland ate lots of food from the sea, especially seals,” says Jan Heinemeier, Institute of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University.

“Even though the Norse are traditionally thought of as farmers, they adapted quickly to the Arctic environment and the unique hunting opportunities. During the period they were in Greenland, the Norse ate gradually more seals. By the 14th century, seals made up between 50 and 80 per cent of their diet.”

The Danish and Canadian researchers are studying the 80 Norse skeletons kept at the University of Copenhagen’s Laboratory of Biological Anthropology in order to determine their dietary habits. From studying the ratio of the isotopes carbon-13 and carbon-15, the researchers determined that a large proportion of the Greenlandic Norse diet came from the sea, particularly from seals. Heinemeier measured the levels of carbon isotopes in the skeletons, Erle Nelson of Simon Fraser University, in Vancouver, Canada, analysed the isotopes, while Niels Lynnerup of the University of Copenhagen, examined the skeletons.

“Nothing suggests that the Norse disappeared as a result of a natural disaster. If anything they might have become bored with eating seals out on the edge of the world. The skeletal evidence shows signs that they slowly left Greenland. For example, young women are underrepresented in the graves in the period toward the end of the Norse settlement. This indicates that the young in particular were leaving Greenland, and when the numbers of fertile women drops, the population cannot support itself,” Lynnerup explains.

Hunters and farmers

The findings challenge the prevailing view of the Norse as farmers that would have stubbornly stuck to agriculture until they lost the battle with Greenland’s environment. These new results shake-up the traditional view of the Norse as farmers and have given archaeologists reason to rethink those theories.

“The Norse thought of themselves as farmers that cultivated the land and kept animals. But the archaeological evidence shows that they kept fewer and fewer animals, such as goats and sheep. So the farming identity was actually more a mental self-image, held in place by an over-class that maintained power through agriculture and land ownership, than it was a reality for ordinary people that were hardly picky eaters,” Jette Arneborg, archaeologist and curator at the National Museum of Denmark, says.

The first Norse settlers brought agriculture and livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs from Iceland. While they thought of themselves as farmers, they were not unfamiliar with hunting.

They quickly started to catch seals, as they were a necessary addition to their diet. Toward the end of their stay, they became as accustomed to catching seals as the Inuit, who had travelled to Greenland from Canada around the year 1200 and inhabited the island alongside the Norse. Seals became more important for Norse survival as the climate began to change over time and it became increasingly difficult to sustain themselves through farming.

“The Norse could adapt, but how much they could adapt without giving up their identity was limited. Even though their diet became closer to that of the Inuit, the difference between the two groups was too great for the Norse to become Inuit,” Arneborg says.
Original article:
news.ku.dk

Photos 1&2 by Jette Arneborg

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Topic: More on the Mayan Collapse

Illustration by Roy Andersen, National Geographic

In a wet period, Maya farms thrived, and an empire flowered, studies say.

Every civilization has its rise and fall. But no culture has fallen quite like the Maya Empire, seemingly swallowed by the jungle after centuries of urban, cultural, intellectual, and agricultural evolution.

What went wrong? The latest discoveries point not to a cataclysmic eruption, quake, or plague but rather to climate change. And faced with the fallout, one expert says, the Maya may have packed up and gone to the beach.

But first came the boom years, roughly A.D. 300 to 660. At the beginning of the so-called Classic Maya period, some 60 Maya cities—each home to between 60,000 and 70,000 people—sprang up across much of modern-day Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. (Explore an interactive map of key Maya sites.)

Surrounded by pyramids, plazas, ball courts, and government buildings, the urban Maya discussed philosophy, developed an accurate solar-year calendar, and relished a thick, bitter beverage made from cacao beans: the world’s first hot chocolate.

Farmers, too, were riding high, turning hillsides into terraced fields to feed the burgeoning population.

Then came the bust, a decline that lasted at least two centuries. By 1100 the residents of once thriving Maya cities seem to have just up and left. But where did they flee to, and why?

In the 19th century, when explorers began discovering the overgrown ruins of “lost cities,” theorists imagined an immense volcanic eruption or earthquake or superstorm—or maybe an empire-wide pandemic. (Related: “Maya Mystery Solved by ‘Important’ Volcanic Discovery?”)

But today scientists generally agree that the Maya collapse has many roots, all intertwined—overpopulation, warfare, famine, drought. At the moment, the hottest field of inquiry centers on climate change, perhaps of the Maya’s own doing.

Flowering With the Rain

The latest Maya climate-change study, published Friday in the journal Science, analyzes a Belizean cavern’s stalagmites—those lumpy, rocky spires on cave floors—to link climate swings to both the rise and fall of the empire.

Formed by water and minerals dripping from above, stalagmites grow quicker in rainier years, giving scientists a reliable record of historical precipitation trends. One sample used in the new study, for example, documents fluctuations as far back as 2,000 years ago.

Among the trends revealed by the Belizean stalagmites: “The early Classic Maya period was unusually wet, wetter than the previous thousand years,” according to study leader Douglas Kennett, an environmental anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University. “During this time, the population proliferated,” aided by a surge in agriculture.

During the wettest decades, from 440 to 660, cities sprouted. All the hallmarks of Maya civilization—sophisticated political systems, monumental architecture, complex religion—came into full flower during this era.

Climate Shift Sparks Conflict

But the 200-year-long wet spell turned out to be an anomaly. When the climate pendulum swung back, hard times followed.

“Mayan systems were founded on those [high] rainfall patterns,” Kennett said. “They could not support themselves when patterns changed.”

The following centuries, from about 660 to 1000, were characterized by repeated and, at times extreme, drought. Agriculture declined and—not coincidentally—social conflict rose, Kennet says.

The Maya religious and political system was based on the belief that rulers were in direct communication with the gods. When these divine connections failed to produce rainfall and good harvests, tensions likely developed.

Within the scant 25 years between 750 and 775, for example, 39 embattled rulers commissioned the same number of stone monuments—evidence of “rivalry, war, and strategic alliances,” according to Kennett’s study.

But times would get even harder.

The stalagmite record suggests that between 1020 and 1100 the region suffered its longest dry spell of the last 2,000 years. With it, the study suggests, came Maya crop failure, famine, mass migration, and death.

By the time Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century, inland Maya populations had decreased by 90 percent, and urban centers had been largely abandoned. Farms had become overgrown and cities reclaimed by forest.

A Cautionary Tale?

The collapse, though, wasn’t exactly all natural. To some extent, the Maya may have designed their own decline.

“There were tens of millions of people in the area, and they were building cities and farms at the expense of the forest,” climate scientist Benjamin I. Cook said.

Widespread deforestation reduced the flow of moisture from the ground to the atmosphere, interrupting the natural rain cycle and in turn reducing precipitation, says Cook, of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

According to computer simulations Cook ran for a study published in Geophysical Research Letters this past August, the localized drying decreased atmospheric moisture by 5 to 15 percent annually. Even a 10 percent decrease is considered an environmental catastrophe, he says.

Add this to the broader drying trend and the situation becomes dire—a cautionary tale for modern society, according to Cook. Today, as more and more forestland is turned into farms and cities, and as global temperatures continue to rise, we may risk the same fate that befell the Maya, he says.

But, according to Arizona State University professor of environment and society B.L. Turner, “that’s the kind of oversimplification we’re trying to get away from. The Mayan situation is not applicable today—our society is just so radically different now.”

Lure of the Beach

In a study published in August by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Turner attempts to correct some common misconceptions, beginning with the idea that Maya civilization vanished after the conquistadores arrived.

“It didn’t cease to exist; there are still today Mayan people in the area. The culture, the traditions have been maintained,” he said. But the cities, historically, have not—and that’s odd.

Throughout global history, he said, “rarely can you find a large sustained population that just left and never came back,” Turner said. The closest analogue he can think of is the sudden, and final, abandonment of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat complex in the 15th century.

Turner’s study concludes that the natural environment recovered rather quickly after the dry centuries. Why, then, didn’t the Maya reclaim their glorious cities?

Turner points to the coasts. Fleeing starving, warring inland cities, many Maya made a beeline for the shore. Trade also shifted, from overland paths to coastal routes, he suggests.

With life relatively comfortable on the coast, the inland Maya cities may have simply been forgotten, Turner says. No catastrophic earthquake, no plague, no curse, but rather a gradual migration to the beach, where life was a bit mellower.

That is, until the Spanish arrived.

Original article:
By Nicholas Mott
national geographic

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Topic: Thanksgiving

What Was on the Menu at the First Thanksgiving?

Today, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner includes any number of dishes: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. But if one were to create a historically accurate feast, consisting of only those foods that historians are certain were served at the so-called “first Thanksgiving,” there would be slimmer pickings. “Wildfowl was there. Corn, in grain form for bread or for porridge, was there. Venison was there,” says Kathleen Wall. “These are absolutes.”

Two primary sources—the only surviving documents that reference the meal—confirm that these staples were part of the harvest celebration shared by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony in 1621. Edward Winslow, an English leader who attended, wrote home to a friend:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.”

William Bradford, the governor Winslow mentions, also described the autumn of 1621, adding, “And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.”

But determining what else the colonists and Wampanoag might have eaten at the 17th-century feast takes some digging. To form educated guesses, Wall, a foodways culinarian at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, studies cookbooks and descriptions of gardens from the period, archaeological remains such as pollen samples that might clue her in to what the colonists were growing.

Our discussion begins with the bird. Turkey was not the centerpiece of the meal, as it is today, explains Wall. Though it is possible the colonists and American Indians cooked wild turkey, she suspects that goose or duck was the wildfowl of choice. In her research, she has found that swan and passenger pigeons would have been available as well. “Passenger pigeons—extinct in the wild for over a century now—were so thick in the 1620s, they said you could hear them a quarter-hour before you saw them,” says Wall. “They say a man could shoot at the birds in flight and bring down 200.”

Small birds were often spit-roasted, while larger birds were boiled. “I also think some birds—in a lot of recipes you see this—were boiled first, then roasted to finish them off. Or things are roasted first and then boiled,” says Wall. “The early roasting gives them nicer flavor, sort of caramelizes them on the outside and makes the broth darker.”

It is possible that the birds were stuffed, though probably not with bread. (Bread, made from maize not wheat, was likely a part of the meal, but exactly how it was made is unknown.) The Pilgrims instead stuffed birds with chunks of onion and herbs. “There is a wonderful stuffing for goose in the 17th-century that is just shelled chestnuts,” says Wall. “I am thinking of that right now, and it is sounding very nice.” Since the first Thanksgiving was a three-day celebration, she adds, “I have no doubt whatsoever that birds that are roasted one day, the remains of them are all thrown in a pot and boiled up to make broth the next day. That broth thickened with grain to make a pottage.”

In addition to wildfowl and deer, the colonists and Wampanoag probably ate eels and shellfish, such as lobster, clams and mussels. “They were drying shellfish and smoking other sorts of fish,” says Wall.

According to the culinarian, the Wampanoag, like most eastern woodlands people, had a “varied and extremely good diet.” The forest provided chestnuts, walnuts and beechnuts. “They grew flint corn (multicolored Indian corn), and that was their staple. They grew beans, which they used from when they were small and green until when they were mature,” says Wall. “They also had different sorts of pumpkins or squashes.”

As we are taught in school, the Indians showed the colonists how to plant native crops. “The English colonists plant gardens in March of 1620 and 1621,” says Wall. “We don’t know exactly what’s in those gardens. But in later sources, they talk about turnips, carrots, onions, garlic and pumpkins as the sorts of things that they were growing.”

Of course, to some extent, the exercise of reimagining the spread of food at the 1621 celebration becomes a process of elimination. “You look at what an English celebration in England is at this time. What are the things on the table? You see lots of pies in the first course and in the second course, meat and fish pies. To cook a turkey in a pie was not terribly uncommon,” says Wall. “But it is like, no, the pastry isn’t there.” The colonists did not have butter and wheat flour to make crusts for pies and tarts. (That’s right: No pumpkin pie!) “That is a blank in the table, for an English eye. So what are they putting on instead? I think meat, meat and more meat,” says Wall.

Meat without potatoes, that is. White potatoes, originating in South America, and sweet potatoes, from the Caribbean, had yet to infiltrate North America. Also, there would have been no cranberry sauce. It would be another 50 years before an Englishman wrote about boiling cranberries and sugar into a “Sauce to eat with. . . .Meat.” Says Wall: “If there was beer, there were only a couple of gallons for 150 people for three days.” She thinks that to wash it all down the English and Wampanoag drank water.

All this, naturally, begs a follow-up question. So how did the Thanksgiving menu evolve into what it is today?

Wall explains that the Thanksgiving holiday, as we know it, took root in the mid-19th century. At this time, Edward Winslow’s letter, printed in a pamphlet called Mourt’s Relation, and Governor Bradford’s manuscript, titled Of Plimoth Plantation, were rediscovered and published. Boston clergyman Alexander Young printed Winslow’s letter in his Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, and in the footnotes to the resurrected letter, he somewhat arbitrarily declared the feast the first Thanksgiving. (Wall and others at Plimoth Plantation prefer to call it “the harvest celebration in 1621.”) There was nostalgia for colonial times, and by the 1850s, most states and territories were celebrating Thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the popular women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, , a real trendsetter for running a household, was a leading voice in establishing Thanksgiving as an annual event. Beginning in 1827, Hale petitioned 13 presidents, the last of whom was Abraham Lincoln. She pitched her idea to President Lincoln as a way to unite the country in the midst of the Civil War, and, in 1863, he made Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Throughout her campaign, Hale printed Thanksgiving recipes and menus in Godey’s Lady’s Book. She also published close to a dozen cookbooks. “She is really planting this idea in the heads of lots of women that this is something they should want to do,” says Wall. “So when there finally is a national day of Thanksgiving, there is a whole body of women who are ready for it, who know what to do because she told them. A lot of the food that we think of—roast turkey with sage dressing, creamed onions, mashed turnips, even some of the mashed potato dishes, which were kind of exotic then—are there.”

By Megan Gambino
Smithsonian.com, November 21, 2011
smithsonian magazine

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Topic Mayan culture and weather

Decades of extreme weather crippled, and ultimately decimated, first the political culture and later the human population of the ancient Maya, according to a new study by an interdisciplinary team of researchers that includes two University of California, Davis, scientists.

The collapse of the Maya is one of the world’s most enduring mysteries. Now, for the first time, researchers have combined a precise climatic record of the Maya environment with a precise record of Maya political history to provide a better understanding of the role weather had in the civilization’s downfall.

Their findings are published in the Nov. 9, 2012 issue of the journal Science.

“Here you had an amazing state-level society that had created calendars, magnificent architecture, works of art, and was engaged in trade throughout Central America,” said UC Davis anthropology professor and co-author Bruce Winterhalder. “They were incredible craftspersons, proficient in agriculture, statesmanship and warfare—and within about 80 years, it fell completely apart.”

To determine what was happening in the sociopolitical realm during each of those years, the study tapped the extensive Maya Hieroglyphic Database Project, run by UC Davis Native American Language Center director and linguist Martha Macri, a specialist in Mayan hieroglyphs who has been tracking the culture’s stone monuments for nearly 30 years.

“Every one of these Maya monuments is political history,” said Macri.

Inscribed on each monument is the date it was erected and dates of significant events, such as a ruler’s birthday or accession to power, as well as dates of some deaths, burials and major battles. The researchers noted that the number of monuments carved decreased in the years leading to the collapse.

But the monuments made no mention of ecological events, such as storms, drought or references to crop successes or failures.

For that information, the research team collected a stalagmite from a cave in Belize, less than 1 mile from the Maya site of Uxbenka and about 18 miles from three other important centers. Using oxygen isotope dating in 0.1 millimeter increments along the length of the stalagmite, the scientists uncovered a physical record of rainfall over the past 2,000 years.

Combined, the stalagmite and hieroglyphs allowed the researchers to link precipitation to politics. Periods of high and increasing rainfall coincided with a rise in population and political centers between 300 and 660 AD. A climate reversal and drying trend between 660 and 1000 AD triggered political competition, increased warfare, overall sociopolitical instability, and finally, political collapse. This was followed by an extended drought between 1020 and 1100 AD that likely corresponded with crop failures, death, famine, migration and, ultimately, the collapse of the Maya population.

“It has long been suspected that weather events can cause a lot of political unrest and subject societies to disease and invasion,” Macri said. “But now it’s clear. There is physical evidence that correlates right along with it. We are dependent on climatological events that are beyond our control.”

Said Winterhalder: “It’s a cautionary tale about how fragile our political structure might be. Are we in danger the same way the Classic Maya were in danger? I don’t know. But I suspect that just before their rapid descent and disappearance, Maya political elites were quite confident about their achievements.”

###
Co-authors leading the study are Douglas Kennett of Pennsylvania State University and Sebastian Breitenbach of Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Switzerland. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the European Research Council and Alphawood Foundation.

eurekalert.org

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Topic: Neolithic hord

ScienceDaily (Nov. 6, 2012) — Jewelry and female figurines from Belica, Serbia, to be exhibited for the first time at Tübingen University Museum.

Archeologists from the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Prehistory are working with the Serbian Archeological Institute in Belgrade to analyze the most comprehensive Early Neolithic hoard ever found. Work on the nearly 8000 year old collection of jewelry and figurines is funded by the Thyssen Foundation.

The unique hoard is composed of some 80 objects made of stone, clay and bone. “This collection from Belica, in all its completeness, provides a unique glimpse into the symbols of the earliest farmers and herdsmen in Europe,” says Tübingen archeologist Dr. Raiko Krauss, who heads the German side of the project.

The objects include stylized female figures, parts of the human body, as well as miniature axes and abstract figures. Much attention has been given to the rotund female figures of water-smoothed stone given human features by human hands. Were they idols, lucky charms or fertility symbols? Their purpose is unknown.

The stone objects are mainly of serpentinite from an ophiolite belt running some 40km west of the Belica site. The rock was washed out of the mountains and worn smooth by rivers and streams. Neolithic artists then selected the pebbles they wanted from the valleys.

Archeologists mapped the outline of an Early Neolithic settlement in June of this year using the distribution of finds on the surface as a guide. In the middle, they found the largely undisturbed hoard. Using modern geophysical prospection methods, they were able to bring buried parts of the settlement to light during summer excavations.

“Important finds like this should be prominently displayed in the Serbian National Museum,” says Krauss of the hoard. “But the National Museum in Belgrade has been closed since the civil war.” So Krauss is working with his Serbian colleagues on an exhibition at the University of Tübingen Museum in Hohentübingen Castle. The modern world will first get to see the Belica hoard there in the winter semester of 2013/14. The hoard, and the results of the current investigation, are to be published in German and Serbian.

Original article:

sciencedaily.com
November 6, 2012

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