Archive for June, 2013


Topic: poem to Sumerian beer goddess and a recipe!

After Wednesdays post on Sumerian beer I looked up the poem to Ninaski, I thought you might enjoy it and the recipe included.

As to whether the Sumerians discovered beer well my vote is for the Egyptians but who ever it was we owe them a great deal!

Ninkasi, the Sumerian Goddess of Brewing and Beer

The Sumerians were big-time beer drinkers. In fact, by accident, they discovered beer. Yes, not created, but rather discovered, or so it’s been postulated. Sources indicate that the old school nomadic hunter-gatherers, of some 13,000 years ago, finally realized that they could settle – that it was more beneficial to life and yielded stability. One of their first harvested products was grain. To keep this grain, it was often baked and stored. Some 6,000 years ago, ancient text reveals that eventually it was formulated that the sweetest grain, if baked, left out, moistened, forgotten, then eaten, would produce an uplifting, cheerful feeling. Intoxication at the primal level! The first beer!

After this blissful discovery, baked grains were broken into pieces and stuffed into a pot. Water, and sometimes aromatics, fruit or honey, were added (creating a basic mash and wort) and left to ferment. Years later, the Babylonians fashioned what we now know as a straw, to extract the juice from the grain pulp in the pot. A not-so-distant Russian recipe is still produced today, called “kvass.” The only real difference being that the fermented liquid is poured into a cask, bottle or jug.

The following text from 1800 BC is the Hymn to Ninkasi, translated by Miguel Civil. It was written by a Sumerian poet and found on clay tablet. It actually includes one of the most ancient recipes for brewing beer.

Hymn to Ninkasi

Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,
Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,

Having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its great walls for you,
Ninkasi, having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished it’s walls for you,

Your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.
Ninkasi, your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.

You are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with sweet aromatics,
Ninkasi, you are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with [date] – honey,

You are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,
Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,

You are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,
Ninkasi, you are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,

You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.
Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.

You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,

You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort,
Brewing [it] with honey [and] wine
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)
Ninkasi, (…)(You the sweet wort to the vessel)

The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.
Ninkasi, the filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.

When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

Ninkasi is the Sumerian goddess of brewing and beer and head brewer to the gods themselves. Her name means “the lady who fills the mouth” and her birth was formed of sparkling-fresh water. She who bakes with lofty shovel the sprouted barley, she who mixes the bappir-malt with sweet aromatics, she who pours the fragrant beer in the lahtan-vessel that is like the Tigris and Euphrates joined! Yes, she. Early brewers were primarily women, mostly because it was deemed a woman’s job. Mesopotamian men, of some 3,800 years ago, were obviously complete assclowns and had yet to realize the pleasure of brewing beer.

Using the above text, one could literally recreate the ancient recipe embedded within the poem. In fact, back in the early 1990s, Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing and Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania set out to reproduce this brew by deciphering the ancient clay tablet. Thick loaves of bread called bappir were baked from several grains. Mixed with honey, the loaves were then twice baked until a granolalike consistency was achieved, believing that the Sumerians stored this brew for later use. These loaves were added to a mash with a large addition of malt to ensure a proper conversion of starches. The mixture was then cooled naturally, not by modern techniques. The sweet liquid was strained away from the grains and transferred to the fermenter. Yeast was added and yielded a 3.5 percent alcohol by volume. After the fermentation, the beer was served in proper Sumerian style – sipped from bulky clay jugs using lengthy drinking straws, produced to bear a resemblance to the gold and lapis-lazuli straws unearthed in the mid-third millennium tomb of Lady Pu-abi at Ur.

Let’s give thanks to our one true god – Beer and its messenger Ninkasi! Blessed be Beer!

Original article:
beer advocate


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Topic: Sumerian Beer

(Great Lakes Brewing Co.)CLEVELAND, OHIO—Brewers at the craft beer maker Great Lakes Brewing Company are working with archaeologists at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute to demystify and recreate the recipe behind a 5,000-year-old Sumerian beer. The best clues for how the brew’s ingredients and cooking method, which was performed using just clay pots and a wooden spoon, come from a poem written to the Sumerian goddess of beer titled the Hymn to Ninkasi. In addition to deciphering the methodology from cuneiform, the University of Chicago team has given the Great Lakes brewers ceramics modeled on ones taken from a 1930s excavation of a site in Iraq. The brew, when finished, won’t be for public consumption.

Original article:
June 21, 2013

The above was a synopsis of an article published by the New York Times. Below is the full article:

For Its Latest Beer, a Craft Brewer Chooses an Unlikely Pairing: Archaeology

By contemporary standards, it would have been a spoiled batch here at Great Lakes Brewing Company, a craft beer maker based in Ohio, where machinery churns out bottle after bottle of dark porters and pale ales.

But lately, Great Lakes has been trying to imitate a bygone era. Enlisting the help of archaeologists at the University of Chicago, the company has been trying for more than year to replicate a 5,000-year-old Sumerian beer using only clay vessels and a wooden spoon.

“How can you be in this business and not want to know from where your forefathers came with their formulas and their technology?” said Pat Conway, a co-owner of the company.

As interest in artisan beer has expanded across the country, so have collaborations between scholars of ancient drink and independent brewers willing to help them resurrect lost recipes for some of the oldest ales ever made.

“It involves a huge amount of detective work and inference and pulling in information from other sources to try and figure it out,” said Gil Stein, the director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, which is ensuring the historical accuracy of the project. “We recognize that to get at really understanding these different aspects of the past, you have to work with people who know things that we don’t.”

There is an unresolved argument in academic circles about whether the invention of beer was the primary reason that people in Mesopotamia, considered the birthplace of Western civilization about 10,000 years ago, first became agriculturalists.

By about 3200 B.C., around the time the Sumerians invented the written word, beer had already held a significant role in the region’s customs and myths. Sipped through a straw by all classes of society, it is also believed to have been a source of drinkable water and essential nutrients, brewed in both palaces and in average homes. During the rule of King Hammurabi, tavern owners were threatened with drowning if they dared to overcharge.

But for all the notes that Sumerians took about the ingredients and the distribution of their libations, no precise recipes have ever been found. Left behind were only cuneiform texts that vaguely hint at the brewing process, perhaps none more poetically than the Hymn to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer.

The song, dated around 1800 B.C., had entranced modern brewers before. A brew based on the hymn was made as part of a partnership in the early 1990s between Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco and the University of Chicago, where a well-known interpretation of the text was translated in 1964.

Reproductions of ancient alcohols have since grown in popularity, largely through a partnership between the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware and Patrick E. McGovern, an archaeological chemist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Together, they have recreated beers from prehistoric China, from ancient Egypt and from evidence found in what is believed to be the tomb of King Midas.

“Of different people who do fermented beverages, microbrewers are the most willing to experiment,” Dr. McGovern said. “They’re ready to try anything.”

Great Lakes has no plan to sell its brew, also based on the Hymn to Ninkasi, to the public. The project, unlike others that recreate old recipes on modern equipment, is an educational exercise more than anything else. It has been shaped by a volley of e-mails with Sumerian experts in Chicago as both sides try to better understand an “off the grid” approach that has proved more difficult than first thought.

In place of stainless steel tanks, the Oriental Institute gave the brewery ceramic vessels modeled after artifacts excavated in Iraq during the 1930s. In keeping with the archaeological evidence, the team successfully malted its own barley on the roof of the brew house. It also asked a Cleveland baker to help make a bricklike “beer bread” for use as a source of active yeast — by far the most difficult step in the process.

The archaeologists, who have committed their careers to studying Sumerian culture, said having professional brewers involved in the effort had helped them ask questions they had not considered.

“We keep going back to the evidence and finding new hints that can help us choose between different interpretations,” said Tate Paulette, a doctoral student and a lead researcher on the project. “We are immersed in studying Mesopotamia, and this is a fundamental thing that we don’t understand well enough.”

While the project continues, Great Lakes’ brewing vessels are already a popular addition to guided tours of the brewery. The company is making plans to showcase its Sumerian beer at events in Cleveland and Chicago by the end of this summer, offering a public tasting of the final brew alongside an identical recipe made with more current brewing techniques.

In the meantime, there is still some tweaking to do.

After months of experiments in the brewery’s laboratory, Nate Gibbon, a brewer at Great Lakes, said he had stood over a ceramic vat on a recent Wednesday, cooking outside on a patch of grass. The fire that heated the vat was fueled by manure.

The batch, spiced with cardamom and coriander, fermented for two days, but it was ultimately too sour for the modern tongue, Mr. Gibbon said. Next time, he will sweeten it with honey or dates.

Without sophisticated cleaning systems to rid the vessels of natural bacteria, Mesopotamian imbibers might have been more familiar with the brew’s unwanted vinegar flavor, archaeologists said. Yet even with the most educated guesswork, they said, the Sumerian palate might never be fully uncovered.“We’re working with questions that are not going to have a final answer,” Mr. Paulette said. “It’s just back and forth, trying to move toward a better understanding. We’re pretty comfortable with that.”
New York Times
Published: June 17, 2013


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Topic: shellfish and migration

Artefacts from the African Middle Stone Age (MSA; ∼200 to ∼50 ka), provide us with the first glimpses of modern human art and culture. Approximately 50 ka, one or more subgroups of modern humans expanded from Africa to populate the rest of the world.

Significant behavioural change accompanied this expansion, and archaeologists commonly seek its roots during this period. Recognizable art objects and “jewellery” become common only in sites that postdate the MSA in Africa and Eurasia, but some MSA sites contain possible precursors, including abstractly incised fragments of ochre and perforated mollusc shells interpreted as beads.

Was population growth the driver of change?

Researchers had previously theorised that it was an increase in population that drove behavioural innovations which in turn led to the creation of these artefacts and eventually, the expansion out of Africa. However, by examining mollusc shells from Stone Age sites, Richard Klein of Stanford University and Teresa Steele of University of California, Davis, have determined that a significant population increase did not occur until the Later Stone Age (LSA), after the out of Africa migration had already begun. Their research appears in the June 2013 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Archaeologists have found precursors of modern human artwork and jewellery, including fragments of ochre with abstract incisions and shells with perforations, in MSA sites and it is therefore concluded that the humans who made them, between 85,000 and 65,000 years ago, must have had modern cognitive abilities and behaviours. During the LSA, these abilities and behaviours allowed humans to create objects as recognizable art and spurred the migration to Eurasia.

Population growth has been the popular explanation for the innovations of the MSA. As population increases, the opportunity for innovation increases, while concurrently, the probability that an idea will be lost decreases.

Symbolic thought in the form of decorative art appears in excavations at Blombos Cave on the southern Cape coast from about 75 ka, associated with small perforated shells that retain traces of red ochre. This suggests that they had been collected and strung together as a necklace. In the underlying level dated to about 80 ka, two pieces of ochre were found, engraved with a pattern of lines that formed diamond shapes. The question to be asked is how and when this transformation to modern human behaviour began.

Testing a new hypothesis

To test the hypothesis that a large increase in population drove MSA innovation, Klein and Steele measured the shells of slow-growing molluscs found in MSA and LSA middens on the southern and western coasts of South Africa. They reasoned that selection pressure, caused by an increase in human population, would decrease median shell size. Frequent foraging by large numbers of humans would have prevented many shellfish from reaching their full size.

Pinnacle Point Cave 13B, South Africa and Bajondillo Cave, Spain show that human shellfishing began at least 160–150 ka, during the MSA in Africa and the coeval Middle Palaeolithic (also known as Mousterian) of Europe.

The researchers found that the median size of MSA shells was larger than that of LSA shells. This showed that selection pressure, and therefore human population, was greater in the LSA rather than the MSA. In addition, shellfish from smaller species were more common in LSA than in newer Stone Age sites. As selection pressure increased with population size, humans would be less likely to overlook smaller shellfish as a source of food.

Need for more data

Klein and Steele claim that because the population increase did not occur until after the migration out of Africa had already begun, there must be another explanation for the cultural advancements of the MSA. They hope that other sites around the African coasts, especially northwest Africa, can be used to investigate the possibility that MSA molluscs that were collected as a foodsource were generally larger than those in later sites and thus add weight to the evidence that MSA population growth did not underlie innovation.

Alternative explanations, particularly for the birth of cognitive and behavioural innovation at the MSA/LSA interface, include the pressure of late Pleistocene climatic fluctuations and perhaps even changes in the human genome that ancient DNA analyses promises to reveal.

Original article:
past horizons
June 22, 2013


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Topic: Oyster Shell Middens

Recently while on a birding vacation in Washington State near the Quinault Indian Reservation we happened upon a couple of ancient oyster shell middens (piles of accumulated shells). Below is information I found on shell sites here in the northwest plus a couple of photos my husband took.

Shellfish Heritage
A Heritage of Harvest
Ancient Affections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Romans adored them . . . the French ible and were subject to dramatic over-harvest-
loved them . . . the Japanese cultivated
them . . . and Native Americans revered them. This beloved and renowned resource is the oyster––queen of the bivalves. Suffice it to say, people and cultures around the world have long shared a romantic and culinary obsession with oysters and other shellfish.
ing. Conservation measures emerged in Europe in the 17 and 18 centuries.

In France’s Basin of Arcachon, for instance, harvest bans helped restore severely depleted oyster reefs only to be followed by repeated cycles of ruin and recovery. The Japanese pioneered oyster aquaculture tech- niques several centuries ago after observing oyster larvae settling on the leaves of bamboo stalks used in Manila clam fisheries.

A Northwest Tradition . .
Few natural resources provide a more fitting symbol of a region’s heritage and environment than Washington’s rich shellfish resources. Pacific Northwest tribes have lived in the region for more than 10,000 years, and archeologists have uncovered shell middens (piles of accumulated shells) dating back more than 4,000 years. Shellfish provided sustenance and figured prominently in tribal spiritual beliefs. So ingrained are shellfish in tribal customs that the native Quinault language includes a phrase, ta’aWshi xa’iits’os, meaning “clam hungry.”

Captain George Vancouver and other early explor- ers of the Pacific Northwest observed tidelands strewn with oysters and other shellfish. The influx of settlers that soon followed, however, placed unprecedented demands on these rich resources.
In the 1850s, tribal governments in Washington Territory signed treaties with the U.S. government relinquishing land, but reserving rights to fish and harvest shellfish in usual and accustomed areas except for staked or cultivated shellfish beds. U.S. district court decisions in 1974 and 1994 reaf- firmed these treaty rights. Washington state sold many of its tidelands to private landowners under the 1895 Bush and Callow acts to bolster and pro- mote oyster production.
Commercial shellfish harvesting took off in the early 1850s. Oyster-laden schooners transported native oysters from Willapa Bay (known then as Shoal-Water Bay), and later Puget Sound, to gold prospectors and entrepreneurs in northern California who had exhausted local oyster stocks and paid as much as a dollar a piece for the gems. The venture proved enormously lucrative, but also devastating to Olympia oyster populations in many Northwest areas by the late 1800s. The results prompted growers to explore different cultivation techniques, such as grading and diking oyster beds, and to import and cultivate oyster species from other parts of the world. The imports also created unexpected problems with the introduction of such non-native plants and animals as spartina and oyster-drill snails.
The most successful import was the Japanese or Pacific oyster, first introduced in Puget Sound in the early 1920s and a mainstay of the West Coast shellfish industry ever since. A side benefit was the unintentional introduction of the Manila clam, which has emerged as the state’s top com- mercially farmed clam. Aquaculture practices evolved dramatically in the ensuing decades
to include hatchery and nursery systems and numerous other advances.

Fascinating Facts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

• Indian Tribes have harvested shellfish in the Pacific Northwest for more than 4,000 years.
• The Japanese are credited with pioneering shellfish aquaculture techniques.
• The Olympia oyster, the only native Northwest oyster, is named after and helped bring the state capital to Olympia.
• Tribal governments in Washington Territory signed treaties in the 1850s relinquishing land and reserving rights to fish and harvest shellfish.
• The Bush and Callow acts of 1895 put many of Washington’s tidelands into private ownership for oyster production.

Commercial production is only part of the state’s shellfish story. Shellfish serve as cul- tural and environmental icons in the Pacific Northwest, shaping modern social customs in much the same way they have influenced tribal traditions. Here’s a glimpse into this rich and thriving heritage:
• The first weekend each October more than 25,000 people gather in Shelton in Mason County for the many activities of OysterFest, including the oppor- tunity to sample wares at the Washington State Seafood Festival and to cheer on competitors in the West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship.
• EveryNovemberagroupknownastheclamdiggers, descendants of pioneers who settled in Washington Territory prior to statehood in 1889, gather in Lynden in Whatcom County to share a bowl of clam chowder and to honor their ancestors and the state. The tradition started in 1891 when four Lynden men spent two days traveling to Birch Bay in Whatcom County to gather clams for a community feast.
• Every day scores of residents and tourists gather at waterfront restaurants and oyster bars from Seattle to Ilwaco to enjoy the bounty of fresh, home-grown shellfish.
• Citizensandorganizationsareworkingtogetherto set up community shellfish farms to involve people in the experience of shellfish farming and to instill a finer appreciation of the resource. The first two farms are located in Drayton Harbor in Whatcom County and Henderson Inlet in Thurston County.
Photo courtesy Taylor Shellfish Farms
Harvesting longline oysters in Samish Bay, Skagit County
• More than 30,000 people a day participate in the state’s biggest recreational shellfish adventure— razor clam digging on the coast. Diggers pursue the clams by daylight or lantern based on “shows” in the sand as the clams attempt to burrow their way to safety. The popular fishery has been described as one of those wonderfully peculiar expressions of the Northwest’s natural heritage.
A closer look reveals a Northwest love affair that isn’t fading away, but instead is being renewed with great opportunities to enjoy and celebrate the ancient resource—a resource that continues to anchor and define the Northwest lifestyle.

Original material:
puget sound archives
Photos by Michael Poe


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Topic: Hunting blades

Though present before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, around 24,500–18,300 years ago), microblade technology is uncommon in the lithic assemblages of north-central China until the onset of the Younger Dryas (YD, around 12,900–11,600 years ago). Dr. GAO Xing, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his team discussed the origins, antiquity, and function of microblade technology by reviewing the archaeology of three sites with YD microlithic components, Pigeon Mountain (QG3) and Shuidonggou Locality 12 (SDG12) in Ningxia Autonomous Region, and Dadiwan in Gansu Providence, suggesting the rise of microblade technology during Younger Dryas in the north-central China was connected with mobile adaptations organized around hunting, unlike the previous assumption that they served primarily in hunting weaponry. Researchers reported online in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32 (2).

The late Pleistocene featured two severe, cold–dry climatic downturns, the Last Glacial Maximum and Younger Dryas that profoundly affected human adaptation in North China. During the LGM archaeological evidence for human occupation of northern China is scant and North China’s earliest blade-based lithic industry, the Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) flat-faced core-and-blade technology best known from Shuidonggou Locality 1 (SDG1) on the upper Yellow River, was replaced by a bipolar percussion technology better suited to lower quality but more readily available raw material.

Researchers presented evidence that the initial rise in microblade use in North China occurs after 13,000 years ago, during the YD, from three key sites in west-central northern China: Dadiwan, Pigeon Mountain and Shuidonggou Locality 12 (SDG12). In this region composite microblade tools are more commonly knives than points. These data suggest the rise of microblade technology in Younger Dryas north-central China was mainly the result of microblades used as insets in composite knives needed for production of sophisticated cold weather clothing needed for a winter mobile hunting adaptation like the residentially mobile pattern termed ”serial specialist.” Limited time and opportunities compressed this production into a very narrow seasonal window, putting a premium on highly streamlined routines to which microblade technology was especially well-suited.

It has been clear for some time that while microblades may have been around in north-central China since at least the LGM, they become prominent (i.e., chipped stone technology becomes ”microlithic”) only much later, with the YD. This sequence suggests a stronger connection between microblades and mobility than between microblades and hunting. If microblades were only (or mainly) for edging weapons, their rise to YD dominance would suggest an equally dramatic rise in hunting, making it difficult to understand why a much more demanding microblade technology would develop to facilitate the much less important pre-YD hunting. In any event, the SDG12 assemblage is at odds with the idea of a hunting shift. No more or less abundant than in pre-YD assemblages (e.g., QG3), formal plant processing tools suggest a continued dietary importance of YD plants, and there is no evidence for hunting of a sort that would require microblade production (i.e., of weaponry insets) on anything like the scale in which they occur. A shift to serial specialist provides a better explanation .

Serial specialists are frequently forced to accomplish significant amounts of craftwork in relatively short periods of time. Microblade technology is admirably suited to such streamlined mass-production, and this is exactly what the SDG12 record indicates. The intensity with which SDG12 was used and the emphasis on communal procurement suggests a fairly short-term occupation by groups that probably operated independently during the rest of the year, almost certainly during the winter. SDG12 was most likely occupied immediately before that in connection with a seasonal ”gearing up” for winter, perhaps equivalent to the ethnographically recorded “sewing camps” of the Copper Inuit and Netsilik Inuit.

“Our study indicates that YD hunter-gatherers of north-central China were serial specialists, more winter mobile than their LGM predecessors, because LGM hunter-gatherers lacked the gear needed for frequent winter residential mobility, winter clothing in particular, and microblade or microlithic technology was central to the production of this gear. Along with general climatic amelioration associated with the Holocene, increasing sedentism after 8000 years ago diminished the importance of winter travel and the microlithic technology needed for the manufacture of fitted clothing”, said first author YI Mingjie of the IVPP.

“We do not argue that microblades were not used as weapon insets (clearly they were), or that microblade technology did not originally develop for this purpose (clearly it might have). We merely argue that the YD ascendance of microblade technology in north-central China is the result of its importance in craftwork essential to a highly mobile, serial specialist lifeway, the production of clothing in particular. While microblades were multifunctional, this much is certain: of the very few microblade-edged tools known from north-central China all are knives, none are points. If microblades were mainly for weapons it should be the other way around”, said corresponding author Dr. Robert L. Bettinger, University of California – Davis.

Original article:

June 13, 2013

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Topic: Ivory used to make hunting tools

Contrary to their hunting reputation, Stone Age Siberians killed mammoths only every few years when they needed tusks for toolmaking, a new study finds.

People living between roughly 33,500 and 31,500 years ago hunted the animals mainly for ivory, say paleontologist Pavel Nikolskiy and archaeologist Vladimir Pitulko of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Hunting could not have driven mammoths to extinction, the researchers report June 5 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

On frigid tundra with few trees, mammoth tusks substituted for wood as a raw material for tools, they propose. Siberian people ate mammoth meat after hunts, but food was not their primary goal.

Several European and North American sites have yielded single mammoth carcasses lying amid stone tools. Such finds could reflect either hunting or scavenging. Finds at Siberia’s Yana archeological site provide an unprecedented window on the hunting and killing of mammoths over a long time period, says archaeologist John Hoffecker of the University of Colorado Boulder.

Mammoth bones appear in sufficient numbers at some sites in Europe to suggest that hunters there did seek more than ivory, says archaeologist Jiří Svoboda of Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. Whatever happened at Yana, many groups were probably interested in obtaining mammoth meat, fat, bones, tusks and skin, Svoboda says.

Since 2008, scientists have unearthed 1,103 bones from at least 31 mammoths at Yana. Radiocarbon measurements indicate that mammoth remains gradually accumulated there over 2,000 years.

Right shoulder blades from two mammoths contain pieces of stone spear points. An ivory splinter, possibly from a spear’s shaft, pierced one of these bones. Another shoulder blade and a thigh bone display holes made by spears. Angles of these wounds suggest that hunters struck mammoths from behind. “Yana people definitely attacked from the mammoth’s blind spot,” Nikolskiy says.
Most mammoth bones at Yana come from animals with slightly curved tusks that were the best size and shape for making hunting weapons, Nikolskiy and Pitulko propose.

Researchers have found five mammoth bones from the base of the animals’ tongues at a campsite not far from where remains were excavated. Meaty parts of the animals were probably consumed there, the investigators say.

While hunting was not the main cause of mammoths’ extinction in Asia and Europe, it may have been the last straw as warming temperatures shrank livable areas for the creatures.

Original article:


By Bruce Bower
Web edition: June 12, 2013

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Topic: Cave find, ancient campfire

Mexican Archaeologists Discover Items From Mezcala, Olmec Cultures in Abandoned Cave

Mexican archaeologists have found traces of the Mezcala and Olmec cultures, as well as human remains, in a cave in the southern state of Guerrero, indicating that the site was inhabited at different times and served as a funerary center, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, said.

Specialists found a Mezcala-type figure and campfire remnants dating to 700 A.D. in a cave in Cocula, a city in Guerrero, the INAH said in a statement.

The figure is complete and important because of the limited number of finds of this type, INAH-Guerrero Center archaeologist Miguel Perez Negrete said.

The Mezcala culture is one of the civilizations that developed along the Balsas River and is mainly identified on the basis of its architectural style and anthropomorphic figures.

The discovery was made during construction of a road in Oxtotenco, a hamlet outside the community of Atzcala, Perez Negrete said.

“The most surprising thing was that when we started digging, we also found Olmec ceramics estimaed to date to the year 1000 before our era, as well as pre-Olmec (1200 B.C.), that is, it is more than 3,000 years old,” the archaeologist said.

The human remains consist of fragments and have not been dated yet, but they could be Olmec because of the ceramics associated with them, Perez Negrete said.

Original article:
hispanically speaking
June 5, 2013

Mezcala culture:

The Mezcala culture (sometimes referred to as the Balsas culture) is the name given to a Mesoamerican culture that was based in the Guerrero state of southwestern Mexico,[1] in the upper Balsas River region.[2] The culture is poorly understood but is believed to have developed during the Middle and Late Preclassic periods of Mesoamerican chronology,[1] between 700 and 200 BC.[2] The culture continued into the Classic period (c.250-650 AD) when it coexisted with the great metropolis of Teotihuacan.[3]
Archaeologists have studied the culture through limited controlled excavations, the examination of looted artifacts, and the study of Mezcala sculptures found as dedicatory offerings at the Aztec complex of Tenochtitlan.


Mezcala Mask

Olmec Culture

The Olmec were the first major civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco.
The Olmec flourished during Mesoamerica’s Formative period, dating roughly from as early as 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE. Pre-Olmec cultures had flourished in the area since about 2500 BCE, but by 1600–1500 BCE Early Olmec culture had emerged centered around the San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán site near the coast in southeast Veracruz.[1] They were the first Mesoamerican civilization and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed.[2] Among other “firsts”, the Olmec appeared to practice ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamerican societies.
The most familiar aspect of the Olmecs is their artwork, particularly the aptly named “colossal heads”.[3] The Olmec civilization was first defined through artifacts which collectors purchased on the pre-Columbian art market in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Olmec artworks are considered among ancient America’s most striking.[4]



Olmec Head

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