Archive for January, 2013


Topic Viking beer

CARDIFF, WALES—At the Experimental Archaeology Conference earlier this month, archaeologists Merryn and Graham Dineley asserted that features of Viking settlements previously believed to be bathhouses might actually have been used to brew beer. Their hypothesis is based on the excavation of a stone structure dating back nine centuries at Cubbie Roo’s Castle on the Scottish archipelago of Orkney that, according to their interpretation, included what could be a mash oven and several drains. Further, the stone constructions are often located right next to what are known to be the Viking ceremonial drinking halls.

Original Article:

Article from the 7th experimental archaeology conference

We have been studying traditional malting and beer brewing techniques for 15 years. Graham is a craft brewer with 30 years’ experience of making beer from the grain. Merryn is an archaeologist, completing her M.Phil ‘Barley Malt & Ale in the Neolithic’ at the University of Manchester in 1999 and continuing research independently since then. The brewing of ale is a skilled craft that has hardly changed over the millennia. For the last few years we have been looking into the potential archaeological evidence for the brewing of ale at Viking sites.

We know that the Vikings drank ale
. There are numerous references to it in the Sagas. We also know that the ale was made from malt. In the 10th Century AD, Haakon Haroldson, the first Christian king of Norway, decreed that Yule be celebrated on Christmas Day and that every farmstead “should brew two meals of malt into ale”. One brew was for family, the other for guests. There were fines for non compliance. If they failed to brew for three years in a row their farm was forfeit.
Ale was an important part of the Yule celebrations. Every farmstead had the facilities to make it. The ale was stored in huge vats, close to the drinking hall. The Orkneyinga Saga tells us that Svein Breastrope was ambushed and killed by Svein Asleiferson, who had hidden behind a stone slab by the ale vats in the entrance of the drinking hall at Orphir, Orkney. Since huge ale vats are not easily moved, then the malt must have been mashed and the wort fermented close to the ale store.
The products and by products of brewing ale are ephemeral, leaving no trace in the archaeological record. Ale is drunk, spent grain is fed to animals and residues are washed down the drains. Only the installations and perhaps some equipment may survive. In order to recognise Viking brewing facilities, it helps to understand something about how ale is made from malt.

Making ale from malt

Malt is grain that has been steeped in water, then allowed to grow until the rootlets just begin to appear. This is done on a malting floor within a barn. The malt is dried, then lightly crushed and mixed in the mash tun with hot water to make the liquid malt sugars known by brewers today as the ‘wort’. This is the ‘mashing’ process. A mash tun can be a large metal cauldron or wooden tub and this dictates how the water is heated. A metal cauldron is heated over a fire or a mashing oven. A wooden mash tun is heated using hot rocks. Finally, the wort is fermented into ale or beer, preserved and flavoured with angelica, meadowsweet, heather or bog myrtle.
All brewing equipment, such as mash tuns, cauldrons, fermentation vessels and storage vats must be kept scrupulously clean, to avoid infection and spoilage of the ale. Typically, a brewer uses 5 to 10 times as much water in cleaning the equipment than is used for making ale. Therefore, access to water and substantial drains are essential.

Original article
By Graham Dineley, craft brewer and Merryn Dineley, independent researcher
PDF file and more photos


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Topic: Chocolate

They were humble farmers who grew corn and dwelt in subterranean pit houses. But the people who lived 1200 years ago in a Utah village known as Site 13, near Canyonlands National Park in Utah, seem to have had at least one indulgence: chocolate. Researchers report that half a dozen bowls excavated from the area contain traces of chocolate, the earliest known in North America. The finding implies that by the end of the 8th century C.E., cacao beans, which grow only in the tropics, were being imported to Utah from orchards thousands of kilometers away.

The discovery could force archaeologists to rethink the widely held view that the early people of the northern Southwest, who would go on to build enormous masonry “great houses” at New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and create fine pottery, had little interaction with their neighbors in Mesoamerica. Other scientists are intrigued by the new claim, but also skeptical.

The new research is “exciting, no doubt. … Archaeologists have been looking for Mesoamerican connections to the Southwest for 100 years,” says Robert Hard of the University of Texas, San Antonio, who specializes in the archaeology of the Southwest and was not involved in the new study. But, he says, “I’m not convinced this is chocolate.”

The findings stem from collaboration between Dorothy Washburn, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia, and her husband William Washburn, a chemist at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Princeton, New Jersey. In an earlier study, they detected evidence of cacao in pottery from 11th century burial sites in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and in vessels from other Southwestern sites. As a follow-up, the scientists tested bowls excavated in the 1930s from Site 13, which dates to roughly 770 C.E.

The researchers swirled water in the bowls, then analyzed the compounds in the rinse water with a high-resolution liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometer, an instrument that separates the components of a mixture and then determines the mass of each. They found traces of theobromine and caffeine, both found in cacao, in nearly every Site 13 bowl they tested. They also found the telltale molecules in vessels from other villages close to Site 13 and from two Colorado villages. Site 13’s cacao is the oldest in North America, eclipsing the Chaco chocolate by some 300 years. Humanity’s cacao habit dates back to at least 1900 B.C.E to 1500 B.C.E., when Mexico’s Mokaya people were already enjoying a chocolate drink.

In Mesoamerica, cacao was mostly a food of the elite, who sipped a foamy chocolate drink, often spiked with spices, at banquets and other ceremonial occasions. But an 8th century village such as Site 13 probably would have been classless, so the chocolate would’ve been consumed by ordinary people.

Villagers might have drunk it primarily for its nutritional value, rather than for ritual reasons, the researchers say in a paper in press at the Journal of Archaeological Science. Or, as Aztec warriors did, villagers could have taken cakes of maize and cacao on trips, reconstituting the cakes with water to make an early version of instant hot chocolate.

The results, combined with the team’s earlier findings, show that “either a lot of people moved north or there was intensive trade bringing this cacao up” from Mesoamerica to the American Southwest, Dorothy Washburn says. “There’s this incredible and sustained contact between these two areas.”

Until now, the only known imports from Mesoamerica into the northern Southwest were limited quantities of parrots, copper bells, and a few other items, says Washington State University, Pullman, archaeologist William Lipe, a specialist on the Southwest. Most researchers think the cultural development of the Southwest was largely independent of Mesoamerican influences, he says, but a chocolate-drenched Southwest implies that Mesoamerica’s influence on Southwestern architecture and rituals might have been greater than expected.

Other researchers, though tantalized, are also cautious, precisely because the new study and the authors’ previous research have found so much chocolate. If cacao were so common, there would be stories or visual references or historical references to it, writes Ben Nelson, of Arizona State University, Tempe, who studies the ancient cultures of northern Mexico and the American Southwest, in an e-mail.

Archaeologist Michael Blake, who studies agriculture in the Americas, casts doubt on the paper’s suggestion that Site 13 residents may have consumed chocolate as a source of nutrition, either at home or on the road. By the time cacao got to the American Southwest, it would’ve been “scarce, prized, and extremely valuable,” writes Blake, of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, in Canada, in an e-mail. “I may serve caviar and fine champagne at my daughter’s wedding feast, but I’m not likely to pack it in my lunch bag when I go on a camping trip.”

Dorothy Washburn responds that evidence of cacao’s importance may well be found in other artifacts from the time, once such objects are reexamined in light of the new findings, and that practices relating to cacao may have died out if people stopped eating it. She also says that their findings don’t rule out that the Site 13 villagers ate cacao mostly as a ritual food.

At the very least, William Washburn says, the results suggest that “these people had acquired a taste for chocolate and knew how to prepare it”—making them not so different from modern-day chocolate lovers 1200 years later.

Original article:
By Tracy Watson


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Topic: Sweet Potato's

Europeans raced across oceans and continents during the Age of Exploration in search of territory and riches. But when they reached the South Pacific, they found they had been beaten there by a more humble traveler: the sweet potato. Now, a new study suggests that the plant's genetics may be the key to unraveling another great age of exploration, one that predated European expansion by several hundred years and remains an anthropological enigma.

Humans domesticated the sweet potato in the Peruvian highlands about 8000 years ago, and previous generations of scholars believed that Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced the crop to Southeast Asia and the Pacific beginning in the 16th century. But in recent years, archaeologists and linguists have accumulated evidence supporting another hypothesis: Premodern Polynesian sailors navigated their sophisticated ships all the way to the west coast of South America and brought the sweet potato back home with them. The oldest carbonized sample of the crop found by archaeologists in the Pacific dates to about 1000 C.E.—nearly 500 years before Columbus's first voyage. What's more, the word for "sweet potato" in many Polynesian languages closely resembles the Quechua word for the plant.

Studying the genetic lineage of the sweet potato directly has proved difficult, however. European traders exported varieties of sweet potato from Mexico and the Caribbean to the Pacific, and those breeds mixed with the older Polynesian varieties, obscuring their genetic history. Therefore, it's difficult to apply information culled from modern samples to older varieties without a prehistoric control.

Now a team of researchers working with France's Centre of Evolutionary and Functional Ecology and CIRAD, a French agricultural research and development center, has identified one such temporal control: sweet potato samples preserved in herbariums assembled by the first European explorers to visit many Polynesian islands. The study, which is published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides strong evidence for prehistoric contact between Polynesia and South America.

By analyzing genetic markers specific to sweet potatoes in both modern samples of the plant and older herbarium specimens, the researchers discovered significant differences between varieties found in the western Pacific versus the eastern Pacific. This finding supports the so-called tripartite hypothesis, which argues that the sweet potato was introduced to the region three times: first through premodern contact between Polynesia and South America, then by Spanish traders sailing west from Mexico, and Portuguese traders coming east from the Caribbean. The Spanish and Portuguese varieties ended up in the western Pacific, while the older South American variety dominated in the east, which would explain the genetic differences the French team saw.

The decision to analyze herbarium specimens is "innovative" and provides another piece of strong evidence for the tripartite hypothesis, says archaeologist Patrick Kirch, of the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study. Lead author Caroline Roullier emphasizes that although her genetic analysis alone doesn't prove that premodern Polynesians made contact with South America, it strongly supports the existing archaeological and linguistic evidence pointing to that conclusion. "It's the combination of all different kinds of proof" that's really convincing, she says. Anthropologist Richard Scaglion of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania agrees, "All the lines of evidence coming together … really strengthens the case" for Polynesian contact with South America.

Original article:

By Lizzie Wade, jan 21, 2013

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Topic: Mesolithic adapted fire

New and exciting evidence has been found at a threatened archaeological site on the Severn Estuary that seems to show Mesolithic people knew how to adapt their environment to suit their needs.

Encouraging specific plants

Researchers from the University of Reading found 7500 year-old worked flint tools, bones, charcoal and hazelnut shells while working at Goldcliff, near Newport, south Wales, in September 2012.
Charcoal remains discovered on the site suggest these people used fire to encourage the growth of particular plants, such as hazelnuts, crab apples and raspberries. This evidence may indicate that Mesolithic people were deliberately manipulating the environment to increase their resources, thousands of years before farming began.

A missing diet

Most evidence for hunter-gatherer diet relates to the meat gained by hunting. This is easier to recognise and study than plant based foodstuffs, due to the greater survival of bone in the archaeological record. The Severn Estuary sites are however exceptional in providing evidence for a wide range of plant resources.

A complete environmental picture

Professor Martin Bell, Head of the University of Reading’s Department of Archaeology, who is leading the Severn Estuary project, said: “Previously it was thought that these people were mainly hunting deer and simply responding to the spectacular environmental changes around them, such as sea level rise. Now there is increasing evidence that they were adept at manipulating their environment to increase valued plant resources.
“Combining our finds with the trees, pollen and insects from the area we can build a picture of the environmental relationships of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. These people were highly adaptable and continued using the same site as the environment changed dramatically from old woodland to reedswamp, to saltmarsh and back to fen woodland.”

Ancient footprints in the sand

Over the last two summers researchers from the University of Reading have found Mesolithic footprints at Goldcliff. New finds, including the tracks of animals and birds, are frequently being made in the Severn Estuary.
Professor Bell continued: “The 7500 year old footprint trails show how the activity areas represented by flint tools and bones articulated together as parts of a living prehistoric landscape. The footprints include those made by children, which is extremely exciting as the role of children tends not to be visible in the archaeological record. They show children as young as four were actively engaged in the productive activities of the community.”

Severn Tidal Barrage may impact on unique archaeology

The UK House of Commons Select Committee on Climate Change is once again considering a Severn Tidal Barrage. This scheme would have a major impact on the rich archaeological resource of the Severn Estuary.
“From an archaeological point of view construction of a Severn Tidal Barrage would have very serious consequences alongside the more widely recognised ecological risks to fish, birds and many other organisms,” continued Professor Bell. “The tidal range will be reduced, sites will be permanently submerged, sedimentation will increase in some areas and, as patterns of erosion change, some site, including those with exceptional preservation of organic artefacts, may be rapidly destroyed.”

Original article:

past horizons

Jan 14, 2013


Mesolithic foot print

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Prehistoric tell over
which was erected a
Thracian mound.
5 levels were
documented from later
6th – earlier fifth
millennium cal BCE.
No certain data about
intensive long-distant
exchange of salt.
For more on salt trade and production go to follow this link iianthropology.org

Topic: salt

Bulgarian archaeologists announced two major finds at the close of the 2012 excavation season, and hope to obtain state and other financial support to shed more light on the life and culture of the early Balkan civilisations.

Vasil Nikolov, former head of the country’s National Archaeology Institute, unearthed Europe’s oldest urban settlement near Provadia, 50 kilometres west of Varna on the Black Sea, which is dated between 4700 and 4200 BC.

The site is more than 100 metres in diameter, is encompassed by a 3-meter high stone wall and has two-story structures housing nearly 350 residents.

The settlement is one part of a much larger complex from the same period, which includes a salt production unit, a sanctuary and a necropolis.

“A thorough study of the site will take many years. … There is work for at least seven generations of archaeologists at the site,” Nikolov told SETimes.

Archeologists said they believe Provadia’s ancient residents made a living by producing salt. They suspect production began in 5500 BC and by 4500 BC produced 5,000 kg annually.

The salt trade helped the ancients obtain raw materials, some of which were used to craft luxury goods like jewelry, and also gain enormous economic power, Nikolov added.

The Provadia finds may provide significant clues about the origin of the Varna Chalcolithic Necropolis riches, dating back to around 4300 BC.

The latest find — a wooden chest containing two different sets of gold treasure, but from a much later period and left behind by the Getae, a Thracian tribe — was unearthed at the largest mound on the site of the Sboryanovo Historical and Archaeological Reserve in northeastern Bulgaria.

Weighing more than 1.8kg, the treasure was from the late 4th or early 3rd century BC, buried as part of the funeral of a Getic ruler, archeologist Diana Gergova said.

“We found the chest in a vesicle at a depth of 8 metres … Inside were two sets of gold objects. The first was a set of women’s jewelry, including a unique tiara of a type never found before. There were also four spiral bracelets and a ring with an incredible haut-relief image of a lion,” Gergova told SETimes.

The other set comprised an iron bridle and a number of gold items the bridle was decorated with, including horse harness decorations and buttons, as well as two large round pieces with the image of the goddess Athena and an exquisite forehead piece with a horse head.

Gergova and Nikolov are due to continue fieldwork at the two sites next summer, but excavations are dependent on funding.

The Bulgarian culture ministry told SETimes that it channelled 1.3 million euros in 2012 for archaeological excavation and conservation across Bulgaria and for the preservation of 10 historical sites.

Finance Minister Simeon Djankov promised last year to set aside more than 5 million euros for archaeology in the 2013 state budget.

Nikolov said although the budget was passed, he still does not know the amount the government will provide him.

“The minimum amount needed for the two-month excavation campaign stands at 61,000 euros,” he told SETimes.

Given the volatility of government funding, archeologists said the excavations would not have been possible without private support.

“We would not be able to continue without private donations,” Nikolov said.

Original article
By Svetla Dimitrova
se times.com


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light bulb conceptTopic an award

I just want to thank Stefla, at Florence and the Historian For nominating me for the Illuminating Blogger Award, this means a lot to me since it comes from blogging about my passion, foods and their history.  This award is the brain child of C.J. at foodstoriesblog and as such also deserves a thank you.

I’m posting this to share with all those who follow my blog today since Stefla nominated me several days ago but I have been sick and was unable to post this until now. Oh I know you got my post on friday that was ont i had already done when I caught this darn cold of mine.

The requirement are as follows:

If you are nominated then you have been awarded the Illuminating Blogger Award. Just follow the steps below:

  1. The nominee should visit the award site (http://foodstoriesblog.com/illuminating-blogger-award/) and leave a comment indicating that they have been nominated and by whom. (This step is so important because it’s the only way that we can create a blogroll of award winners).
  2. The Nominee should thank the person that nominated them by posting & including a link to their blog.
  3. The Nominee should include a courtesy link back to the official award site (http://foodstoriesblog.com/illuminating-blogger-award/) in their blog post.
  4. Share one random thing about yourself in your blog post.
  5. Select at least five other bloggers that you enjoy reading their illuminating, informative posts and nominate them for the award. Many people indicate that they wish they could nominate more so please feel free to nominate all your favorites.
  6. Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog, including a link to the award site (http://foodstoriesblog.com/illuminating-blogger-award

Ok so here is a random fact about me I love to cook New Mexico cusine which although labeled southwest is a cusine all its own, blending mexican, native american( Navaho and others) and  american brought in by people settling in the area. My favorite to make is red chile posole.

My nominies are:

Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast


Emmy Cooks


Krafted by Kelly

So that is all for today, thanks again

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<br /

A pool in an ancient Pompeii bath.

Topic Roman baths, and snacks too!

Ever go swimming with rings on your fingers or hoops in your ears only to find your jewelry had vanished after your dip?

If so, you've got something in common with ancient Romans.

A new study of objects lost down the drains in the bathhouses from the Roman Empire reveals that people got up to all sorts of things in these gathering places. They bathed, of course, but they also adorned themselves with trinkets, snacked on finger foods and even did needlework.

A pool in an ancient Pompeii bath.
Ever go swimming with rings on your fingers or hoops in your ears only to find your jewelry had vanished after your dip?

If so, you've got something in common with ancient Romans.

A new study of objects lost down the drains in the bathhouses from the Roman Empire reveals that people got up to all sorts of things in these gathering places. They bathed, of course, but they also adorned themselves with trinkets, snacked on finger foods and even did needlework.

"For the Romans, the baths weren't just a place to get clean, but this larger social center where a variety of activities were taking place," said study researcher Alissa Whitmore, a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the University of Iowa

Down the drain

In the Roman Empire era, baths proliferated all over Europe for both military and civilian use. Many were quite ornate, with huge colonnades, decorative mosaics and pools ranging in temperature from frigid to steamy.

Ancient texts give some clues as to the variety of activities that took place in bathhouses, Whitmore said, but the texts are maddeningly vague on some details. So Whitmore turned to the concrete evidence: objects found in the floor and pool drains of the ruins of baths.

This early plumbing offers good insights, Whitmore told LiveScience, because it fairly certainly contains items lost or thrown away during the era of bathing. The Romans eventually abandoned the majority of their baths, leaving the structures to crumble, she said. Squatters moved in, leaving behind objects on floors and in other spots that wouldn't represent the items used when the baths were still functioning. [In Photos: The Baths of Bath, England]

Busy baths

Whitmore examined drain finds from 11 public and military baths in Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany and Britain, all dating between the first and fourth centuries. Unsurprisingly, she found strong evidence of objects related to bathing, such as perfume vials, nail cleaners, tweezers and flasks for holding oils and other pampering products.

On the less-relaxing side of things, evidence shows medical procedures may have occasionally occurred in the baths, Whitmore found. Researchers found a scalpel lodged in one drain. And in the Caerleon baths in what is now Wales, archaeologists uncovered three adolescent and two adult teeth, suggesting bathhouse visitors may have undergone some dentistry, too.

Visitors also took their meals in the baths, judging by the fragments of plates, bowls and cups found swept into drains. At Caerleon, bathers snacked on mussels and shellfish, Whitmore said, while baths in Silchester, in the United Kingdom, showed traces of poppy seeds. Bones left behind reveal that Roman bathers enjoyed small cuts of beef, mutton, goat, pork, fowl and wild deer.

"Ancient texts talk about finger food and sweets, but don't really talk about animals," Whitmore said. "That was interesting to see."

Archaeologists have also found signs of gaming and gambling, including dice and coins, in various bathhouses. Perhaps most surprising, Whitmore said, researchers found bone and bronze needles and portions of spindles, suggesting that people did textile work in the baths. [Gallery: Glittering Roman Baths]

This work likely wouldn't have happened in the water, she said, but in dressing rooms or common areas that had seating. The needles may have belonged to bathers who brought needlework to pass the time, or employees may have brought the sewing equipment, offering tailoring or other services at the sites while bathers relaxed, Whitmore said.

Among the sparkliest finds in the drains were pieces of jewelry. Archaeologists have found hairpins, beads, brooches, pendants and intaglios, or engraved gems, in bathhouse drains. A number of these finds definitely come from pool areas, Whitmore said.

"It does seem that there's a fair amount of evidence for people actually wearing things into the water," she said.

Bathers may have held onto their jewelry in the pools to prevent the valuables from being stolen, Whitmore said.

Or perhaps vanity inspired them.

"It's really a place to see and be seen," Whitmore said. "It makes sense that even if you had to take off your fancy clothes, you would still show off your status through your fancy jewelry."

Unfortunately, dips into hot and cold water would have loosened jewelry adhesives and caused metal settings to expand and contract. As a result, a number of unlucky Romans emerged from the baths considerably less bedecked than when they entered.

Whitmore reported her results Saturday (Jan. 5) at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Seattle. She plans to expand her analysis of bath artifacts to better compare changes in activities over time and in different regions. One constant she's already found, she said, is the presence of women, even at baths on military bases.

"It adds further evidence that Roman military forts aren't entirely these really masculine areas, but a much wider social atmosphere than we tend to give them credit for," Whitmore said.



This is a Roman intaglio, or engraved gem, dating from A.D. 212

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