Archive for November, 2013


Topic: Neolithic Beer find

Spanish excavations in Can Sadurní cave (Begues, Barcelona) have discovered four human skeletons dated to about 6,400 years ago. The skeletal remains of the individuals are particularly important as they are in a very good state of preservation.

An archaeological campaign carried out previously identified other individuals which were not so well preserved but belong to the same stratigraphic layer.

Archaeologists excavating in 1999, also discovered within the cave, evidence for the earliest European beer, which may have been included as part of the death ritual.

Excavations at Can Sadurní are carried out by Col·lectiu per la Investigació de la Prehistòria i l’Arqueologia del Garraf-Ordal (CIPAG), together with the Seminar of Studies and Prehistoric Research (SERP) of the University of Barcelona.

Well preserved

A small landslip from the outer part of the cave must have taken place when the bodies had been newly interred, or at least when they had just began the decomposition process, as it has protected them in the position in which they had originally been placed. The group of four consists of a 50-year-old adult male, a sub-adult, and two children aged 3-4 and 5-6 years old. The adult male was accompanied by various burial goods including a two handled drinking vessel and joints of meat from two goats and a calf. Under the left arm, near the elbow, a polished bone pendant was found.

The bodies lay in a line and were curled up in tight foetal positions resting on their right side with their backs to the north wall of the cave. The rather extreme foetal position indicates that they may have been tied and wrapped in some kind of shroud.

Most ancient beer fermentation remains in Europe

The four individuals were not buried, but were placed around the north wall of the cave with a one metre gap between each of them. Nearby, evidence of a fire, possibly lit as part of the burial ritual was also found. It is estimated that similar burial rituals were performed over the space of more than two-hundred years at this site. Sediment had accumulated over the corpses and later, more bodies were placed over the top. After this a stronger landslip took place spreading the remains of the last bodies placed there.

In 1999, researchers found a shard of a cup like container in which oxalate and barley-corn phytoliths were identified. This was determined to be the earliest scientific evidence of fermented beer ever found in Europe.

Source: University of Barcelona

Original article:
past horizons
November 23, 2013


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Eric H. Cline/George Washington University
A storage room unearthed from the ruins of a 1700 B.C. Canaanite palace in northern Israel held the remains of 40 ceramic jars.

Topic: ancient Wine in Israel

Digging this summer at the ruins of a 1700 B.C. Canaanite palace in northern Israel, archaeologists struck wine.

Near the banquet hall where rulers of a Middle Bronze Age city-state and their guests feasted, a team of American and Israeli researchers broke through to a storage room holding the remains of 40 large ceramic jars. The vessels were broken, their liquid contents long since vanished — but not without a trace.

A chemical analysis of residues left in the three-foot-tall jars detected organic traces of acids that are common components of all wine, as well as ingredients popular in ancient winemaking. These included honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins used as a preservative. The recipe was similar to medicinal wines used for 2,000 years in ancient Egypt and probably tasted something like retsina or other resinous Greek wines today.

So the archaeologists who have been exploring the Canaanite site, known as Tel Kabri, announced on Friday that they had found one of civilization’s oldest and largest wine cellars. The storage room held the equivalent of about 3,000 bottles of red and white wines, they said — and they suspected that this was not the palace’s only wine cellar.

“This is a hugely significant discovery,” said Eric H. Cline, a co-director of the Tel Kabri excavations, in a statement issued by George Washington University, where he is chairman of the department of classical and Near Eastern languages and civilizations. “It’s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in its age and size.”

Dr. Cline and the other co-director, Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa in Israel, described their findings Friday in Baltimore at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Another member of the team, Andrew Koh of Brandeis University, reported the results of the organic residue analysis, emphasizing the quantity of the samples and thoroughness of the testing. The researchers had to work fast to examine the residues before they became contaminated on exposure outside the storage room.

The archaeologists said that much of the palace, including the banquet hall and the wine storage room, was destroyed 3,600 years ago in some violent event, perhaps an earthquake. The wine cellar was covered with thick debris of mud bricks and plaster. That and the fact that no subsequent buildings were erected on top of the site have made Tel Kabri an inviting place for archaeological studies.

Team members said some older discoveries had been made before in tombs, but nothing on the scale of Tel Kabri. Patrick McGovern of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania said he had “reservations about a finding for which a detailed scientific report has not been published.” He said in an email that “the oldest chemically confirmed ‘wine cellars’ are those in the tomb Scorpion I of Egypt” about 3150 B.C.

“If we are making the claim only for ancient Canaan, and put the emphasis on ‘palatial,’ ” Dr. McGovern suggested, “the Kabri might well be the earliest.”

Dr. McGovern and other researchers have been able to re-create ancient wines and beers from the dregs from long-ago tastings. Dr. Koh said his group expected to produce a reasonable facsimile of the 1700 B.C. vintage favored by the palace elite in the land of Canaan.

In the Middle Bronze Age, from 2000 to 1550 B.C., Canaan was a confederation of city-states, the most important of which seems to have been Hazor, in a region that included what today is Israel, Lebanon, northwestern Jordan and parts of western Syria. At the time, Canaanites were farmers, merchants and early seafarers to Cyprus and the Aegean Islands. These were the centuries preceding the appearance of the biblical Hebrews. In the biblical narrative, God promised Canaan as a gift to Abraham; some modern scholars have stirred controversy suggesting that the early Israelites were in fact themselves Canaanites.

As for the ancient beverage, the presence of tartaric acid was “a surefire marker” of grape juice or wine, Dr. Koh said in a teleconference briefing with reporters on Thursday. Other recognized ingredients were consistent with winemaking recipes in ancient texts from the ruins of Mari, an early city on the Euphrates River in what is now Syria.

“They wrote about the recipes,” Dr. Cline said, referring to the Mari texts. “Here, for the first time, we believed, we have these crafted wines that verified the recipes beyond shadow of doubt.”

Thirty-eight of the 40 vessels contained recognizable wine residues. “This wasn’t moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements,” Dr. Koh noted. “This wine’s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar.”

The current excavations began in 2005. Four years later, archaeologists uncovered spectacular frescoes from the Aegean Islands, and last year they found the banquet hall. This July, they started finding one after another of the ceramic jugs in the 15-by-25-foot storage room. Support for the project was provided by the National Geographic Society, the Israel Science Foundation, the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, the Bronfman Philanthropies, George Washington University, Haifa University and private donations.

More discoveries may be in the offing. Just days before the archaeologists wrapped up this summer’s work, they came upon two doors leading out of the wine cellar where they had been digging, one to the south, and one to the west. They will have to wait until the next excavation season, in 2015, to find out if the doors lead to additional storage rooms, possibly with more wine that the Canaanite connoisseurs of the grape never got to swoon over at their goat-meat banquets.

Original article:

By John Noble Wilford
November 22, 2013

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Thanks for the award

The geeky gardener has nominated me for the  versatile blogger award my thanks to her.
A link to her site is geeky gardener.com

I will put up my nominations soon, busy with guests in town.
Ancient foods

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I couldn’t resist, coffee is one of my passions. Thanks Amy for such a great post

The World Is A Book...

For coffee lovers…

An estimated 2,083,333 cups of coffee are consumed every 5 minutes, 1.6 billion cups each day worldwide!


Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world. 50% of the population, equivalent to 150 million Americans, drink espresso, cappuccino, latte, or iced/cold coffees.

Coffee sales are increasing by 20% per year and account for nearly 8% of the 18 billion dollar U.S. coffee market.

Currently, there are approximately 24,000 Coffee Shops across U.S. Independent coffee shops equal $12 billion in annual sales.  Read more….

coffee_consum by contry

More about coffee:

coffee history

More WPC Unexpected

Here is a must-read post for this week! Thank you for the awesome post, sparkonit!

Thank you for stopping by! Have a great day 🙂

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Topic more on Egyptian meat mummies!
I found this on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America web site.

This unique research on the chemical composition of organic balms of food mummies completes the trilogy of mummy types known from Ancient Egypt, complementing previous investigations of human and animal mummies. Our findings show that the Ancient Egyptians prepared the food offerings they made to their dead using preservation techniques at least as exotic as those used in embalming human and animal mummies. The discovery of the precious Pistacia resin on a beef rib mummy is especially noteworthy because the use of this substance is rare even in human mummies.


The funeral preparations for ancient Egyptian dead were extensive. Tomb walls were often elaborately painted and inscribed with scenes and objects deemed desirable for the afterlife. Votive objects, furniture, clothing, jewelry, and importantly, food including bread, cereals, fruit, jars of wine, beer, oil, meat, and poultry were included in the burial goods. An intriguing feature of the meat and poultry produced for the deceased from the highest levels of Egyptian society was that they were mummified to ensure their preservation. However, little is known about the way they were prepared, such as whether balms were used, and if they were used, how they compared with those applied to human and animal mummies? We present herein the results of lipid biomarker and stable carbon isotope investigations of tissues, bandaging, and organic balms associated with a variety of meat mummies that reveal that treatments ranged from simple desiccation and wrapping in bandages to, in the case of the tomb of Yuya and Tjuia (18th Dynasty, 1386–1349 BC), a balm associated with a beef rib mummy containing a high abundance of Pistacia resin and, thus, more sophisticated than the balms found on many contemporaneous human mummies.

Katherine A. Clarka, Salima Ikramb, and Richard P. Eversheda,1
aOrganic Geochemistry Unit, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TS, United Kingdom; and
bDepartment of Egyptology, American University in Cairo, New Cairo 11835, Egypt
Edited by Frank Hole, Yale University, New Haven, CT, and approved October 16, 2013 (received for review August 9, 2013)

Original article:

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Beef rib meat mummy from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuiu (1386-1349 BC). Credit: Image courtesy of PNAS.

Topic: Mummified Meat

A study team consisting of researchers from the University of Bristol, UK, and the American University in Cairo, Egypt, are suggesting that some ancient Egyptian meat mummies were embalmed with organic compounds, including one meat mummy that showed evidence for the use of Pistacia resin, a highly valued luxury item.
Meat victual mummies, which are wrapped and embalmed meaty portions or joints of animals such as cattle or poultry, have typically been found within the ancient tombs of royal and high status individuals in Egypt. They are thought to have been meant as food items for consumption by the deceased in the afterlife. Such were discovered, for example, within 48 carved wooden cases in the tomb of King Tutankhamun (died c. 1323 BCE). Unlike other foods found preserved by dehydration within the tombs, however, the victual meats had to be treated in ways similar to that of the humans and animal mummies, “as untreated meat would not last more than a few hours in the Egyptian heat.”* But the exact elemental components of the substances used in the process of victual meat mummy treatment has been unclear, until now.

To investigate this, Richard Evershed and colleagues from the University of Bristol and the American University analyzed the chemical composition of tissue samples and bandages from four meat mummies – that of a calf from the tomb of Isetemkheb (c. 1064-948 BCE), a duck and goat from the tomb of Henutmehyt (c. 1290 BCE), and beef ribs from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuiu (1386-1349 BCE). They concluded that these meat mummies were prepared using a diverse range of organic compound treatments. As reported by the study group, the external bandages from a victual calf mummy contained a mixture of compounds from animal fat, but no evidence of waxes or resins. They knew this because the bandages they sampled were not in direct contact with the meat, and thus the compounds were interpreted to have been deliberately applied and not simply originating from the meat itself. Similar animal fat-derived compounds were detected with the mummified goat leg sample, but not with the mummified duck sample.

The most interesting find, however, came from the analysis of the bandages associated with the mummified beef ribs (pictured above). That sample contained a mixture of fat or oil, beeswax, and Pistacia resin. Pistacia has been considered a comparatively rare luxury item in ancient Egypt.

“The date of the occurrence of Pistacia resin associated with this meat mummy predates any known association with human mummies by some 600 years,” reports Evershed, et al., “although this might change with further investigations of human mummies. The finding of Pistacia resin on this meat mummy likely relates to the status of the burial; this meat mummy was part of the funerary assemblage of the parents of Queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep III (c. 1386–1349 BC) (34), making it among the highest status mummy balm thus far chemically analyzed in modern times.”

Conclude the researchers: “Our findings show that the sophistication of the burial extended not only to the organic balming treatments applied to the bodies themselves but also to the foods, particularly the meats, interred with them.”*

The detailed study was published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on November 18, 2013.


Sources: Edited and adapted from a PNAS press release, excerpts from published study (see reference below).

* Article #13-15160: “Organic chemistry of balms used in the preparation of pharaonic meat mummies,” by Katherine A. Clark, Salima Ikram, and Richard P. Evershed.

Original article:
popular archaeology.com
November 18, 2013

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This photo shows the vessels that tested positive for Capsicum. Each vessel had a culinary use. Credit: Roberto Lopez and Emiliano Gallaga Murrieta

Topic Early use of peppers

Chili peppers may have been used to make spicy beverages thousands of years ago in Mexico, according to new research published November 13 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Terry Powis at Kennesaw State University and colleagues from other institutions.

Capsicum species are usually referred to as chili peppers, and their uses are well known in the history of Spain and Portugal. There are relatively few sites in Mesoamerica, Central America, and South America that contain remains of Capsicum, and therefore, we know little about how groups such as the Mayans and the Mixe-Zoquean, inhabitants of the site studied here, used chili peppers in those regions.

In this study, the authors used chemical extractions to reveal the presence of Capsicum residues in pottery samples from a site in southern Mexico. Some of these pottery vessels were over 2000 years old, dating from 400 BC to 300 AD.

They found Capsicum residue in multiple types of jars and vessels, which suggests that those cultures may have been using chili peppers for many different culinary purposes. For instance, Capsicum was found in a vessel called a sprouted jar, which is used for pouring a liquid into another container. The authors suggest that chili peppers may have been used to prepare spicy beverages or dining condiments. Powis elaborates, “The significance of our study is that it is the first of its kind to detect ancient chili pepper residues from early Mixe-Zoquean pottery in Mexico. While our findings of Capsicum species in these Preclassic pots provides the earliest evidence of chili consumption in well-dated Mesoamerican archaeological contexts, we believe our scientific study opens the door for further collaborative research into how the pepper may have been used either from a culinary, pharmaceutical, or ritual perspective during the last few centuries before the time of Christ.”

More information: Powis TG, Gallaga Murrieta E, Lesure R, Lopez Bravo R, Grivetti L, et al. (2013) Prehispanic Use of Chili Peppers in Chiapas, Mexico. PLoS ONE 8(11): e79013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079013

Original article:
November 13, 2013

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