Archive for December, 2013


University of Basque Country (UPV/EHU)
Aerial view of the deserted Zaballa village in Alava province, Spain

Topic Ancient vineyard in Spain
Zaballa (Iruña de Oca) was a medieval settlement abandoned in the 15th century. The building of a manor monastery at the heart of it undermined the organisation of the village in the 10th century with the creation of a highly significant rent-seeking system; it was later turned into a veritable factory, a specialised estate in the hands of local lords who, under the auspices of the economic boom in towns like Vitoria-Gasteiz, tried to obtain the maximum profits possible. In the end, the “flight” of its settlers towards the towns caused it to be abandoned. Today, it is archaeologists from the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country who are endeavouring to reconstruct and salvage our rural heritage by studying deserted settlements like Zaballa.
Zaballa is one of the more than 300 deserted settlements known in Alava-Araba; they are rural spaces abandoned in historical times but now being studied by the UPV/EHU’s Cultural Heritage and Landscapes Research Group. Its director, Juan Antonio Quirós-Castillo, highlights the importance of Zaballa and Alavese sites in general, as they are part of one of the most importance archaeological records of the mediaeval era throughout northern Iberia, and on a par with few sites in Europe. “The important thing is not just their number, but that in the decade that we have been working on this project, extensive work has been done on nearly half a dozen of them, and work at other levels has been done on nearly a hundred.”
A major site
Zaballa is also the first deserted settlement in Spain that has its own publication and is a major site. The most recent discoveries made there have been published in a special issue of the prestigious journal Quaternary International; among the discoveries, the authors stress that the terraced fields built in the 10th century —still perfectly visible in the landscape— were devoted to the intensive cultivation of vines. “Archaeo-botanical studies of seed remains found in the excavations and pollen studies have provided material evidence of the existence of vine cultivation in a relatively early period like the 10th century,” explained Quirós. This evidence is also supported by the metal tools discovered and which had been destined for this very use, and the study of the agrarian spaces, “which owing to the nature of the crop spaces built and the agrarian practices developed, they are not compatible with cereal crops but they are with vines,” he added.
This publication covers the geo-archaeological work conducted at Zaballa and Zornotegi (Salvatierra), another abandoned settlement in Alava, which became deserted in the 15th century and where the terraced fields were devoted to the cultivation of cereals.
These discoveries have been made possible by the use of archaeological excavation protocols, and geo-archaeological sampling and analysis, which are new in Spain and which have allowed the cultivated fields to be dated and the agrarian cycle to be studied. “It is not so much about excavating a site, but about excavating landscapes,” explained Quirós. In other words, it is about abandoning the traditional concept of the site, understood as a monumental or monumentalised place, in order to get to know the context in which these places are located.”
In comparison with Zaballa, “Zornoztegi has a completely different history,” he pointed out. “Even though it was founded at more or less the same time, it is a much more egalitarian social community in which such significant social differences are not observed, and nor is the action of manorial powers which, in some way, undermined the balance of the community.”
In Quirós’ view, these microhistories constitute small windows into the past that allow one to analyse relatively complex historical processes directly, bottom upwards, “in other words, to see how the peasant community itself gradually adapts to the political and economic changes that take place in the medieval era and later.”
What is more, the analytical study of these places of production allows one to abandon those more traditional points of view of history which “conceptualize the high medieval periods as a time of technical simplification, as a meagre period in economic terms, since they point to considerable social and economic complexity. Specifically, it has been possible in these studies to see that there are various important moments in the Basque Country, 5th to 6th centuries and 10th to 11th centuries, which were decisive in the construction of our landscapes.”
Consideration of archaeological heritage
The study of abandoned settlements allow one to understand not only the village forming phenomena and the reasons why they were later abandoned, but more than anything, the transformation and degradation processes of the abandoned villages. That is why Quirós is calling for these places to be regarded as part of archaeological heritage: “The space for traditional crops, still easily recognisable in the landscapes closest to us, are historical spaces brimming with explanatory significance to help us understand the societies of the past; indeed, they require attention which they have not had until now,” he concluded. In fact, the farm land analysed is gradually being destroyed year after year as a result of recent mechanised agricultural practices which have had and continue to have a very considerable destructive effect on this “invisible” heritage.

Original article:
Dec 23, 2013
More information is at:


University of Basque Country (UPV/EHU)
Aerial view of the deserted Alavese village at Zornostegi in northern Spain.


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Topic: Ancient brews
REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE—Residues of pottery sherds from ancient Scandinavian settlements dating as far back as 1200 B.C. are the inspiration for Delaware-based brewey Dogfish Head’s latest ancient ale, Kvasir. Patrick McGovern, a bioarchaeolgist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum and frequent collaborator with Dogfish Head on these brews calls the drink a Nordic grog. The recipe for Kvasir, which is available in limited quantities now, involves yarrow, lingonberries, cranberries, bog myrtle, and birch syrup. Prior to Kvasir, Dogfish Head brewed Midas Touch, influenced by residues taken from 2,700-year-old pottery found in Turkey, and Chateau Jiahu, an ale that traces its history back to Neolithic China,

Original article:

Full article published in The Atlantic follows:

The Archaeology of Beer
Dogfish Head’s ancient, hybrid brews embody a past before ale and wine became separate categories.
The Archaeology of Beer

Dr. Pat McGovern, a biomolecular archeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, in Philadelphia, is standing before some large and inscrutable scientific equipment on the museum’s fifth floor as he explains his process to me. “We always start with infrared spectrometry,” he says. “That gives us an idea of what organic materials are preserved.” From there, it’s on to tandem liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry, sometimes coupled with ion cyclotron resonance, and solid-phase micro-extraction gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.

The end result? A beer recipe.

Starting with a few porous clay shards or tiny bits of resin-like residue from a bronze cup, McGovern is able to determine what some ancient Norseman or Etruscan or Shang dynast was drinking as he kicked back thousands of years ago. From a cardboard box, McGovern pulls out several plastic bags containing ancient pottery shards from China. It was from these that he identified the world’s oldest known fermented beverage, dating to about 7000 B.C.—a few centuries after humans began transitioning from hunter-gatherers to farmers. From another box, he pulls out shards and residues collected from four Scandinavian settlements, dating to between 1200 B.C. and 200 A.D. All of them contained traces of an essentially identical beverage, suggesting a drink—McGovern dubbed it “Nordic grog”—that was popular across Scandinavia for more than a millennium.

Details will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Danish Journal of Archaeology. But if your curiosity is more immediate and tends toward the gustatory, head to a nearby wine-and-beer store and request a bottle of the most recent Ancient Ale from Dogfish Head. The Delaware-based brewery launched its Ancient Ale Series in 1997, and in 1999 collaborated with McGovern to make Midas Touch, a brew that was inspired by the residue found on pottery fragments in a 2,700-year-old tomb in Turkey. Dogfish Head has since re-created six other defunct potables with McGovern, based on archeological finds in China, Honduras, Peru, Egypt, Italy, and now Scandinavia. Its re-creation of Nordic grog, Kvasir, is named after a mythical Norse hero who was born out of saliva and later killed by dwarfs. Dogfish Head made about 2,300 cases, available this winter in 27 states.

Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales may vary in geography and taste, but they all have one thing in common: “Invariably, every one of these ancient beverages that we’ve brought back to life had at least two sources of sugar,” says the company’s founder and president, Sam Calagione, “be they honey or grapes or fruits or grains.”

One might wonder why early societies would use such a mash-up of flavors. But the more vexing question is: Why did they stop? Why did complex, deeply layered beverages get siloed into restrictive categories—mead from honey, wine from grapes, beer from grain—which then became increasingly homogenized over time? How did we get from Nordic grog to Bud Light?

Calagione heaps some of the blame on restrictions imposed by Bavarian rulers in 1516, which would later become known as the beer-purity law. “They mandated that beer could only be made with water, barley, and hops,” he says. “Humans had been brewing these exotic hybrid beers for 10,000 years, yet now roughly 99 percent of the beer commercially made around the world references a 500-year-old tradition. It’s a war the Germans have pretty much won.”

For his part, Penn’s McGovern sees a natural progression toward specialization, as beer makers started producing on a larger scale. “They get a successful product using a limited range of ingredients that people like and understand,” he says, “and then they flood the market with it.”

Kvasir is not what anyone would consider a streamlined product. It’s a hybrid of beer, fruit wine, and mead, flavored with (among other ingredients) yarrow, lingonberries, cranberries, bog myrtle, and birch syrup. “The ingredient I’m most excited about is the lingonberries,” Calagione says. I had thought Kvasir would have a boggy, primeval flavor, but instead it tasted quite modern: bright and tart, with an extremely dry finish.

Calagione won’t discuss Dogfish Head’s next Ancient Ale, other than to say, “It won’t even be defined as a beer. It’s even more experimental.”

But it’s safe to say it will be old. Very, very old.

By Wayne Curtis

Photo by Mike Basher

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Topic: HappyHolidays,
Happy Christmas to all, especially those who follow my blog! Haza!
I’m off cooking lamb in a today, if it turns out well I’ll share the recipe later. I’m baking it in a tagine I received several years ago and do not use nearly enough.
In the mean time let me offer you a recipe that features the ancient grain Emmer.
The ancient Romans called Emmer Farro and the name has stuck. The ancient Egyptians,and for that matter the Romans as well, would have made a similar salad but without the tomatoes.

Emmer Salad
Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs

4 cups water
10 ounces farro ( Emmer) (about 1 1/2 cups).
2 teaspoons salt, more to taste
1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 sweet onion chopped
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1/4 cup finely chopped Cilantro leaves,
or 2 tablespoons Gourmet Garden prepared cilantro
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Cover the farro with cold water and soak 25 minutes, then drain.
Combine the water and farro in a medium saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. If you have an Italian seasoning mix add a couple of shakes to the water for more flavor. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 15-30 minutes. Drain well, and then transfer to a large bowl to cool.
Add the tomatoes, onion, chives, and parsley to the farro, and toss to combine.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to coat.
The salad can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Note: In Italy Emmer is called Farro. Sometimes Spelt is also called farro.
I copied the following from Wikipedia to help clarify the confusion a bit.
Definition of Farro
From Wikipedia

There is much confusion or disagreement about what exactly farro is. Emmer, spelt, and einkorn are called farro in Italy, sometimes, but not always, distinguished as farro medio, farro grande, and farro piccolo, respectively.[1] Regional differences in what is grown locally and eaten as farro, as well as similarities between the three grains, may explain the confusion. Barley and farro may be used interchangeably because of their similar characteristics. Spelt is much more commonly grown in Germany and Switzerland and, though called dinkel there, is eaten and used in much the same way, and might therefore be considered farro. Common wheat may also be prepared and eaten much like farro, in which form it is often referred to as wheatberries.

Original material:
By Joanna Linsley- Poe
December 25, 2013

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Topic: Ancient Cooking Roman Style

British Museum blog

Heat, steam and Roman cookingSally Grainger, chef and author

In previous posts I introduced the different types of ancient portable ovens which are generally called either clibanus or testum. The former term is the more fashionable Latinised Greek word while testum represents the Italian tradition for these ovens.

Currently on display in the Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum, there is a unique double casserole/oven with a base and domed top. In this post I will discuss the results of preliminary experiments I’ve been undertaking with a replica of this so-called clibanus oven.

A clibanus oven over charcoal

This oven appears to be designed to allow fire to be above and below the food being cooked. This concept is found in recipes in the Roman cookery book known as Apicius for a dish called a patina which is a thick frittata cooked in a vessel of the same name. The instructions are as…

View original post 1,002 more words

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Topic Neolithic site in England

A SINK hole discovered by archaeologists in Damerham may hold vital information about the plant species thriving there 6,000 years ago.

An archaeology team led by a Kingston University academic has been working on the Neolithic site for six years.

Four areas of the temple complex were excavated during the summer, and in the largest of the openings, which was about 40 metres long, careful extractions revealed a layer of uncharacteristic orange sand and clay.

Usually the archaeological survey would involve mapping and cataloguing finds such as bone, pottery and tool-making waste fragments. Instead the team, led by Dr Helen Wickstead, found plant remains.

Dr Wickstead said the find was completely unexpected and had initially confused the team digging on the farmland.

She said: “The site at Damerham is on chalk land, so we don’t often find materials like this that capture and preserve the plant remains from a specific time period.”

It was evident that prehistoric people living in the area had also come across the sink hole and excavated the material during their own construction work.

A pile of matching waste material was also seen at one of the other mounds.

The prehistoric temple complex at Damerham is unusual because of the number of different structures in one area.

Dr Wickstead added: “The diversity of burial architecture here is intriguing. What is special about this place that meant generation after generation returned to the site?”

A variety of scientific techniques, including geophysical imaging which uses electrical currents to test the density of materials below the surface, have been used.

Evidence of archaeological remains at Damerham was first detected in 2003, when English Heritage’s senior aerial survey investigator Martyn Barber spotted crop marks in a photograph.

The different colours visible in the crops indicated there were historical earthworks just beneath the soil and Dr Wickstead teamed up with Mr Barber to begin the long process of trying to find out more about the site.

Dr Wickstead said: “Doing the dig is only a tiny portion of the work required to document these important sites, but it is the more urgent part because erosion by farming and other environmental factors will gradually diminish what’s there.”

She added: “This will help tell us more about how the people of this period lived and died in Damerham more than 6,000 years ago.”

Original article:
Dec 15, 2013
mor information on Damerham England



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Commandaria wine from Cyprus is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest named wine in the world. According to legend, King Richard the Lionheart of England was so taken with commandaria that at his wedding in 1191 he pronounced it “the wine of kings and the king of wines”.

Topic: Wine from Cyprus
Limassol, Cyprus (CNN) — Cyprus is known for its sunshine, its ancient ruins and its delicious halloumi cheese, but one thing that is less well known is that it is also home to the oldest named wine in the world.

Commandaria is a dessert wine with a flavor as rich as its history. It is originally believed to have been given its name by crusading knights in the 13th century, but to have first been made up to 5,000 years ago.

It is produced in the fertile high-altitude slopes in the south-west of the island that became known as “La Grande Commanderie” during the Crusades. Around this time, the Knights of the Order of Saint John renamed the local wine after their new protectorate.

Throughout the following centuries, stories of the wine abound. According to legend, King Richard the Lionheart of England was so taken with commandaria that at his wedding he pronounced it “the wine of kings and the king of wines.” Equally struck by the intoxicating liquor was the French King Philippe Augustus who is said to have declared it to be “the Apostle of wines”.
Over time production continued to grow. By 1879 the British explorer Sir Samuel White Baker recorded that Cyprus was annually exporting 155,000 “okes” (a Turkish measurement that translates roughly to 230,000 liters) of commandaria to Austria alone.

In the coastal town of Limassol, on the sunny southern coast of Cyprus, the most popular brand of commandaria — KEO St. John — is produced to a recipe that is now protected by a legally enforced appellation, the only one held by Cyprus.

Dimitris Antoniou, senior oenologist at KEO, believes the wine they produce is very special. “In it you have all the elements of Cyprus: you have honey, herbs, vanilla, spices, and dried fruits such as plums … it is very complicated,” he says.

One distinguishing feature of commandaria is that after the grapes are picked, they are left in the sun for ten days, which increases the density of their sugars.

The grapes are then pressed, the wine is fortified (usually with a high percentage grape-based alcohol) and then it is aged for at least two years in oak barrels before being bottled. As the years roll by, the amber liquid intensifies in both viscosity and sweetness.
Dimitris, together with George Metochis, senior winemaker at KEO, oversee the vast operation where annually over 130,000 liters of wine are produced, largely for market within Cyprus, but also exported to Russia, Scandinavia, France, the United States and Australia.

The cavernous KEO vaults currently house 400,000 liters of commandaria with a range of vintages; the oldest batch dates back over a century.

Ancient heritage, modern interpretation

Archaeological digs, conducted over the past decade, have unearthed evidence that the history of wine in Cyprus stretches back not just hundreds, but thousands of years. Some believe that Cyprus may have been the site of the earliest wine harvests in Europe, stretching back 5,000 years.

Alongside the mainstream labels producing commandaria, a new generation of winemakers is looking to this more distant history to try to get in touch with the country’s original viniculture.

One such winemaker is Lefteris Mohianakis who has vineyards in the high hills near the village of Zoopigi. The two grapes he uses — Mavro a red grape, and Xynisteri a white — have long been used to produce the island’s famous sweet wine. But when Lefteris talks of Cypriot wine, he speaks of “Nama”, the more ancient name for what the crusading knights of the 13th century came to call commandaria.

Lefteris Mohianakis is respectful of commandaria’s great history, but says that his “Anama Concept” wine takes inspiration from the past while still very much looking towards towards the future.

“I’m working on the base of tradition, but I’m trying to involve oenology, which is a contemporary science,” he says.

Throughout his career, Mohianakis has worked in wineries around the world, and in his view, Cyprus is unique in its ability to grow sweet wine.

“I truly believe that terroir (the geology and climate of a place) is one of the most important things towards producing a high quality wine,” he says.

“That is why nobody in the world can produce a Sauvignon Blanc like Marlborough in New Zealand, or a Cabernet Sauvignon like Bordeaux. That is the reason why I strongly believe that Cyprus is one of the rarest terroirs that can produce such high quality sweet wines. It is the sun and the soil. It is unique.”

So does Mohianakis believe that his wine tastes the same as the nama that was being enjoyed in Cyprus 5,000 years ago?

“I think that historians can tell stories and can give you an idea about the past, but senses cannot be transmitted through history. So we cannot understand how an ancient nama smelled or tasted,” Mohianakis says.

“My mentality is that we are walking on the base of tradition, on the base of the things transported from generation to generation — the tales, the feelings — but the best thing we can do is to give the vine the opportunity to choose for itself what kind of product it wants to create. Those vines have been there for 150 years … I am just trying to give the vines the opportunity to express themselves through my wine.”

Original article:

By Arion McNicoll, for CNN
December 13, 2013

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Ground Cinnamon

Topic: Cinnamon

Cinnamonium zeylanicum Nees

Ancient Egyptian: ti-sps

The latest research (1988) suggests the East African camphor, (Cinnamonium camphoria or Ocotea usambarensis) for ti-sps. The constituents of the roots of C. zeylanicum and C. camphora are very
similar, but traditionally ti-sps is taken to mean cinnamon. In the classical texts cinnamon is often comfused with cassia ( Cinnamonium cassia). The Egyptian text may not make thedistinction either. The two are very similar to each other. The C. zeylanicum tree is smaller than cassia, and the quills of the bark are thinner and more fragile. The flavour of cassia is more pungent. Even in a powdered state, the two can be distinguished under a microscope. Prospero Alphini knew the thin quills as quirfa, whereas thick quills were called darsini.

The evergreen cinnamon tree is native to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), whereas cassia originated in China and Burma. It was thus imported into Egypt. Cinnamon is a stimulant, digestive and antiseptic. A tea made of cinnamon, water and sugar is widely drunk in the Middle East in cold weather. Another winter drink is made from milk, powdered resin, chopped pistachios and cinnamon. In Europe it is a favourite addition to pudding and cakes, in Mediterranean countries also for a dish including tomatoes, and it is an ingredient in curry spice. The ‘buds’ (immature fruits) of cassia are used for scenting potpourri and for commercially produced sweets and beverages.

both cinnamon and cassia are mentioned in the Bible. The classical sources mention cinnamon as an ingredient in Egyptian perfume*.
Theophrastus, for instance, says that a perfume called megaleion was made of burnt resin and balanos oil to which is added cassia, cinnamon and myrrh: ‘This purfume and the Egyptian are the most troublesome to make, since no others involve the mixture of so many and costly ingredients. To make megaleion. they say, the oil is boiled for 10 days and nights, and not until then do they put in the resin and the other things, since the oil is more receptive when it has been thoroughly boiled’ (Concerning Odours vI .30).

There is no record from pharaonic Egypt of cinnamon having been taken internally for any purpose. But there are prescriptions for cinnamon unguents, where the characteristic sent and antiseptic qualities would be appreciated:

An unguent to sooth the members: kohl 1; wax 1; frankincense 1;
cinnamon 1; dry myrrh 1; ox fat 1; sweet moringa oil 1; to be used as a poultice for four days.

A remedy to make grow: carob pod pulp(?) 1; beans1; cinnamon 1; oil or fat 1; honey 1; is ground together and the [the member] is bandaged therewith.

A remedy to heal every effluency: goat’s fat 1; wax 1; fragrant gum1; cinnamon 1; fresh moringa oil 1; is mixed and applied to the effluency until it is healed.

A remedy for destruction of an eating ulcer on the gums: cinnamon 1; gum 1; honey 1; oil or fat 1; to be used as a bandage.

Cinnamon,on was one of the ingredients in a suppository ‘ to cool the anus’, made up from equal parts juniper berries, frankincense, ochre, cumin, cinnamon, honey , myrrh, and three unidentified ingredients.

As we have seen, the wood of the cinnamon was used in a fumigation
‘ which one makes to make the smell of the house or dress pleasant’. It may be added that cinnamon is an ingredient in one of the modern day brands of natural toothpaste.

Cinnamon or cassia are the only true spices actually to be mentioned in connection with mummification. Diodorus described how after cleaning the body with palm wine and (unspecified) spices and anointing it with ‘cedar oil’ (probably oil of juniper) and other unguents it was then rubbed with myrrh, cinnamon and other materials to preserve it. What appears to be cinnamon has been found on actual mummies, although the statements cannot at present be verified. A mummy from the 20th Dynasty is described as having ‘a thick layer of spicery covering every part of it…this external covering, which is nowhere less than an inch in thickness and which is interposed everywhere between the bandages and the skin…still retains the faint smell of cinnamon or cassia…but when mixed with alcohol or water and exposed to the action of heat the odour of myrrh become powerfully predominant.’ (0sburn, quoted in Lusas, Anc. Eg. Mat, pp 308-9). Another mummy examined in the last century was also said to be filled with the ‘ the dust of cedar, cassia, etc.’ ( Pettigrew, quoted ibid., p, 309).

Cinnamon was among the items presented to the temples by the king. In a papyrus listing the revenue ceded to the various gods by Ramesses lll, there is frequent mention of measures of cinnamon. Once in the temple, the goods would pass into the hands of the priests who would either recirculate them in exchange for other commodities, or, since they formed the medical profession as well, use it in their preparations of drugs. There I no evidence of it having been burnt in front of the god whose property it was. Th king’s gift to the god Amun included one whole log, 246 measures and 82 bundles. When new feasts were instituted by the king 220 bundles and 155 measures were included among the allowances.

Earlier on, in the 18th Dynasty, when Queen Hatshepsut sent out her famous expedition to the land of Punt in search of incense and spices, the ships were loaded for their homeward journey not only with frankincense and myrrh, but with other fragrant woods, including cinnamon. Wherever the land of Punt may have been located, cinnamon trees did not grow there. Punt was once part of the chain of commerce which spread from the East to Africa and Europe, and cinnamon was one of the costly commodities which made the long journey. In the 19th Dynasty Sethos l also connects cinnamon with Punt when displaying to the god Amun how he has conquered the world: ‘I turn my face to the East, I work a wonder for you… I gather together all the countries of Punt, all their tribute of gum and myrrh and cinnamon and ll the pleasant sweet wood of the God’s land’.

Valley of the Kings. Ramesses III, KV11. Details form the east wall of the third corridor with Ramesses making an offering of incense. The head-dress infers Ra and Osiris. The cartouche was originally Sethnakht’s (his fathers).

Original article:
By Joanna Linsley-Poe
Copyright August 28, 2013

Article reference:
An Ancient Egyptian Herbal,by Lisa Mannich

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