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Archive for January, 2016

 

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Lee Perry Gal measures chicken long bones at the zooarchaeology lab, Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa.

 

Original Article

By DANIEL CHARLES • JUL 20, 2015

 

An ancient, abandoned city in Israel has revealed part of the story of how the chicken turned into one of the pillars of the modern Western diet.

The city, now an archaeological site, is called Maresha. It flourished in the Hellenistic period from 400 to 200 BCE.

“The site is located on a trade route between Jerusalem and Egypt,” says Lee Perry-Gal, a doctoral student in the department of archaeology at the University of Haifa. As a result, it was a meeting place of cultures, “like New York City,” she says.

Not too long ago, the archaeologists unearthed something unusual: a collection of chicken bones.

“This was very, very surprising,” says Perry-Gal.

The surprising thing was not that chickens lived here. There’s evidence that humans have kept chickens around for thousands of years, starting in Southeast Asia and China.

But those older sites contained just a few scattered chicken bones. People were raising those chickens for cockfighting, or for special ceremonies. The birds apparently weren’t considered much of a food.

In Maresha, though, something changed.

The site contained more than a thousand chicken bones. “They were very, very well-preserved,” says Perry-Gal, whose findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Perry-Gal could see knife marks on them from butchering. There were twice as many bones from female birds as male. These chickens apparently were being raised for their meat, not for cockfighting.

Perry-Gal says there could be a couple of reasons why the people of Maresha decided to eat chickens.

Maybe, in the dry Mediterranean climate, people learned better how to raise large numbers of chickens in captivity. Maybe the chickens evolved, physically, and became more attractive as food.

But Perry-Gal thinks that part of it must have been a shift in the way people thought about food. “This is a matter of culture,” she says. “You have to decide that you are eating chicken from now on.”

In the history of human cuisine, Maresha may mark a turning point.

Barely a century later, the Romans starting spreading the chicken-eating habit across their empire. “From this point on, we see chicken everywhere in Europe,” Perry-Gal says. “We see a bigger and bigger percent of chicken. It’s like a new cellphone. We see it everywhere.”

Chicken-eating really is everywhere today. It’s the most commonly eaten meat in America. Globally, it’s second behind pork, but it’s catching up fast. Within five years, humans will probably eat more chicken than any other meat.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

An ancient abandoned city in Israel has revealed a clue as to how chicken became one of the pillars of the human diet. The clue is a collection of bones. Apparently, they are leftovers from a 2000-year-old version of KFC. NPR’s Dan Charles reports.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: In southern Israel, archaeologists have been excavating a city called Maresha, unearthing pieces of Greek civilization from 2,400 years ago. Lee Perry-Gal, a doctoral student of archeology at the University of Haifa, says Maresha was a meeting place of cultures.

LEE PERRY-GAL: The site itself is located on a trade route between Jerusalem and Egypt.

CHARLES: And recently, according to a report just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the archaeologists found something unusual here – chicken bones.

PERRY-GAL: This was very, very surprising.

CHARLES: The surprising thing was not that chickens lived there. Humans have kept chickens around for thousands of years, starting in Southeast Asia and China, but not, curiously, for their meat or their eggs. People were raising those birds for cockfighting or for special ceremonies, and they left behind just a few bones for the archaeologists. Here in Maresha, on the Mediterranean trade route, something changed. This site contained more than a thousand bones.

PERRY-GAL: They were very well preserved. They were extremely preserved.

CHARLES: Perry-Gal could see butchering marks on them. These chickens apparently were being raised for their meat. People were eating their eggs too. She says there could be a couple of reasons why. Maybe in the dry Mediterranean climate, people learned better how to raise large numbers of chickens in captivity. Maybe the chickens evolved physically and became more attractive as food. But Perry-Gal thinks part of it must’ve been a shift in people’s ideas and customs.

PERRY-GAL: It’s a matter of culture. You have to decide that you’re eating chicken from now on.

CHARLES: In the history of Western cuisine, Maresha appears to mark a turning point. A century later, the chicken-eating habit began spreading across the Roman Empire.

PERRY-GAL: From this point on, we see chicken everywhere in Europe. We see a bigger and bigger percent of chicken. It’s like a new cell phone, you know? You see it everywhere.

CHARLES: Today, of course, chicken-eating really is everywhere. It’s the most commonly eaten meat in America. Globally, it’s second, behind pork, but it’s rapidly catching up. Within five years, humans will probably eat more chicken than any other meat. Dan Charles, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

 

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Since my absence many articles on ancient foods have piled up on my desk. I shall endeavor to get to them all starting with last August and working my way forward to the present.

Thank you. JLP

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The above photo is from my library, J LP

Original Article in The Huffington Post

 By Jacqueline Howard
Posted: 07/10/2015

What was the culinary experience like for our prehistoric forebears?

No one knows for sure. But a provocative new study suggests that any meat our distant ancestors scavenged would have been teeming with harmful bacteria.

What’s more, the study suggests, early hominins would have had trouble avoiding food-borne illness unless they cooked the carrion or opted to consume bone marrow rather than flesh.

“Some would argue the archaeological record indicates that meat was scavenged before the earliest accepted dates of controlled fire-use, but our research suggests that cooking might be more ancient,” Alex Smith, the study’s lead author and a researcher in Harvard University’s department of human evolutionary biology, told The Huffington Post in an email.

Most scientists agree that cooking dates back about 1.9 million years.

To take a closer look at the possible link between scavenging and cooking, the researchers measured the growth of bacteria on raw boar meat and bone marrow over a 24-hour period and how effectively roasting the meat eliminated the bacteria.

What did the researchers find?

The number of bacteria on the raw meat spiked to potentially dangerous levels within 24 hours, but roasting the meat over hot coals killed most of the bacteria. As for the bone marrow, fewer bacteria grew on it than on the meat, which suggests that it would have been somewhat safer to eat than meat.

“The accumulation of bacteria on exposed tissue and the reduction of this bacterial load via cooking were not surprising findings,” Smith said in the email. “What is surprising is that two processes known to influence the biological value of food (bacterial decomposition and cooking) are often absent from discussions about hominin scavenging ecology… We hope this research brings the importance of cooking and its effects to discussions on early hominin carnivory.”

A paper describing the research was published in the July 2015 edition of the Journal of Human Evolution.

 

 

 

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2015 in review

Greetings everyone and Happy New Year! I know I’ve been away a long while, but I see that even with my absence my blog has continued to provide you with material to read, perchance to use as reference.

Thank you for your support and interest, now to my annual report for 2015 and manny, many new posts for 2016!

Joanna

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 33,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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