Archive for October, 2014

Farmer’s discovery of mastodon tooth turns field into archaeological dig site

BELLVILLE, Ohio — The item, bonelike and bigger than the fist of the farmer who found it, showed up in a pile of dirt.

It was all cusps and bumps and looked prehistoric, so the farmer took it into his house and started searching the Internet. The item was so distinctive that it didn’t take long to find a photo match online.

What he thought was a bone was the tooth of a mastodon, a prehistoric elephantlike mammal that roamed North America more than 10,000 years ago.

The farmer called some historians, who called some geologists, who have spent the past three months carefully excavating a site near the farmer’s soybean field in Morrow County.

For Nigel Brush, the Ashland University professor leading the excavation, it was among the most exciting discoveries of his career.

Mastodon remains have been found in Ohio before, but they are usually incomplete — a tooth, or a bit of tusk.

A full or almost-full skeleton would be rare.

“I’ve been waiting a couple of decades for a call like that,” Brush said during a recent Saturday at the excavation site. “It has the potential to be special.”

It has even more potential to be special because of the things the scientists are finding around the bones.

The bones mostly have been discovered on piles of rocks and gravel. The researchers have found bits of flint and lines of charcoal, too.

The soybean field leads to a bog, which the scientists say probably existed back in the Ice Age when it likely was a little bit bigger — maybe the size of a small lake.

All the evidence leads Brush to believe that Ice Age hunters chased this mastodon across the field, trapped it on the uneven wet ground near the lake, and then killed it, cleaned it on those rock piles and cooked the meat right there.

It’s just a hypothesis, but labs can test the flint for blood and determine whether it belonged to a mastodon. If there is a match, the site would become even more special because it would mean that Brush could conclusively say that Paleoindians hunted and captured a mastodon there.

“It’s about human behavior, that’s what we ultimately want to get at,” said Nick Kardulias, an archaeology and anthropology professor at the College of Wooster who is helping Brush with the dig.

“The objects themselves are wonderful. But the ultimate connection is really between the items that you find and reconstructing that scene, and understanding what happened in the past.”

The team of scientists already has sent off some pieces for testing.

Their excavation will take as long as two years, Brush said. The Dispatch is not identifying the farmer to protect the site from vandals. It could be a while before researchers find out how many bones remain in tact.

A few mostly complete mastodon skeletons have been found around Ohio, but those discoveries are generally few and far between.

The Conway mastodon, which is on display at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, was found by a farmer in a swamp near the Clark-Champaign county line in 1887. Another was found in Johnstown in 1926. That skeleton is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Brush has excavated just one other mastodon in his career, in Holmes County in 1993.

As the scientists and volunteers have worked over the last three months on this find, they’ve discovered other bones from the mastodon — legs, ribs, ankles. They’ve found pieces of tusk.

On a recent Saturday, about 40 people worked on the site, including students from Ashland and Wooster, and professors from Ohio State University and the University of Toledo.

Melissa Baltus, an archaeology professor at the University of Toledo, knelt in the dirt and brushed bits of soil off rocks and stone.

She pointed out charcoal and said some of the bones they’ve found there have had marks that could have been made by prehistoric tools cutting meat from a bone.

Fast-forward a few millennia to a farm where a farmer tills his land and brings a tooth to the surface.

“History is often big people, big names, big events,” Baltus said. “So to get to see how the general public lived on a day-to-day basis is very exciting.”

So is the simple act of touching something that no one has seen for thousands of years.

“When you stick your trowel in the ground, you have absolutely no idea what you’re going to find until you uncover it,” said George DeMuth, president of the Sandusky Bay Chapter of the Archaeological Society of Ohio.

“And that’s a thrill.”

Tricia Goff, a business administration student at Ashland, is taking one of Brush’s classes and took him up on an offer to help on the dig. It was a bucket-list opportunity, she said.

“Holding something that’s 10,000 to 20,000 years old, that no one has ever held before … it’s exciting,” she said.

Brush said the excavation site will be covered through the winter.

In the meantime, the farmer who found the tooth said he likes to walk back to the field at sunrise and imagine the hunt that took place in that exact spot when saber-toothed cats and giant ground sloths ruled the land.

“Often we come back here and we think, you know, we think we know so much,” the farmer said. “ And we have no idea.”


By Laura Arenschield
The Columbus Dispatch • Sunday October 19, 2014 6:39 AM

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Roman gladiators ate a mostly vegetarian diet and drank ashes after training as a tonic. These are the findings of anthropological investigations carried out on bones of warriors found during excavations in the ancient city of Ephesos.

Historic sources report that gladiators had their own diet. This comprised beans and grains. Contemporary reports referred to them as “hordearii” (“barley eaters”).
In a study by the Department of Forensic Medicine at the MedUni Vienna in cooperation with the Department of Anthropology at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern, bones were examined from a gladiator cemetery uncovered in 1993 which dates back to the 2nd or 3rd century BC in the then Roman city of Ephesos (now in modern-day Turkey). At the time, Ephesos was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and had over 200,000 inhabitants.
Using spectroscopy, stable isotope ratios (carbon, nitrogen and sulphur) were investigated in the collagen of the bones, along with the ratio of strontium to calcium in the bone mineral.
The result shows that gladiators mostly ate a vegetarian diet. There is virtually no difference in terms of nutrition from the local “normal population.” Meals consisted primarily of grain and meat-free meals. The word “barley eater” relates in this case to the fact that gladiators were probably given grain of an inferior quality.
Build-up drink following physical exertion
The difference between gladiators and the normal population is highly significant in terms of the amount of strontium measured in their bones. This leads to the conclusion that the gladiators had a higher intake of minerals from a strontium-rich source of calcium. The ash drink quoted in literature probably really did exist. “Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion and to promote better bone healing,” explains study leader Fabian Kanz from the Department of Forensic Medicine at the MedUni Vienna. “Things were similar then to what we do today — we take magnesium and calcium (in the form of effervescent tablets, for example) following physical exertion.” Calcium is essential for bone building and usually occurs primarily in milk products.
A further research project is looking at the migration of gladiators, who often came from different parts of the Roman Empire to Ephesos. The researchers are hoping that comparison of the bone data from gladiators with that of the local fauna will yield a number of differences.

Anthropology unlocks clues about Roman gladiators’ eating habits.
Credit: OEAI, Pietsch

Original article:
science daily
Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Medical University of Vienna. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Archaeologists find beer and pizza ovens from Northampton brewery 800 years ago | Culture24.








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This was the first time archaeologists had been allowed to excavate on the island. Opening a trench, they aimed to explore the “long and complex” history of settlements and farming on Skomer, informed by three years of careful research by wildlife and science experts and universities.

“Skomer is a fragile protected landscape,” explained Dr Toby Driver, who joined the group from the Royal Commission in Aberystwyth.

“Already we have discovered previously unknown Neolithic and Bronze Age ritual stone settings, and demonstrated that the field systems may date back to at least the later Bronze Age.

“But despite half a century of modern archaeological interest, we still had no scientific dates for the roundhouses and fields on Skomer.

“It was decided to target a prehistoric burnt mound or cooking mound of fire-cracked stones, which stands immediately outside one of the paired roundhouses.

“This mound built up from numerous cooking episodes in the adjacent house. Our excavation discovered a cattle tooth from within the mound of stones, which has now been radiocarbon dated to the late Iron Age.

“Beneath the mound we found a sealed land surface containing Neolithic or Bronze Age worked flint tools.

“A second radiocarbon date from blackthorn charcoal, in the upper soil layers, gave an early Iron Age date, possibly from burning and clearance on the land, which showed our burnt mound and the houses it belongs to arrived after the early Iron Age.

“Both dates are accurate to within 62 years.”

The boiled water took around three hours to cook a joint of meat. The burnt mounds outside the roundhouse clusters are said to be “huge”, dominating the Iron Age landscape alongside the conical thatched house roofs.

“Skomer is a fragile protected landscape, and our archaeological research to date has focussed on non-invasive investigation of the prehistoric fields and settlements,” said Dr Driver.

“This has included new aerial photography, airborne laser scanning, ground geophysics and walkover surveys.

“These new dates confirm pre-Roman settlement on Skomer. Even so, the burnt mound covers a substantial earlier field wall showing that the island was already well settled and farmed in previous centuries.”

As well as its huts and fields from the prehistoric period, the island is well-known for its puffins and breeding seabirds.


A photo of a dark brown archaeological trench with stones, grass and measuring sticks
The post-excavation view of the external face of the western round house of huts on Skomer, Pemrbokeshire, where archaeologists have been working© Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales


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You can check out my posts about making my own mead by going to archives for 2011, February through August. Thanks

Admit it, you thought the only time mead was consumed nowadays was at Renaissance Fairs or following a rousing day of LARPing – that’s Live Action Role Playing, for those of you not in the know. But, contrary to popular belief, this ancient honey wine is not just for the Dungeons and Dragons set. Made since ancient times from fermented honey and water, mead is a great drink to add to your fall table, especially if you’ll be celebrating Rosh Hashanah this week. Think of mead as the more adult version of apples and honey with the mead being your honey and a delicious slice of sweet apple cake standing in for the traditional apple slice.

We can trace mead’s origins all the way back to 7000 BCE and mainland China, where archeological digs have unearthed ancient pottery with mead residue inside. From there the recipe for mead traveled to Europe and Africa. In both locations historians believe mead caught on in places where the climates and/or soils didn’t support healthy grape production. With no ability to make wine, mead was a great option, since all one needed was access to bees and water.

As society progressed and we developed the ability to trade with locations much further away from us, many forgot about Mmad, losing the need for it with the influx of wine from other regions. But some cultures across the world maintained mead as a staple beverage, including Ethiopia, which continued to perfect the beverage known as Tej — a beverage that is still drunk at Ethiopian tables to this day.

Recently, mead has experienced a resurgence in the U.S., with craft meaderies opening across the country to brew meads of all different styles. While the traditional sweet mead can still be found, craft mead brewers are now making meads that truly push the boundaries of the beverage, from the very dry and bubbly almost sparkling wine style, to the sweet and fruity that is reminiscent of Riesling.

As the industry has expanded, so has experimentation, with many brewers striving to make meads that not only appeal to their tastes, but that of their peers as well. In many instances, this means new styles of the elixir mixed with fresh fruits and berries, or meads that are “hopped” and made in the style of an American IPA. While mead used to also be a beverage that, historically, was simply fermented and then bottled, some brewers have started to age it like wine, letting the mead rest in stainless steel or oak for up to a year before placing it in the bottle. The result of all of this experimentation is a high quality beverage that is definitely like nothing you may have had with that turkey leg ten years ago at the Renaissance Fair.

Just like wine, mead can only be great if the ingredients used to make it are, and for mead that all begins with the flowers. Because the base ingredients of mead are simply water and honey, the flowers the bees visited in the process of creating their sticky sweet syrup are incredibly important. Some people say drinking mead is like drinking the elixir of thousands of flowers at once and each mead can have completely different characteristics depending on the types of flowers visited by the bees.

Because mead is usually at least a little sweet, it’s a great accompaniment for spicier foods, which is probably why it’s been a constant on the Ethiopian table for all this time. It also pairs wonderfully with stews, hard sharp cheese and of course desserts.

So add mead to your table, and say cheers to a sweet new year — you won’t be disappointed.

Header image via Boykov / Shutterstock.com


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Prehistoric pit discovered on Coney Island beach

Coney Island, in County Sligo, Ireland, is one of several islands of the same name off the coast of Ireland. It is an island of approximately 400 acres and is named after the vast quantity of rabbits which can be spotted on the island at any time (Coney (/ˈkoʊni/, historically /ˈkʌni/) is an English word for a rabbit or rabbit hair, deriving from the Latin cuniculus, meaning “rabbit”

From Wikipedia

Archaeologists have discovered signs of human habitation, possibly dating back 4,000 years, on Sligo’s Coney Island.

A box-like structure built from large stone slabs found on the island may have been used for bathing or cooking during the Bronze Age, experts believe. It has been excavated by a team led by Eamonn Kelly, director of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum.

The structure is thought to be part of a fulacht fiadh, a prehistoric trough or pit that was dug into the ground and filled with water. Stones, heated separated on an outdoor hearth, would be added to bring the water to boil.

Measuring about a metre long and 80cm wide, the structure was recently identified as an archaeological site by Ciaran Davis, an archaeology student at IT Sligo, and native of nearby Rosses Point, who alerted the museum.

“It tells us that people walked the beach here 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, searched for large stone slabs, and carefully built this structure,” said Mr Davis. “Many other archaeological sites probably await discovery on Coney.”

There are thousands of Bronze Age fulacht fiadh throughout Ireland, but to find one on a beach is a rare event, said Dr Marion Dowd, a lecturer at IT Sligo.

“I know of one other example in Cork. It makes us wonder why they would have wanted to heat saltwater.”

Hot water was typically used for cooking, bathing, washing, dyeing textiles and brewing alcohol, but the use of saltwater meant brewing was not the purpose of the Coney island device, Dr Dowd said.

Radiocarbon dating will determine the exact age of the discovery.

The structure has been known locally as the “lovers’ wishing well”, said Dr Dowd. The legend was that anyone who lay inside it would dream of the person they were going to marry. It was also known as “the sailor’s grave”.

Mr Kelly described the find as “very significant” and said it was “quite extraordinary” that the structure had remained undisturbed despite being known to local people for decades.

“It shows the absolute respect the community has for it, perhaps because some thought it was the grave of a sailor,” he said. “But we have seen grave sites elsewhere which were plundered.”

Currently one family lives full-time on Coney, but there are a number of holiday homes on the island, which is popular with day trippers who can drive or walk across via Cummeen Strand during low tide.

By marese-mcdonagh
Sep 11, 2014
Original article:
irish times


Volunteers excavate the box-like archeological structure on Coney Island. The site may date back 4,000 years

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Ancient pottery confirms people made and drank a milky alcoholic concoction at one of the largest cities in prehistory, Teotihuacan in Mexico, researchers say.

This liquor may have helped provide the people of this ancient metropolis with essential nutrients during frequent shortfalls in staple foods, scientists added.

The ancient city of Teotihuacan, whose name means “the city of the gods” in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, was the largest city in the Americas before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. At its zenith, Teotihuacan encompassed about 8 square miles (20 square kilometers) and supported an estimated population of 100,000 people, who raised giant monuments such as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.

Much about Teotihuacan remains unknown, including the origin and language of the people who lived there. To shed light on the mystery of this ancient city, scientists investigated what the people there might have eaten and drank. [In Photos: Human Sacrifices Discovered in Ancient City of Teotihuacan]

Corn, also known as maize, was a key crop for the people of Teotihuacan, but the low rainfall and limited groundwater resources of the area made growing maize there risky. In addition, while maize is high in calories, it contains only low concentrations of several vital nutrients, such as iron, calcium and B vitamins.

Murals in Teotihuacan depict agave plants, which are also known as maguey plants and physically resemble aloe. A number of these paintings may also depict scenes of people drinking a milky alcoholic potion known as pulque, which is made from maguey sap. (Tequila is also made from agave plants, but these liquors are made from the baked hearts of these crops, not the sap.)

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Prior studies hinted that pulque might have helped keep people in Teotihuacan alive. Maguey withstands frost and drought better than maize, and pulque could have provided vital calories, most essential nutrients and probiotic bacteria.

To learn more about the diet and culture of the people of Teotihuacan, scientists analyzed more than 300 sherds, or fragments, of pottery from within and nearby the city that dated to between about A.D. 200 and 550. The researchers cleaned and ground up the potsherds, and then scanned the resulting powder for any materials that the gotten unglazed ceramic might have absorbed. They focused on residues of the alcohol-making bacterium Zymomonas mobilis, which gives pulque its punch.

“This project pushed the detection limits of absorbed organic residue analysis,” said lead study author Marisol Correa-Ascencio, an archaeological chemist at the University of Bristol in England.

The scientists discovered 14 sherds with the earliest direct chemical evidence for the making of pulque in Central America. Researchers found that this fermented maguey sap may have been stored in distinctive, vaselike pottery vessels that were sealed with pine resin, as well as in other less-specialized vessels.

“These findings are a critical first step in providing new information about the subsistence patterns of the inhabitants at Teotihuacan that could not have been gathered using traditional archaeological methods,” Correa-Ascencio said.

In its future research, the teamwill analyze ancient potsherds from other areas in Central America for similar residues, Correa-Ascencio said. She and her colleagues detailed their findings online Sept. 15 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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