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Archive for January, 2017

This is another Article on crops and the Chaco Culture published in January with expanded information.

JLP

chaco-supernova-pictograph-730x438

Original Article:

by Blake de Pastino

western digs.org

For more than a century, researchers have been studying the intricacies of Chaco Canyon — the cluster of settlements and multi-story “great houses” in northwestern New Mexico that, at its peak around the year 1100, may have been home to hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Recently, researchers have been at odds over a simple, central question in the history of this monumental community:

How did the people of Chaco manage to grow food in such an arid environment?

According to new research, the answer is even simpler.

They didn’t.

Dr. Larry V. Benson, a former hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and an anthropologist at the University of Colorado, has studied soil and other environmental records from the region, and concludes that Chaco Canyon was both too dry and too salty to grow corn or beans, two of the staple crops of the Ancestral Puebloans who lived there.

As a result, Benson proposes a new theory about how Chacoans fed themselves: They imported their food.

“The important thing about this study is that it demonstrates you can’t grow great quantities of corn in the Chaco valley floor,” Benson said of his new findings, in a press statement.

“And you couldn’t grow sufficient corn in the side canyon tributaries of Chaco that would have been necessary to feed several thousand people.

“Either there were very few people living in Chaco Canyon, or corn was imported there.”

Benson is the scientist behind many sometimes contentious anthropological findings around the West.

In 2013, he played a role in the discovery of petroglyphs in Nevada that were determined to be the oldest on the continent.

More recently, he concluded that the circular masonry feature at Mesa Verde National Park known as Mummy Lake wasn’t a reservoir, as many had thought, but a ceremonial structure.

Benson’s new research is a riposte to a study released in September that promised to “shake up” the field of Southwestern archaeology with its findings that Chaco Canyon’s soil was not too salty to farm, as Benson and others had previously asserted.

In fact, this research concluded, Chaco’s soil was rich in certain mineral salts, like calcium sulfate, that actually made it especially fertile for growing plants such as corn.

“One thing we can say with a great degree of certainty: The Ancestral Puebloans did not abandon Chaco Canyon because of salt pollution,” said Dr. Kenneth Tankersley, an anthropologist and geologist at the University of Cincinnati, in a press statement at the time.

But in his new paper, currently being published by the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Benson answers Tankersley’s study with new data and arguments of his own.

First, he draws on tree ring data.

Cross-sections of trees are considered natural records of annual rainfall, with thick and thin rings corresponding to wet and dry years.

Using data from tree-core samples spanning 1,100 years, Benson notes that Chaco only experienced sufficient rainfall for growing corn about 2 percent of the time.

Regardless of the soil’s salt content, Benson writes, “this implies that an exceptional wet period did not prevail during Chaco’s heyday.”

As for the benefits of sulfur on maize crops, Benson argues that, while sulfur is an important nutrient in agriculture, it’s mainly useful in treating metallic sulfates in acidic soil, a condition that Chaco Canyon doesn’t have.

“The principal usefulness of sulfur in maize agriculture is its ability to reduce aluminum toxicity that often accompanies soil acidity, a problem that does not occur in the high-pH soils of the Chaco Canyon region,” Benson writes.

Moreover, in his own analysis of soil samples taken from the valley bottom and the side canyons that feed into it, Benson finds that levels of salt were indeed very high — at some points, higher than those found in seawater.

Considering that Chaco’s soil chemistry likely hasn’t changed much over the past 800 years, Benson concludes that Chaco Canyon was simply never suitable for farming on a scale large enough to have fed its population.

“I don’t think anyone understands why it existed,” he said of the cultural complex, in the press statement.

“There was no time in the past when Chaco Canyon was a Garden of Eden.”

In turn, Benson offers an alternative explanation for how the communities of Chaco got their food: It was imported from the Chuska Mountains, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) away.

The eastern slope of the Chuskas is known to have been home to a robust Ancestral Puebloan presence, he said, their numbers aided in part by the ample water provided by snowmelt.

Previous studies have estimated that as many as 17,000 people made their home on the Chuska Slope before the year 1100, and recent research has even found that those mountains were the source of the Chaco Canyon’s huge building timbers.

Given the other cultural connections between the two communities, Benson said, it’s plausible that the Chuskas served as what he called “Chaco’s breadbasket.”

“There were timbers, pottery and chert coming from the Chuska region to Chaco Canyon, so why not surplus corn?” Benson said in the statement. [Read more about trade of exotic goods in Chaco: “Bones of Exotic Macaws Reveal Early Rise of Trade, Hierarchy in Chaco Canyon”]

The nature of Chaco’s agricultural environment, and how Ancestral Puebloans managed to thrive within it, remain open questions for now.

But Benson suggests that, in addition to Chaco’s natural chemistry, the relationship between these two communities in pre-contact New Mexico also deserves closer study.

“Perhaps it is time to reassess Chaco Canyon as a self-sustaining bread basket and turn to new studies of the prehistory of the Chuska Slope and its connection to Chaco Canyon,” he writes.

Tankersley and his colleagues have not yet been contacted for a response.

 

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Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon

 

Original article:

Colorado.edu

 

Ancient Chaco Canyon population likely relied on imported food

Ancient ruins are seen in part of Chaco Canyon.

The ancient inhabitants of New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, the zenith of Pueblo culture in the Southwest a thousand years ago, likely had to import corn to feed the multitudes residing there, says a new CU Boulder study.

CU Boulder scientist Larry Benson said the new study shows that Chaco Canyon—believed by some archeologists to have been populated by several thousand people around A.D. 1100 and to have held political sway over an area twice the size of Ohio–had soils that were too salty for the effective growth of corn and beans.

“The important thing about this study is that it demonstrates you can’t grow great quantities of corn in the Chaco valley floor,” Benson said. “And you couldn’t grow sufficient corn in the side canyon tributaries of Chaco that would have been necessary to feed several thousand people. Either there were very few people living in Chaco Canyon, or corn was imported there.”

“Either there were very few people living in Chaco Canyon, or corn was imported there.”

A paper by Benson was published online in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

Between the ninth and 12th centuries, Chaco Canyon (officially the Chaco Culture Natural Historic Park) located in the San Juan Basin in north-central New Mexico was the focus of an unprecedented construction effort, Benson said. At the height of its cultural heyday, 12 stone masonry “great houses” and other structures were built there, along with a network of ceremonial roads linking Chaco with other Pueblo sites in the Southwest.

As part of the study, Benson used a tree ring data set created by University of Arizona Professor Emeritus Jeff Dean that showed annual Chaco Canyon precipitation spanning 1,100 years. The tree rings indicate the minimum amount of annual precipitation necessary to grow corn was exceeded only 2.5 percent of the time during that time period.

Benson suggests that much of the corn consumed by the ancient people of Chaco may have come from the Chuska Slope, the eastern flank of the Chuska Mountains some 50 miles west of Chaco Canyon that also was the source of some 200,000 timbers used to shore up Chaco Canyon masonry structures. Between 11,000 and 17,000 Pueblo people are thought to have resided on the Chuska Slope before A.D. 1130, he said.

Winter snows in the Chuska Mountains would have produced a significant amount of spring snowmelt that was combined with surface water features like natural “wash systems,” Benson said. Water concentrated and conveyed by washes would have allowed for the diversion of surface water to irrigate large corn fields on the Chuska Slope, he said.

The Chaco Canyon inhabitants traded regularly with the Chuska Slope residents, Benson said, as evidenced by stone tool material (chert), pottery and wooden beams.

“There were timbers, pottery and chert coming from the Chuska region to Chaco Canyon, so why not surplus corn?” asks Benson, a former U.S. Geological Survey scientist.

Many archaeologists are still puzzled as to why Chaco Canyon was built in an area that has long winters, marginal rainfall and short growing seasons. “I don’t think anyone understands why it existed,” Benson said. “There was no time in the past when Chaco Canyon was a Garden of Eden.”

 

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Top image: The type of cauldron in which the 2,000-year-old beef stew was found hasn’t been released, but this example of an ancient Chinese cauldron dates to the Yangshao Culture in Henan Province. ( Wikimedia Commons photo /Gary Lee Todd)

Top image: The type of cauldron in which the 2,000-year-old beef stew was found hasn’t been released, but this example of an ancient Chinese cauldron dates to the Yangshao Culture in Henan Province. ( Wikimedia Commons photo /Gary Lee Todd)

Original Article:

By Mark Miller

ancient-origins.net

 

Ancient remnants of oxen stew partially preserved in a cauldron, have been found in the tomb of a Chinese nobleman. The tomb, in Henan Province near the city of Xinyang, dates back about 2,000 years in an area of the Chu Kingdom of the Warring States period. Officials are keeping the exact location of the tomb a secret for reasons of security.

The stew or meat soup contains oxen bones, meat and other ingredients, though stories on the Internet did not mention the other contents. The presence of the bones prompted archaeologists to conclude the cauldron contained beef soup or beef stew.

A brief article on the find in China’s Global Times website says the favorite foods of nobility were often buried with them so they could have feasts in the afterlife.

Global Times mentions other ancient finds of foods dating to antiquity, including:

A pot of lotus root soup from the Han Dynasty of 206 BC to 220 AD was unearthed at Hunan Provinces’ Mawangdui Tombs in 1972.
Dumplings from a Tang Dynasty tomb dating to between 618 and 907 AD in Turpan of Xinjiang region.
About 26 liters (6.87 gallons) of ancient baijiu liquor at Xi’an City of a Shaanxi Province

 

 

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 Turkey's western province of Balıkesir, (AA Photo)


Turkey’s western province of Balıkesir, (AA Photo)

 

AA photo

AA photo

Original Article:

dailysabah.com

 

Turkish archeologists in Dascylium ancient city in Turkey’s western province of Balıkesir have discovered a 2,600 year-old kitchen which belonged to the ancient Kingdom of Lydia in Anatolia.

During the excavations, kitchenware including containers, mortars (made up of basalt stone) and some fish bones and seeds were discovered in the area where the age-old kitchen was discovered.

The head of the excavation team Kaan İren, who is a lecturer in the Department of Archeology in Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University in Turkey, spoke to an Anadolu Agency correspondent and said that his team had been digging in three different points in the area.

İren explained that “the founding belong to the Bronze Age, we came across some human traces in the area.”

“It was discovered that our findings including architectural structures, tablets, cult stuff and stoneware belong to the Kingdom of Lydia and Phrygians and date back to eight century BC,” he said.

Six and a half-meter-long walls which were used to strengthen burial mound were also discovered during the excavation. İren explained that the rock tombs had been discovered in the second digging, and that they may be the first source to provide knowledge about rock tombs in ancient history.

“In another point in the area, we found two kitchens which date back the 600 and 540 BC. We found one these kitchens on the top of the other.”

“Below one was collapsed due to fire then the second one was built on it but this one also collapsed due to another fire.” İren said.

This is the first time a fully-equipped kitchen belonging to the Kingdom of Lydia has been discovered in Anatolia.

 

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Excavating a pit from which archaeobotanical samples were collected at the Indus Civilization site of Masudpur I in northwest India. Credit: Cameron Petrie

Excavating a pit from which archaeobotanical samples were collected at the Indus Civilization site of Masudpur I in northwest India. Credit: Cameron Petrie

 

Original article:

popular-archaeology.com

Rice was used as a ‘summer crop’ by the Indus civilization.

UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE—The latest research on archaeological sites of the ancient Indus Civilisation, which stretched across what is now Pakistan and northwest India during the Bronze Age, has revealed that domesticated rice farming in South Asia began far earlier than previously believed, and may have developed in tandem with – rather than as a result of – rice domestication in China.

The research also confirms that Indus populations were the earliest people to use complex multi-cropping strategies across both seasons, growing foods during summer (rice, millets and beans) and winter (wheat, barley and pulses), which required different watering regimes. The findings suggest a network of regional farmers supplied assorted produce to the markets of the civilisation’s ancient cities.

Evidence for very early rice use has been known from the site of Lahuradewa in the central Ganges basin, but it has long been thought that domesticated rice agriculture didn’t reach South Asia until towards the end of the Indus era, when the wetland rice arrived from China around 2000 BC. Researchers found evidence of domesticated rice in South Asia as much as 430 years earlier.

The new research is published today in the journals Antiquity and Journal of Archaeological Science by researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Division of Archaeology, in collaboration with colleagues at Banaras Hindu University and the University of Oxford.

“We found evidence for an entirely separate domestication process in ancient South Asia, likely based around the wild species Oryza nivara. This led to the local development of a mix of ‘wetland’ and ‘dryland’ agriculture of local Oryza sativa indica rice agriculture before the truly ‘wetland’ Chinese rice, Oryza sativa japonica, arrived around 2000 BC,” says study co-author Dr Jennifer Bates

“While wetland rice is more productive, and took over to a large extent when introduced from China, our findings appear to show there was already a long-held and sustainable culture of rice production in India as a widespread summer addition to the winter cropping during the Indus civilisation.”

Co-author Dr Cameron Petrie says that the location of the Indus in a part of the world that received both summer and winter rains may have encouraged the development of seasonal crop rotation before other major civilisations of the time, such as Ancient Egypt and China’s Shang Dynasty.

“Most contemporary civilisations initially utilised either winter crops, such as the Mesopotamian reliance on wheat and barley, or the summer crops of rice and millet in China – producing surplus with the aim of stockpiling,” says Petrie.

“However, the area inhabited by the Indus is at a meteorological crossroads, and we found evidence of year-long farming that predates its appearance in the other ancient river valley civilisations.”

The archaeologists sifted for traces of ancient grains in the remains of several Indus villages within a few kilometers of the site called Rakhigari: the most recently excavated of the Indus cities that may have maintained a population of some 40,000.

As well as the winter staples of wheat and barley and winter pulses like peas and vetches, they found evidence of summer crops: including domesticated rice, but also millet and the tropical beans urad and horsegram, and used radiocarbon dating to provide the first absolute dates for Indus multi-cropping: 2890-2630 BC for millets and winter pulses, 2580-2460 BC for horsegram, and 2430-2140 BC for rice.

Millets are a group of small grain, now most commonly used in birdseed, which Petrie describes as “often being used as something to eat when there isn’t much else”. Urad beans, however, are a relative of the mung bean, often used in popular types of Indian dhal today.

In contrast with evidence from elsewhere in the region, the village sites around Rakhigari reveal that summer crops appear to have been much more popular than the wheats of winter.

The researchers say this may have been down to the environmental variation in this part of the former civilisation: on the seasonally flooded Ghaggar-Hakra plains where different rainfall patterns and vegetation would have lent themselves to crop diversification – potentially creating local food cultures within individual areas.

This variety of crops may have been transported to the cities. Urban hubs may have served as melting pots for produce from regional growers, as well as meats and spices, and evidence for spices have been found elsewhere in the region.

While they don’t yet know what crops were being consumed at Rakhigarhi, Jennifer Bates points out that: “It is certainly possible that a sustainable food economy across the Indus zone was achieved through growing a diverse range of crops, with choice being influenced by local conditions.

“It is also possible that there was trade and exchange in staple crops between populations living in different regions, though this is an idea that remains to be tested.”

“Such a diverse system was probably well suited to mitigating risk from shifts in climate,” adds Cameron Petrie. “It may be that some of today’s farming monocultures could learn from the local crop diversity of the Indus people 4,000 years ago.”

The findings are the latest from the Land, Water and Settlement Project, which has been conducting research on the ancient Indus Civilisation in northwest India since 2008.

Article Source: University of Cambridge news release.

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  Dairy-related activity differed across regions in Neolithic culture and may have impacted culture spread and animal domestication. Martin Abegglen, Wikimedia Commons


Dairy-related activity differed across regions in Neolithic culture and may have impacted culture spread and animal domestication. Martin Abegglen, Wikimedia Commons

Original article:

popular-archaeology.com

An archeological study* finds regional differences in the level of dairy-related activity in early Neolithic farming communities across the Mediterranean region. Previous research suggests that the production of dairy products such as milk in Neolithic Mediterranean communities could have been an impetus for animal domestication. To study the rise of dairy production in the Mediterranean region, Mélanie Roffet-Salque and colleagues analyzed lipid residues on more than 550 ceramic sherds and osteo-archeological data on age-at-death for domesticated animals from 82 sites in the northern Mediterranean and Near East that dated between the seventh and fifth millennia BC. In combination with previously published data, the ceramic and osteo-archaeological analyses revealed regional differences in the level of dairy-related activity in Early Neolithic farming communities across the Mediterranean region. Moreover, milk residues in ceramic artifacts from both the east and west of the region contrasted with data from sites in northern Greece, where high frequencies of pig bones indicated a reliance on meat production. According to the authors, except for parts of mainland Greece, dairy production was likely practiced across the Mediterranean region from the onset of agriculture and might have contributed to the spread of culture and animal domestication in the region.

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The lives of these people,their cultures, foods must be preserved.

The Free

5939243629_8f1991e0de_bOne of the most controversial dams in history has been  inaugurated. The Gibe III dam has put an end to the natural flooding of Ethiopia’s Omo River, on which 100,000 indigenous people depend and a further 100,000 rely indirectly. Experts have warned that this could also mean the end for Lake Turkana in Kenya – the world’s largest desert lake – and disaster for the 300,000 tribespeople living along its shores.descarga-1

The dam was built by Italian engineering giant Salini Impregilo, against which Survival has filed a formal complaint that is still ongoing. Plans are now underway to build the Gibe IV and Gibe V dams downriver.

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