Archive for December, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 26,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Well here’s  a hats off to everyone who followed my blog this past year! Haza!

I hope to bringmany more interesting and informative posts to you in 2013, a some news posted from the web and more original material of my own.

Happy new year!

Joanna Linsley-Poe


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Topic First Settlements

A team of archaeologists have unearthed additional evidence of what may have been Europe’s first civilization at a site located near the town of Pazardzhik in southern Bulgaria. Known as Yunatsite, it is a Tell (mound containing archaeological remains) about 110 meters in diameter and 12 meters high, rising above fields next to a small Bulgarian village by the same name. The Tell contains remains of an urbanized settlement dated at its earliest to the early fifth millenium BC.

Directed by Yavor Boyadzhiev of the National Institute of Archaeology and Museums, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, excavators have unearthed artifacts such as weapons, Spondylus jewels, decorated fineware pottery, shards marked by characters/pictograms, and evidence of structures dated to 4900 BC, including fortifications and a recently discovered wooden platform that was likely the floor of a building that had been destroyed by fire.

The excavations are revealing an age-old story of warfare and human cruelty. Writes Boyadzhiev, et. al. at their website: the Balkan Heritage field school “The Copper age settlement was destroyed by invaders around 4200-4100 cal. BC. Among the ruins of the last Chalcolithic horizon are found the skeletons of its last inhabitants (mainly children and elderly men and women): a testimony of a cruel massacre. Those who survived returned and resettled for a while the devastated settlement but soon even they left it and Tell Yunatsite was abandoned for more than 1000 years”. [1]

Research has shown that, beginning in the seventh millennium BC, the Balkan Peninsula was a gateway or corridor through which Neolithic culture, including farming and animal husbandry, spread from Anatolia and the Near East. Beginning in the fifth millennium BC, human populations in the central and eastern Balkans began developing metal-processing technologies, notably that of Copper, into a relatively large-scale industry for the first time in world history. The world’s oldest copper mines, for example, were found by archaeologists near Rudna glava, Serbia and Mechikladenets/Ai bunar near Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. Moreover, writes Boyadzhiev, et. al., : “Archaeological evidence shows that in the fifth millennium BC these prehistoric cultures enjoyed a constant rise in population and wealth, meanwhile experiencing social stratification due to intensive trade with metal products, salt and other goods with the rest of prehistoric Europe and Asia. These Balkan Copper age cultures had all the characteristics of the first civilizations, including: the very first urban settlements in Europe (Tell Yunatsite, Durankulak and Provadia in Bulgaria), dense networks of settlements, “industrial” proportions of production of goods, especially metal products and salt, developed trade, distinguished social and professional stratification, pictograms and characters interpreted by some scholars as the world’s oldest script (Gradeshnitsa tablet for instance dates back to the sixth or early fifth millennium BC) as well as precious artifacts made of gold, pottery, bone and stone (the world’s oldest gold treasure was found in the Varna Copper age necropolis)”. [1]

In 2013, archaeologists hope to continue to explore, among other things, the Early/Middle Copper Age structures and the earliest prehistoric fortification wall of the settlement.

Original article:
popular archaeology
Dec 12, 2012


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Topic: Mayan Temple
I feel I have a duty to post the following article even though it doesn’t pertain to food. It does however say something about the mentality of those people who have no reverence for the past and are just as likely to trash an ancient temple as their living room. Stay home I say,if you cannot respect the temple, the workmanship and the antiquity of the past. The supposed end of the world ( i.e.the end of the Mayan calendar ), is not an excuse to destroy the Mayan heritage any more than it is to damage any monument, no matter the culture or religion of its people.

Reported in the Fiji Times
Dec 25, 2012

GUATEMALA CITY – Tourists flocking to Guatemala for “end of the world” parties have damaged an ancient stone temple at Tikal, the largest archaeological site and urban centre of the Mayan civilisation.

“Sadly, many tourists climbed Temple II and caused damage,” said Osvaldo Gomez, a technical adviser at the site, which is located some 550 kilometres north of Guatemala City.

“We are fine with the celebration, but (the tourists) should be more aware because this is a (UNESCO) World Heritage Site,” he told local media. Gomez did not specify what was done, although he did say it was forbidden to climb the stairs at the site and indicated that the damage was irreparable.

Temple II, which is about 38 metres high and faces the central Tikal plaza, is one of the site’s best known structures.

Friday marked the end of an era that lasted 5200 years, according to the Mayan “Long Count” calendar. Some believed the date also marked the end of the world as foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs.

More than 7000 people visited Tikal on Friday to see native Mayan priests hold a colourful ceremony and light fires as the sun emerged to mark the new era UNESCO declared Tikal a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Original article:

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Topic: Holidays
I’m going off topic today to wish everyone who follows my blog and everyone who has just stopped by, a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Saint Mithras Day, or whatever you celebrate at this time of the year. I almost forget the winter solace and the beginning of a new
Mayan calendar! A special greeting to any pagans, followers of the ancient Egyptian Religion or any other of the ancient beliefs. This is the season to wish you all the best!

Below is a picture of myself and husband at a recent holiday dinner.
My thanks to my husband Michael for his research on my behalf and for his photos.
Well back to pie making and I will see you on Wednesday


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Topic More on cheese

This post and the one on Wednesday are similar, but I’m sure you will find both informative.

Traces of dairy fat in ancient ceramic fragments suggest that people have been making cheese in Europe for up to 7,500 years. In the tough days before refrigerators, early dairy farmers probably devised cheese-making as a way to preserve, and get the best use out of, milk from the cattle that they had begun to herd.

Peter Bogucki, an archaeologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, was in the 1980s among the first to suspect that cheese-making might have been afoot in Europe as early as 5,500 bc. He noticed that archaeologists working at ancient cattle-rearing sites in what is now Poland had found pieces of ceramic vessels riddled with holes, reminiscent of cheese strainers. Bogucki reasoned that Neolithic farmers had found a way to use their herds for more than milk or meat.

In a paper published in Nature, Bogucki and his collaborators now confirm that theory, with biochemical proof that the strainers were used to separate dairy fats. Mélanie Salque, a chemist at the University of Bristol, UK, used gas chromatography and carbon-isotope ratios to analyse molecules preserved in the pores of the ancient clay, and confirmed that they came from milk fats. “This research provides the smoking gun that cheese manufacture was practiced by Neolithic people 7,000 years ago,” says Bogucki.

Dairy culture

“This is the first and only evidence of [Neolithic] cheese-making in the archaeological record,” says Richard Evershed, a chemist at Bristol and a co-author of the paper. The finding, he adds, is not only an indication that humans had by that time learned to use sophisticated technology, but is also evidence that they had begun to develop a complex relationship with animals that went beyond hunting. “It’s building a picture for me, as a European, of where we came from: the origins of our culture and cuisines,” he says.

Cheese-making would have given the Neolithic farmers a way to make the most out of the resources available from their herds. Early humans were unable to digest milk sugars, or lactose, after childhood; however, traditionally made cheese contains much less lactose than fresh milk. “The making of cheese would have allowed them to get around the indigestibility of milk without getting ill,” Evershed says.

“It’s one small step, but it’s filling out the picture of that transition from nomadism,” says Heather Paxson, a cultural anthropologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who studies US artisan cheese-makers. She suggests that Neolithic people might have curdled their milk with bacteria that are found in nature, resulting in a clumpy version of modern mozzarella.

Evidence of dairy farming has previously been found at archaeological sites dating from the fifth millennium bc in Africa and the seventh millennium bc near Istanbul. But no sieves have been found at those locations, so there is no indication that cheese was being made there.

Original article:

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Topic: Cheese

Scientists may be one step closer to uncovering the origins of cheese-making, as evidence thousands of years old has been uncovered. What would a Neolithic cheese have tasted like?

Truly an ancient art, no-one really knows exactly when humans began making cheese.

But now milk extracts have been identified on 34 perforated pottery vessels or “cheese-strainers”, which date back 7,500 years that have been excavated in Poland.

It is unambiguous evidence for cheese-making in northern Europe during Neolithic times, scientists believe, and the findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature.

“We analysed some fragments of pottery from the region of Kuyavia [Poland] pierced with small holes that looked like modern cheese-strainers,” says Melanie Salque, a postgraduate student at the University of Bristol’s Department of Chemistry.

“They had been thought to be cheese-strainers because of the peculiar presence of holes on the surface.
“However, they could well have been flame covers, chafing dishes, honey strainers or used for beer-making, to strain out chaff.

Ms Salque and her team then analysed lipid residues on the vessels and detected milk residues, which they say provides a link to cheese-making.

“The evidence was stunning,” explains Professor Richard Evershed, of Bristol University.
“If you then put together the fact that there are milk fats in with the holes in the vessels, along with the size of the vessels and knowing what we know about how milk products are processed, what other milk product could it be?”

Although scientists have not identified a compound of cheese they have put together a convincing case.

A cheese strainer from Haute-Loire, France, dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century helped inform scientists.
Modern and ethnographic cheese strainers were used to build up an understanding of how the perforated pottery vessels found in Poland might have been used during Neolithic times.
Source: Melanie Salque, Bristol University

Is it possible that prehistoric people were making cheese much earlier than 7,500 years ago?

“The most important ingredient for cheese-making is milk and only domesticates can be milked. Thus, it is unlikely that the origins of cheese-making predates the Neolithic,” says Ms Salque.

Earlier examples of milk residues have been detected on pottery vessels from the Near East, dating back 8,000 years, although the evidence did not suggest that they were used for milk processing activities, explains Ms Salque.

The only other written evidence for cheese-making activity occurs much later in the archaeological record, around 5,000 years ago.

“The question is how long did it take for people to figure out the technology of transforming that milk into fermented products and eventually into cheese, and that’s really hard to say,” says Dr Peter Bogucki of Princeton University.

“I think we can say that it’s a key Neolithic innovation to be able to produce a storable product from something perishable and hard to handle like milk, and to do it routinely and repetitively, with continual refinement and that within a few millennia after the domestication of cattle, sheep, and goats we can talk about cheese production.”

What would have prompted Neolithic people to start making cheese?

Neolithic farming communities were lactose intolerant, so transforming raw milk into cheese made the milk easier to digest, and also easier to preserve and transport, scientists believe.

“Processing milk into cheese allows the lactose content of milk to be reduced. And genetic and computer simulations have shown that at that time, people were largely lactose intolerant,” explains Ms Salque.
“So making cheese allowed them to consume dairy products without the undesirable health effects.”

“It also shows that humans were not only killing animals for their meat, but also using what animals could produce and go on producing,” says Andrew Dalby, author of “Cheese: A Global History.”

Creating cheese from milk was also thought to be a much more economical way of farming in Neolithic times, following the domestication of cattle in the Near East.

“You can get milk but you can’t store milk, so the really important invention is how to store the food value of milk and that really means making cheese,” says Mr Dalby.

The discovery of cheese could also have been accidental, as humans began storing milk in animal stomachs for transportation.

“The introduction of salt into cheese might have started right from the beginning… perhaps without any conscious thought because you need rennet [a complex of enzymes] to curdle your cheese,” says Mr Dalby.

“If you’re in the Near East and you’ve milked your cow and you put it in a pottery vessel, leave it at 40C in the hot summer heat of Turkey, after two or three hours you’ve got yoghurt. You can imagine serendipity playing a huge role in this,” says Prof Evershed.

So what might a prehistoric cheese have tasted like?

“The study of animal bones… shows that cattle were the most common domesticates at the sites. So – cow’s milk cheese,” says Ms Salque.

“I guess it would have been like the traditional cheese you can get, maybe made simply by curdling milk with rennet.

“In France we have the Picodon, traditionally made in farms with cow or goats milk, that you curdle and then strain in a cheese strainer… I would imagine that the Prehistoric cheese would have been like this.

“It’s likely to have been a softer cheese.”

Andrew Dalby says the taste of the cheese may have changed according to the season.

“Similar to those they make in the region of France where I live, the result can be quite different depending on the season.

“Sometimes they harden and would in fact keep and still give good value months later.

“It would have been a very long series – hundreds, thousands of years of experiment and that’s what resulted in the vast range of cheeses that we have now.”

Original article:
Dec 12, 2012

By Hannah Briggs
BBC Food


Photo above, A cheese strainer from Haute-Loire, France, dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century helped inform scientists.
Modern and ethnographic cheese strainers were used to build up an understanding of how the perforated pottery vessels found in Poland might have been used during Neolithic times.

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Given that these cauldrons survived for over 2,000 years, it should come as no surprise that they were built to last.

Topic: English Feast

Remnants of an Iron-Age feast, including cattle skulls and 13 cauldrons, have been unearthed in Chiseldon, United Kingdom, according to a report in the latest British Archaeology
The discovery marks the largest grouping of early cauldrons ever found in Europe. One cauldron features a handle plate in the form of a cow’s head; zoomorphic decoration is otherwise unknown on a British cauldron.

“Analysis of the interiors of the cauldrons has even revealed traces of animal fats, a tantalizing suggestion that these objects might have been used in cooking and serving meat-rich stews at Iron-Age feasts over 2,000 ago,” Julia Farley, curator of European Iron Age collections at the British Museum, told Discovery News.

Farley’s colleague Jody Joy, as well as Alexandra Baldwin and Jamie Hood from the museum, are still studying the artifacts, which were found buried in a 6.6-feet-wide pit. The cauldrons were made from iron and copper alloy in the second or first century B.C.

Each was built to last, with an iron rim and band supporting circular suspension handles. The main body of the cauldrons consisted of a central band and bowl of sheet copper alloy riveted together. “The iron rim and handles gave strength and rigidity, while the copper-alloy bowl acted as an excellent heat conductor,” the researchers note.

When the cauldrons were buried, nearby Barbury Castle still might have been occupied. Another hill fort, Liddington Castle, likely had been abandoned. Nevertheless, given the possible fort protection and open space, “Chiseldon looks to be an ideal meeting place,” the researchers believe.

What the cauldrons were last used for is a bit of a mystery, but Joy and team suspect “large quantities of food and drink were probably consumed.” Feasts at the time “would have marked significant events in the calendar or special occasions, such as marriages.”

Beef was the star attraction at the last big feast involving the cauldrons, the evidence suggests. The two cattle skulls, cow cauldron decoration and traces of animal fats all theoretically point to beef.

But the experts say it’s too soon to make that conclusion.

Archaeologist Mike Pitts, who also edits British Archaeology, told Discovery News that “notwithstanding the cattle skulls, it might well have been pork. Pigs were important animals in feasting. Of course, whatever was in the cauldrons was boiled.”

While the British are now renowned for beef dishes, with the Tower of London ceremonial guardians even known as Beefeaters, beef wasn’t always so popular and widely available, Pitts said.

“Roast beef as a national dish really took root in the 18th century, which is also when ‘les rosbifs’ apparently became popular in France as a nickname for the English,” he said.

Farley agreed, saying, “Iron Age people also ate pig, sheep, and occasionally horse. Indeed, pork seems often to have been favored for feasting.”

DNA testing of the lipids in future could solve the mystery.

Original article:

Analysis by Jennifer Viegas
Wed Dec 12, 2012


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