Archive for July, 2013


The findings were cleaned at the excavation sites in order to take them to inventory. Excavations also continue in the water distribution pools. Water grooves, ceramics have also been found. AA photos

Topic: Ottoman kitchen

The Edirne Palace restorations are continuing with new cultural assets due to recent excavations. The excavations reveal Ottoman cuisine culture

The restoration of Edirne Palace, where Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II planned his conquest of Istanbul and which was set on fire by Governor Cemil Pasha before the Russian occupation in 1878, is continuing, daily Sabah has reported.

Mustafa Özer, the head of Edirne “Yeni Saray” excavations, has announced that items such as kitchen utensils that have been found in recent excavations shed light on the Ottoman cuisine culture, referring to Matbah-ı Amire (palace kitchens).

Özer said the excavations in the area between the Matbah-ı Amire and the Tuna River have been ongoing since 2009.

“We think the kitchen utensils that have been found are mostly associated with the Ottoman palace’s kitchen, the Matbah-ı Amire. A huge spoon from the 15th century drew our attention most,” he said, adding that the restoration, documentation and conservation were still continuing alongside the excavations.

The findings were cleaned at the excavation sites in order to take them to inventory.

Excavations also continue in the “su maksemi” (water distribution pools), which was used during the Ottoman period. Some pieces of marble epigraphs that gave clues as to the year of construction of the palace have recently been found. “Our aim is to complete the other pieces of the epigraph to find out which part it belongs to,” Özer said, adding that their expectation was to complete the excavations by the end of September.

Construction of Edirne Palace

The construction of the Edirne Palace began with the order of Sultan Murad II in 1450 on an island between the two reaches of the River Tuna. When the sultan died, construction was left unfinished for a short period time. It was finished by Mehmet the Conqueror and was given the name Saray-ı Cedid-i Amire. In later years, the palace became a magnificent structure, with many additional sections built during the reigns of the Süleyman I (the Magnificent) and Mehmet IV.

However, the palace which was used as an arsenal in the 1874 Ottoman-Russian War, was blasted with the order of Cemil Pasha, the governor of Edirne before the Russian occupation in 1878, in order to prevent the Russians from taking possession of the arsenal. The palace includes 72 different structures with 117 rooms, 18 Turkish baths, eight small mosques, 17 gates, 13 cellars, and 14 mansions. It was ruined almost completely during the 1878 Russian occupation. Only remnants of the Adalet Mansion, the Kum Mansion Bath, the Cihannüma Mansion (the office of sultans), the Matbah-ı Amire, and the Bab-üs Saade (gate) have survived until today.

Restoration work began in 2009 in the kitchen of the palace, and in 2011 in the Kum Mansion Bath, used by Hürrem Sultan. The restoration of the latter has been finished but the kitchen’s restoration has been postponed due to adverse weather conditions in the region. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of the summer.

Water grooves, ceramics and kitchen tools left behind by the Ottoman army in the Balkan Wars have also been found.

Original article:

July 26, 2013


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Topic: Paleo Diet

We are not biologically identical to our Paleolithic predecessors, nor do we have access to the foods they ate. And deducing dietary guidelines from modern foraging societies is difficult because they vary so much by geography, season and opportunity

Meet Grok. According to his online profile, he is a tall, lean, ripped and agile 30-year-old. By every measure, Grok is in superb health: low blood pressure; no inflammation; ideal levels of insulin, glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides. He and his family eat really healthy, too. They gather wild seeds, grasses, and nuts; seasonal vegetables; roots and berries. They hunt and fish their own meat. Between foraging, building sturdy shelters from natural materials, collecting firewood and fending off dangerous predators far larger than himself, Grok’s life is strenuous, perilous and physically demanding. Yet, somehow, he is a stress-free dude who always manages to get enough sleep and finds the time to enjoy moments of tranquility beside gurgling creeks. He is perfectly suited to his environment in every way. He is totally Zen.

Ostensibly, Grok is “a rather typical hunter–gatherer” living before the dawn of agriculture—an “official primal prototype.” He is the poster-persona for fitness author and blogger Mark Sisson’s “Primal Blueprint”—a set of guidelines that “allows you to control how your genes express themselves in order to build the strongest, leanest, healthiest body possible, taking clues from evolutionary biology (that’s the primal part).” These guidelines incorporate many principles of what is more commonly known as the Paleolithic, or caveman, diet, which started to whet people’s appetites as early as the 1960s and is available in many different flavors today.

Proponents of the Paleo diet follow a nutritional plan based on the eating habits of our ancestors in the Paleolithic period, between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago. Before agriculture and industry, humans presumably lived as hunter–gatherers: picking berry after berry off of bushes; digging up tumescent tubers; chasing mammals to the point of exhaustion; scavenging meat, fat and organs from animals that larger predators had killed; and eventually learning to fish with lines and hooks and hunt with spears, nets, bows and arrows.

Most Paleo dieters of today do none of this, with the exception of occasional hunting trips or a little urban foraging. Instead, their diet is largely defined by what they do not do: most do not eat dairy or processed grains of any kind, because humans did not invent such foods until after the Paleolithic; peanuts, lentils, beans, peas and other legumes are off the menu, but nuts are okay; meat is consumed in large quantities, often cooked in animal fat of some kind; Paleo dieters sometimes eat fruit and often devour vegetables; and processed sugars are prohibited, but a little honey now and then is fine.

Almost equal numbers of advocates and critics seem to have gathered at the Paleo diet dinner table and both tribes have a few particularly vociferous members. Critiques of the Paleo diet range from the mild—Eh, it’s certainly not the worst way to eat—to the acerbic: It is nonsensical and sometimes dangerously restrictive. Most recently, in her book Paleofantasy, evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk of the University of California, Riverside, debunks what she identifies as myths central to the Paleo diet and the larger Paleo lifestyle movement.

Most nutritionists consent that the Paleo diet gets at least one thing right—cutting down on processed foods that have been highly modified from their raw state through various methods of preservation. Examples include white bread and other refined flour products, artificial cheese, certain cold cuts and packaged meats, potato chips, and sugary cereals. Such processed foods often offer less protein, fiber and iron than their unprocessed equivalents, and some are packed with sodium and preservatives that may increase the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

But the Paleo diet bans more than just highly processed junk foods—in its most traditional form, it prohibits any kind of food unavailable to stone age hunter–gatherers, including dairy rich in calcium, grains replete with fiber, and vitamins and legumes packed with protein. The rationale for such constraint—in fact the entire premise of the Paleo diet—is, at best, only half correct. Because the human body adapted to life in the stone age, Paleo dieters argue—and because our genetics and anatomy have changed very little since then, they say—we should emulate the diets of our Paleo predecessors as closely as possible in order to be healthy. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many other “modern” diseases, the reasoning goes, result primarily from the incompatibility of our stone age anatomy with our contemporary way of eating.

Diet has been an important part of our evolution—as it is for every species—and we have inherited many adaptations from our Paleo predecessors. Understanding how we evolved could, in principle, help us make smarter dietary choices today. But the logic behind the Paleo diet fails in several ways: by making apotheosis of one particular slice of our evolutionary history; by insisting that we are biologically identical to stone age humans; and by denying the benefits of some of our more modern methods of eating.

“‘Paleofantasies’ call to mind a time when everything about us—body, mind, and behavior—was in sync with the environment…but no such time existed,” Zuk wrote in her book. “We and every other living thing have always lurched along in evolutionary time, with the inevitable trade-offs that are a hallmark of life.”

On his website, Sisson writes that “while the world has changed in innumerable ways in the last 10,000 years (for better and worse), the human genome has changed very little and thus only thrives under similar conditions.” This is simply not true. In fact, this reasoning misconstrues how evolution works. If humans and other organisms could only thrive in circumstances similar to the ones their predecessors lived in, life would not have lasted very long.

Several examples of recent and relatively speedy human evolution underscore that our anatomy and genetics have not been set in stone since the stone age. Within a span of 7,000 years, for instance, people adapted to eating dairy by developing lactose tolerance. Usually, the gene encoding an enzyme named lactase—which breaks down lactose sugars in milk—shuts down after infancy; when dairy became prevalent, many people evolved a mutation that kept the gene turned on throughout life. Likewise, the genetic mutation responsible for blue eyes likely arose between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. And in regions where malaria is common, natural selection has modified people’s immune systems and red blood cells in ways that help them resist the mosquito-borne disease; some of these genetic mutations appeared within the last 10,000 or even 5,000 years. The organisms with which we share our bodies have evolved even faster, particularly the billions of bacteria living in our intestines. Our gut bacteria interact with our food in many ways, helping us break down tough plant fibers, but also competing for calories. We do not have direct evidence of which bacterial species thrived in Paleolithic intestines, but we can be sure that their microbial communities do not exactly match our own.

Even if eating only foods available to hunter–gatherers in the Paleolithic made sense, it would be impossible. As Christina Warinner of the University of Zurich emphasizes in her 2012 TED talk, just about every single species commonly consumed today—whether a fruit, vegetable or animal—is drastically different from its Paleolithic predecessor. In most cases, we have transformed the species we eat through artificial selection: we have bred cows, chickens and goats to provide as much meat, milk and eggs as possible and have sown seeds only from plants with the most desirable traits—with the biggest fruits, plumpest kernels, sweetest flesh and fewest natural toxins. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale are all different cultivars of a single species, Brassica oleracea; generation by generation, we reshaped this one plant’s leaves, stems and flowers into wildly different arrangements, the same way we bred Welsh corgis, pugs, dachshunds, Saint Bernards and greyhounds out of a single wolf species. Corn was once a straggly grass known as teosinte and tomatoes were once much smaller berries. And the wild ancestors of bananas were rife with seeds.

The Paleo diet not only misunderstands how our own species, the organisms inside our bodies and the animals and plants we eat have evolved over the last 10,000 years, it also ignores much of the evidence about our ancestors’ health during their—often brief—individual life spans (even if a minority of our Paleo ancestors made it into their 40s or beyond, many children likely died before age 15). In contrast to Grok, neither Paleo hunter–gatherers nor our more recent predecessors were sculpted Adonises immune to all disease. A recent study in The Lancet looked for signs of atherosclerosis—arteries clogged with cholesterol and fats—in more than one hundred ancient mummies from societies of farmers, foragers and hunter–gatherers around the world, including Egypt, Peru, the southwestern U.S and the Aleutian Islands. “A common assumption is that atherosclerosis is predominately lifestyle-related, and that if modern human beings could emulate preindustrial or even preagricultural lifestyles, that atherosclerosis, or least its clinical manifestations, would be avoided,” the researchers wrote. But they found evidence of probable or definite atherosclerosis in 47 of 137 mummies from each of the different geographical regions. And even if heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes were not as common among our predecessors, they still faced numerous threats to their health that modern sanitation and medicine have rendered negligible for people in industrialized nations, such as infestations of parasites and certain lethal bacterial and viral infections.

Some Paleo dieters emphasize that they never believed in one true caveman lifestyle or diet and that—in the fashion of Sisson’s Blueprint—they use our evolutionary past to form guidelines, not scripture. That strategy seems reasonably solid at first, but quickly disintegrates. Even though researchers know enough to make some generalizations about human diets in the Paleolithic with reasonable certainty, the details remain murky. Exactly what proportions of meat and vegetables did different hominid species eat in the Paleolithic? It’s not clear. Just how far back were our ancestors eating grains and dairy? Perhaps far earlier than we initially thought. What we can say for certain is that in the Paleolithic, the human diet varied immensely by geography, season and opportunity. “We now know that humans have evolved not to subsist on a single, Paleolithic diet but to be flexible eaters, an insight that has important implications for the current debate over what people today should eat in order to be healthy,” anthropologist William Leonard of Northwestern University wrote in Scientific American in 2002.
We cannot time travel and join our Paleo ancestors by the campfire as they prepare to eat; likewise, shards of ancient pottery and fossilized teeth can tell us only so much. If we compare the diets of so-called modern hunter-gatherers, however, we see just how difficult it is to find meaningful commonalities and extract useful dietary guidelines from their disparate lives (see infographic). Which hunter–gatherer tribe are we supposed to mimic, exactly? How do we reconcile the Inuit diet—mostly the flesh of sea mammals—with the more varied plant and land animal diet of the Hadza or !Kung? Chucking the many different hunter–gather diets into a blender to come up with some kind of quintessential smoothie is a little ridiculous. “Too often modern health problems are portrayed as the result of eating ‘bad’ foods that are departures from the natural human diet…This is a fundamentally flawed approach to assessing human nutritional needs,” Leonard wrote. “Our species was not designed to subsist on a single, optimal diet. What is remarkable about human beings is the extraordinary variety of what we eat. We have been able to thrive in almost every ecosystem on the Earth, consuming diets ranging from almost all animal foods among populations of the Arctic to primarily tubers and cereal grains among populations in the high Andes.”

Closely examining one group of modern hunter–gatherers—the Hiwi—reveals how much variation exists within the diet of a single small foraging society and deflates the notion that hunter–gatherers have impeccable health. Such examination also makes obvious the immense gap between a genuine community of foragers and Paleo dieters living in modern cities, selectively shopping at farmers’ markets and making sure the dressing on their house salad is gluten, sugar and dairy free.

By latest count, about 800 Hiwi live in palm thatched huts in Colombia and Venezuela. In 1990 Ana Magdalena Hurtado and Kim Hill—now both at Arizona State University in Tempe—published a thorough study (pdf) of the Hiwi diet in the neotropical savannas of the Orinoco River basin in Southwestern Venezuela. Vast grasslands with belts of forest, these savannas receive plenty of rain between May and November. From January through March, however, precipitation is rare: the grasses shrivel, while lakes and lagoons evaporate. Fish trapped in shrinking pools of water are easy targets for caiman, capybaras and turtles. In turn, the desiccating lakes become prime hunting territory for the Hiwi. During the wet season, however, the Hiwi mainly hunt for animals in the forest, using bows and arrows.

The Hiwi gather and hunt a diverse group of plants and animals from the savannas, forests, rivers and swamps. Their main sources of meat are capybara, collared peccary, deer, anteater, armadillo, and feral cattle, numerous species of fish, and at least some turtle species. Less commonly consumed animals include iguanas and savanna lizards, wild rabbits, and many birds. Not exactly the kind of meat Paleo dieters and others in urban areas can easily obtain.

Five roots, both bitter and sweet, are staples in the Hiwi diet, as are palm nuts and palm hearts, several different fruits, a wild legume named Campsiandra comosa, and honey produced by several bee species and sometimes by wasps. A few Hiwi families tend small, scattered and largely unproductive fields of plantains, corn and squash. At neighboring cattle ranches in a town about 30 kilometers away, some Hiwi buy rice, noodles, corn flour and sugar. Anthropologists and tourists have also given the Hiwi similar processed foods as gifts (see illustration at top).

Hill and Hurtado calculated that foods hunted and collected in the wild account for 95 percent of the Hiwi’s total caloric intake; the remaining 5 percent comes from store-bought goods as well as from fruits and squash gathered from the Hiwi’s small fields. They rely more on purchased goods during the peak of the dry season.

The Hiwi are not particularly healthy. Compared to the Ache, a hunter–gatherer tribe in Paraguay, the Hiwi are shorter, thinner, more lethargic and less well nourished. Hiwi men and women of all ages constantly complain of hunger. Many Hiwi are heavily infected with parasitic hookworms, which burrow into the small intestine and feed on blood. And only 50 percent of Hiwi children survive beyond the age of 15.

Drop Grok into the Hiwi’s midst—or indeed among any modern or ancient hunter–gather society—and he would be a complete aberration. Grok cannot teach us how to live or eat; he never existed. Living off the land or restricting oneself to foods available before agriculture and industry does not guarantee good health. The human body is not simply a collection of adaptations to life in the Paleolithic—its legacy is far greater. Each of us is a dynamic assemblage of inherited traits that have been tweaked, transformed, lost and regained since the beginning of life itself. Such changes have not ceased in the past 10,000 years.

Ultimately—regardless of one’s intentions—the Paleo diet is founded more on privilege than on logic. Hunter–gatherers in the Paleolithic hunted and gathered because they had to. Paleo dieters attempt to eat like hunter–gatherers because they want to.

Original article:

scientific american
by Ferris Jabr, June 28, 2013

By Jen Christiansen

The Hiwi Diet

What a group of hunter-gatherers in Colombia and Venezuela eat

Palm nuts and heart (Mauritia flexuosa)Brazilian Teal (Amazonetta brasiliensis)Wild root “Yatsiro” (Canna edulis)Red Brocket deer (Mazama americana)Wild root “No’o” (Dioscorea)Wild root “Oyo” (Banisteriopsis)Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)Guava (Psidium guava)Yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis)Wild root “Hewyna” (Calathea allouia)Mata Mata turtle (Chelus fimbriatus)Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris)Silver Mylosomma (Mylossoma duriventre)Iguana (Iguana iguana)Iguana (Iguana iguana)Orange (Citrus x sinensis)Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaja ajaja)Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaja ajaja)Collared peccary (Pecari tajacu)Wild rabbit (Sylvilagus varynaensis)Piranha (Serrasalmus)Trahira (Hoplias malabaricus)Collared anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla)Gold Tegu (Tupinambis teguixin)Mangoes (Mangifera)Wild legume “Chiga” (Campsiandra comosa)South American catfish (Pseudoplatystoma)Charichuelo (Garcinia madruno)Yellow-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis denticulata)Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)

by Marissa Fessenden

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Preservation Virginia Archaeologist Danny Schmidt uses a trowel to point at a cluster of scutes in the floor of the common kitchen. (Photo by Brittany Voll/WYDaily)

Topic: Jamestowne find

Archaeologists at James Fort are finding the remains of dozens of sturgeon in the same cellar they discovered “Jane”, the 14-year-old cannibalism victim.

The sturgeon scutes, which are pieces of pyramid-shaped bone covered in pores that line sturgeon bodies, are evidence the settlers brought the large fish into this kitchen pit, a room dug into the ground about 5 feet deep. The kitchen pit was about 50-100 feet away from the water, and sturgeon of that time weighed up to 800 pounds compared to the average 300 pounds of the endangered sturgeon swimming in the James River today.

The latest discovery shows the scutes in the common kitchen were deposited while the kitchen was still in use.

To date, the largest deposit of scutes at Historic Jamestowne had been found in the John Smith well, merely feet from where the current scutes are being discovered. Thousands of scutes were found in the well, which had been filled with trash, to account for at least 34 different sturgeon.

Dr. Matthew Balazik, a post-graduate researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Inger and Walter Rice Center for Environmental Economics, is confident the number of sturgeon represented by the scutes found in the kitchen will be at least the same number found in the well, but will likely exceed it.

Balazik, who has been called the “sturgeon whisperer,” is now working with Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists to determine additional information on the new sturgeon scutes. Balazik previously worked with the archaeological team on the bones found in the well.

Continued excavation of the L-shaped cellar that provided a final resting place to “Jane” led to the latest discovery. At Historic Jamestowne, Jane’s remains were discovered among a trash pile, which was established in a common kitchen area after the kitchen was no longer used, likely in the spring of 1610, according to Preservation Virginia Senior Staff Archaeologist Daniel Schmidt.

Dr. Matt Balazik holds onto a sturgeon in the James River on a recent tagging expedition. (Photo by Martin Balazik)

Now that the trash layers have been removed, archaeologists are uncovering the layers from the time the kitchen was in use, likely in 1609. The scutes are littering the kitchen floor in high numbers. The walls that establish the current pit as they wait to be excavated further also show a number of scutes.

“What we have here is basically a layer of sturgeon remains,” Schmidt said.

On two sides of the kitchen are large brick ovens; once excavated they’ll be igloo-shaped cavities. Covering the floor of the kitchen are a layer of ash and the sturgeon scutes, as well as pieces of pottery and a few cannon balls.

Along with scutes, pieces of bone called fin spines, which connects fins to a fish body similar to a human shoulder, have been found.

The spines can be cut to reveal a number of rings that tell how old the fish was, just like tree rings.

“These are like gold,” Balazik said.

A sturgeon only has two of the shoulder-like spine bones.

Additionally, a piece of bone from near the sturgeon throat has been found. It has not yet been excavated but is visible in the top layer of dirt in the kitchen floor. Unlike the completely porous scutes, the throat bone has a porous section below a smoother semi-circle shaped section of bone. Because of the location on the fish’s body, it’s likely the sturgeon were being butchered in the kitchen.

On some of the scutes found in the kitchen, burnt sections or ash is found. At this point, it’s unclear why the sturgeon were being butchered in the kitchen, especially when considering the length and weight of the fish.

Balazik has found scutes of modern James River sturgeon, the largest of which was belonged to an eight-foot sturgeon.

In the scutes excavated so far, the size of a piece of a lateral scute – a scute that would have run down the side of the sturgeon — has led Balazik to believe it was from a female fish that was a little more than 11 feet long and likely weighed 450-500 pounds.

“That’s a realm we’ve never seen,” Balazik said. He explained the lateral scute piece, which is about 4 inches long, may not have been the biggest scute that was on the fish.

Writing from John Smith indicate the sturgeon were a staple for settlers, primarily in 1607 and 1609.

“We had more sturgeon than could be devoured by dog and man, of which the industrious by drying and pounding, mingled with caviar, sorrel, and other wholesome herbs, would make bread and good meat,” Smith wrote in early 1609.

Schmidt thinks the scutes being found are from the fall of 1609, the time that led into the Starving Time—the winter of 1609-10 when Jane was cannibalized by the settlers. Balazik will hopefully be able to determine whether the scutes are from the spring or fall.

Sturgeon “run” – return from the ocean to spawn– in spring and fall; they weren’t around in the winter to allay starvation during the winter of 1609-10. Also, because the fish were so large and are covered in bony scutes rather than slippery scales, the settlers’ nets weren’t ideal for catching them. Written records show the fishing nets had rotted away by the time Lord De La Warr, Thomas West, arrived at the fort at the end of the Starving Time.

Original article:

July 18, 2013 By Brittany Voll


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The dig site in Greyfriars Leicester

Topic: Greyfriars feasts

Archaeologists gather new information on monks’ lives with treasure trove of Bones, stone and slate. Peter Warzynski reports.

To the untrained eye, the pile of dust, stones and detritus is about as uninteresting as it gets. But to an archaeologist, the image tells of gluttonous friars, grand churches, medieval tradesmen and 15th century fashion.

The University of Leicester dig team is in its third week excavating the city’s medieval Franciscan Grey Friars friary.

The team has gathered a host of new information about how the city’s medieval friars lived.

Just one square foot of the archaeology can reveal:

1. Animal bone

Most people would deduce the presence of this small mammal bone, possibly from a pig, indicates the friars ate meat. That is not a great leap of logic.

However, the Franciscan order, which occupied Greyfriars, were a frugal bunch.

They supposedly carved out an existence by begging for food, having given up their worldly belongings.

Meat was an especially rare and expensive commodity, the medieval peasant making do with a variety of vegetables.

Greyfriars has turned up the remains of chickens, cows and pigs.

Site manager Mat Morris said: “Finding loads of discarded animal bones shows they didn’t live as frugally as they made out.

“Meat was a luxury, and the more exotic the animal, the more it would cost.”

The presence of these bones also shows archaeologists the friars might have farmed, or at least cared for livestock.

Other clues on the bones, such as cut marks, give information about butchery and the kinds of knives and tools used.

2. Copper pin

This copper alloy accessory is part of something bigger. What, though, is a bit of a mystery.

Similar finds have been identified as brooch fastening or part of a buckle, but archaeologists said whatever it comes from it was probably used to hold a cloak or robe in place.

Friars traditionally wore modest clothes, but this delicately ornamental piece of jewellery could show that they liked a bit of opulence, too.

The Grey Friars got their name from the colour of their habit with a hood, a cord and sandals.

Belts were tied in three kinds of knot, signifying the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

3. Slate fragment

The site is littered with slate. Some pieces are tiny, like this, others are larger – often disappointing archaeologists who believe they have stumbled across tiles, only to brush away the dirt to find they have been duped. Again.

The Greyfriars dig team believes most of the slate, from Swithland, in Charnwood, was used for the roof.

During the dissolution, when Henry VIII ordered the destruction of churches, friaries and monasteries, most of the intact pieces were stripped and used elsewhere.

Ironically, demolition helped to preserve parts of the friary under a layer of rubble – containing broken tiles and stonework from such things as window arches, they tell archaeologists a great deal about the make-up of the structure.

Swithland slate quarried from Roman times until the mid-19th century.

4. Sandstone

Although the majority of the friary was built from this material, little of it survived the dissolution.

Like all of the stone and slate which made up the friary, it was quarried nearby by miners, who lived near Western Park.

The Danes Hill quarry, or Dane Hills quarry, “no-one really knows” said Mat Morris, was a huge sandstone pit in the west of Leicester.

The city once had a thriving mining industry, most notably clay, for bricks, gypsum, for plaster, limestone, for mortar, and sandstone.

Sandstone is known as a free stone, which means it does not contain fracture lines such as slate or granite.

5. Snail shell

The shell can give archaeologists information about the gardens and grounds of the friary.

Depending on the species – some prefer warmer, wetter climates, others dry – they help create a picture of what kind of plant life there was at the site.

Together with soil samples and analysis of charcoal remnants, experts can extract data about what the friars were cooking and learning more about their diet, whether meat or vegetables grown on the site.

Original article:
this is Leicestershire
July 18, 2012


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Topic Ancient lettuce

Below is an article on lettuce in Ancient Egypt with pictures of Min the Egyptian god of fertility( in all his glory as depicted on ancient reliefs and tombs). Min is most often seen with an erect phallus so be warned.
The article is good and I’ll. have more on lettuce and its uses as a medicine at another time.

From Smithsonian article

Lettuce has been harvested for millenia—it was depicted by ancient Egyptians on the walls of tombs dating back to at least 2,700 B.C. The earliest version of the greens resembled two modern lettuces: romaine, from the French word “romaine” (from Rome), and cos lettuce, believed to have been found on the island of Kos, located along the coast of modern day Turkey.

But in Ancient Egypt around 2,000 B.C., lettuce was not a popular appetizer, it was an aphrodisiac, a phallic symbol that represented the celebrated food of the Egyptian god of fertility, Min. (It is unclear whether the lettuce’s development in Egypt predates its appearance on the island of Kos.) The god, often pictured with an erect penis in wall paintings and reliefs was also known as the “great of love” as he is called in a text from Edfu Temple. The plant was believed to help the god “perform the sexual act untiringly.”

Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo who specializes in Ancient Egyptian food explains Min’s part in lettuce history. “Over 3,000 years, [Min’s] role did change, but he was constantly associated with lettuce,” she says.

The first of these depictions appeared around 1970-80 B.C. in the The White Chapel of Senusret I, though there may be earlier examples, Ikram says.

This relief, from the funerary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu, for example, depicts Min’s harvest festival. At the center is a statue of Min. Behind him, a procession of priests holds a small garden of lettuce. Min is also sometimes depicted wearing a long, red ribbon around his forehead that some say represents sexual energy.

“One of the reasons why [the Egyptians] associated the lettuce with Min was because it grows straight and tall—an obvious phallic symbol,” Ikram says. “But if you broke off a leaf it oozed a sort of white-ish, milky substance—basically it looked like semen.”

When the butt of modern Romaine lettuce is cut off, a similar substance oozes from the plant and gives it a bitter flavor. Lettuce’s scientific classification lactuca sativa, is derived from the Latin word for milk and shares the same root as lactose, the sugar enzyme found in dairy products. (Ed. — corrected thanks to feedback from reader joelfinkle) (While we’re talking etymology, raw lettuce dishes known as herba salata (“salted greens”) gave rise to the English word “salad.”) Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book provides further options for what the lettuce milk of the “ithyphallic god of increase” may represent:

Lettuce was sacred to him because of the “straight vertical surge” of their growth, milky juice they exude which could be taken as a symbol of mothers milk or semen.

Ancient Egyptians used the lettuce differently than those who would come later. The leaves had a greenish blue color and were often removed from the plant due to their bitter taste. Instead of being part of a meal, the seeds from the bud of the flowers were harvested and pressed for their natural oils which were used for cooking, medication—even mummification. Lettuce oil was a standard in the Egyptian materia medica and even today is used as a traditional remedy for hair regrowth.

The Greeks and Romans later popularized the leafy veggie as an appetizer during the 81-96 A.D. reign of Domitian. When they first introduced a set order of courses, the meal included a salad at the beginning to stimulate the appetite and also at the end to encourage digestion, according to author Gil Marks. It was still considered a medicinal goldmine by the Greeks and Romans, but for a different reason than the Egyptians—they believed it helped people sleep. Under Domitian’s reign, as the story goes, the ruler would force his guests to eat lettuce before the meal so as to make them struggle to remain awake for the remainder of the visit.

Another interesting lettuce-related story in Ancient Egypt, not for the faint-of-stomach: In Egyptian history there are many battles between the Egyptian deity Horus and Set, the god of the desert. Though the argument was usually over which of the two had the rightful claim to rule Egypt, one rather odd battle involves lettuce. According to Papyrus Chester-Beatty I, as interpreted by Ikram, Set at one point tries to overpower Horus by seducing him and then having intercourse with him. Horus places his hand between his legs, catches Set’s semen and throws it into the river. “Horus [then] tricks Set by basically spurting his sperm and throwing it into a lettuce plant, ” Ikram says. Because Set eats the semen-covered lettuce, in the eyes of the gods, Horus was dominant—at least until the next battle.

Original article:
smithsonian magazine
July 16, 2013

This relief from the funerary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu depicts the festival of Min. Image courtesy of Flickr user kairoinfor4u.

The Ptolemaic king stands before Min, the ithyphallic god of fertility, and offers him the eye of Horus. Image via wordpress.

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Spreading the bounty.Barley(left) and wheat from farming sites up to 8000 years old have levels of heavy nitrogen consistent with being fertilized by manure.
Credit: Amy Bogaard

Topic: Farming/ ancient fertilizer

OXFORD, ENGLAND—The high levels of nitrogen-15 found in samples of wheat, barley, peas, and lentils from 13 early farming sites in suggest that European farmers were fertilizing their crops with manure as early as 8,000 years ago, or some 5,000 years earlier than previously thought. Archaeobotanist Amy Bogaard of the University of Oxford thinks that the farmers probably noticed that areas where their animals gathered became “patches of superfertile ground.” This evidence supports the idea that “cropping and herding developed in tandem,” and were “entangled from the start,” she added.
July 16, 2013

The main article is below

Researchers Discover First Use of Fertilizer

Europe’s first farmers helped spread a revolutionary way of living across the continent. They also spread something else. A new study reveals that these early agriculturalists were fertilizing their crops with manure 8000 years ago, thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

Fertilizer provides plants with all sorts of nutrients that they need to grow strong and healthy, including, most importantly, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. That’s why farmers all over the world, in countries rich and poor, put manure on their crops. Nevertheless, it may not be intuitively obvious that spreading animal dung around plants is good for them, and archaeologists had found no evidence for the practice earlier than about 3000 years ago. Farmers in the Near East—what is today Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, and neighboring countries—began cultivating plants and herding animals about 8000 B.C.E., but there are no signs that they used animal dung for anything other than as fuel for fires.

So a team led by Amy Bogaard, an archaeobotanist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, decided to look for evidence in Europe, where farming began to spread from the Near East about 8500 years ago. Manure has a higher than normal proportion of the rare isotope nitrogen-15, which is heavier than the more common N-14. The researchers took advantage of recent agricultural research showing that plants treated with manure also have more nitrogen-15. They measured the nitrogen-15 content of plant remains from cereals such as wheat and barley and pulses such as peas and lentils from 13 early farming sites. The sites dated to between 7900 and 4400 years ago and ranged from Greece and Bulgaria in the southeast to the United Kingdom and Denmark in the northwest. As the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the nitrogen-15 levels in 124 crop samples, totaling more than 2500 individual cereal grains or pulse seeds, were high and consistent with the use of manure at most of the 13 sites.

Bogaard and her colleagues conclude that as agriculture spread to Europe, farmers began to invest more and more heavily in the long-term management of their fields. That meant spreading manure, which breaks down slowly and increases the fertility of farmland over many years. This long-term relationship with the land, the team suggests, fostered notions of land ownership and fueled the kind of stratified social hierarchies of wealthier and poorer peoples that other researchers have uncovered on the continent.

So how did early farmers figure out that spreading manure was a key to farming success? Bogaard says that there are several plausible scenarios. Areas of “natural dung accumulation,” where animals hung out, would have provided “patches of superfertile ground that early crops would have colonized,” she points out, adding that “subsistence farmers are extremely observant of small differences in growth and productivity among their plots.” And new evidence from both the Near East and Europe, Bogaard says, suggests that “cropping and herding developed in tandem” and were “entangled from the start.”

The team is on firm ground in claiming the earliest use of fertilizer, says Martin Jones, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. “We used to think that close integration of animal and crop husbandry” was a later development, he says, but the new research indicates “that it goes back to Europe’s first farmers.”

Original article:
by Michael Balter on 15 July 2013

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View of excavation site of Katoati in Thar Desert, India. Courtesy J. Blinkhorn

Topic:Ancient stone tools, and amaranth

The surprise for me in this article is the mention of amaranth, which is a grain I don’t usually associate with India. I did find a reference to its use in India, via Wikipedia:

In Maharashtra state of India, it is called “rājgīrā” (राजगीरा) in the Marathi language. The popped grain is mixed with melted jaggery in proper proportion to make iron and energy rich “laddus,” a popular food provided at the Mid-day Meal Program in municipal schools.

Finds could have implications for dispersal of early modern humans out of Africa into southern Asia.

The subject of how and when the earliest dispersal of modern humans out of Africa into Eurasia occurred has long been in dispute among scholars. A number of recent studies have raised new finds with different interpretations and sometimes conflicting results.

Now, scientists investigating a site in the Thar Desert of northeastern India have uncovered stone artifacts that indicate the presence of humans, possibly modern humans, as much as 95,000 years ago in an area that once was wetter than it is today. Their analysis and conclusions, published June 12, 2013 in the scientific journal, Quaternary Science Reviews, have added new fuel to the debate about the timing and route of dispersal of humans out of Africa into southern Asia, including the even bigger question………What species were they?

The international team of scientists, led by James Blinkhorn, Post-Doctoral Fellow with the Université Bordeaux in France, excavated a 3 meter wide step-trench to a depth of 4.48 meters at the site of Katoati, a site where previous surveys indicated the presence of stone artifacts and the potential for stratified sediments for detailed archaeological investigation and study. Their excavation revealed eight sedimentary strata, most of which were dated using the Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating technique, a methodology for measuring doses from ionizing radiation, most often applied to dating ancient materials in geological sediments. Stone artifact assemblages were recovered from most of the sediment layers, including comparatively large collections from three of the layers, including the two earliest (oldest) layers in age, going back to as much as 95,000 years ago.

“Overall, the lithic (stone) assemblages appear to have been produced following periods of fluvial (water) activity in a predominantly C4 habitat”, report Blinkhorn, et al. This means that humans were living and working in an area, now desert, that featured plants such as sorghum type grasses and amaranth. Moreover, reports Blinkhorn, “the Katoati findings corroborate the archaeological evidence from 16R Dune, indicating the presence of hominin populations in the Thar Desert between 80 and 40 ka”. The site known as “16R Dune”, another archaeological site on the eastern edge of the Thar desert, was excavated years ago but a recent revisiting of the data and application of updated dating techniques revealed a range for artifacts at the site between 80,000 and 40,000 years ago.*

But dating of the oldest layers at Katoati pushed the timeline back even further. “The archaeological findings clearly extend the occurrence of Middle Palaeolithic hominins in South Asia to MIS (Marine Isotope Stage) 5c, or ca 95 ka (95,000 years ago)”, Blinkhorn adds.*

Another significant result of their analysis of the finds showed that the artifacts bore characteristics very similar to those exhibited by artifacts found in Arabia and the Sahara in Africa. The African artifacts have been assigned to the Middle Stone Age (280,000 years ago to about 50-25,000 years ago), a lithic type and time period that has been associated by scholarly consensus with both anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) as well as archaic Homo sapiens, sometimes referred to as Homo helmei.

The findings have also upset the traditional consensus model of the dispersal of early modern humans out of Africa based on identification of the emergence and dispersal of Homo sapiens with a certain type of stone tool industry — namely, what has been described as Upper Paleolithic (or Later Stone Age in Africa) technology, a more sophisticated technology consisting of such stone artifacts as thin, retouched bifacials, blades and bladelets.

“The presence of Middle Palaeolithic technologies in the Thar Desert at ca 60 ka (60,000 years ago) clearly occurs within the timeframe that have been suggested by genetic studies for the arrival of H. sapiens in South Asia,” writes Blinkhorn et al. “This contradicts the hypothesis that modern humans arrived in South Asia using small crescentic forms that are markedly similar to those that define the so-called Howiesons Poort (bladelet type) technology. Comparable technologies, principally based around microblade production, are not observed in South Asia until 40 -30 ka, or after the Last Glacial Maximum in the Thar Desert. Instead, the Katoati evidence is consistent with arguments for the dispersal of H. sapiens populations using Middle Palaeolithic technologies.”*

Original article:
popular archaeology
July 12, 2013

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