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Archive for June, 2018

eurekalert.org

 

Archaeologists at Lund University in Sweden have found carbonised germinated grains showing that malt was produced for beer brewing as early as the Iron Age in the Nordic region. The findings made in Uppåkra in southern Sweden indicate a large-scale production of beer, possibly for feasting and trade.

“We found carbonised malt in an area with low-temperature ovens located in a separate part of the settlement. The findings are from the 400-600s, making them one of the earliest evidence of beer brewing in Sweden”, says Mikael Larsson, who specialises in archaeobotany, the archaeology of human-plant interactions.

Archaeologists have long known that beer was an important product in ancient societies in many parts of the world. Through legal documents and images, it has been found, for example, that beer was produced in Mesopotamia as early as 4 000 BCE. However, as written sources in the Nordic region are absent prior to the Middle Ages (before ca 1200 CE), knowledge of earlier beer production is dependent on botanical evidence.

“We often find cereal grains on archaeological sites, but very rarely from contexts that testify as to how they were processed. These germinated grains found around a low-temperature oven indicate that they were used to become malt for brewing beer”, says Mikael Larsson.

Beer is made in two stages. The first is the malting process, followed by the actual brewing. The process of malting starts by wetting the grain with water, allowing the grain to germinate. During germination, enzymatic activities starts to convert both proteins and starches of the grain into fermentable sugars. Once enough sugar has been formed, the germinated grain is dried in an oven with hot air, arresting the germination process. This is what happened in the oven in Uppåkra.

“Because the investigated oven and carbonised grain was situated in an area on the site with several similar ovens, but absent of remains to indicate a living quarter, it is likely that large-scale production of malt was allocated to a specific area on the settlement, intended for feasting and/or trading”, explains Mikael Larsson.

Early traces of malt in connection with beer brewing have only been discovered in two other places in the Nordic region. One is in Denmark from 100 CE and one is in Eketorp on Öland from around 500 CE.

“From other archaeological sites in the Nordic region, traces of the bog-myrtle plant have been found, which indicates beer brewing. Back then, bog-myrtle was used to preserve and flavour beer. It wasn’t until later during the Middle Ages that hops took over as beer flavouring”, Mikael Larsson concludes.

Facts: Method

Two-litre soil samples are taken from various archaeological contexts – in houses, in pits, around hearths and ovens. The plant material found is usually preserved in a carbonised state. The soil is mixed with water and the carbon rises to the surface and is sieved through a fine mesh. The particles extracted are dried and studied under a microscope.

Facts: Uppåkra

Uppåkra is currently the largest Iron Age settlements in southern Scandinavia and served as a densely populated political and religious centre of power for more than 1 000 years, from 100s BCE to the 1 000s CE. The many findings made of imported luxury items such as jewellery and glass bowls, and from a developed production of crafts, indicate that the location was both rich and a significant trading centre.

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13-Jun-2018

University of British Columbia

eurekalert.org

 

Agricultural activity by humans more than 2,000 years ago had a more significant and lasting impact on the environment than previously thought. The finding– discovered by a team of international researchers led by the University of British Columbia– is reported in a new study published today in the journal Science Advances.

The researchers found that an increase in deforestation and agricultural activity during the Bronze Age in Ireland reached a tipping point that affected Earth’s nitrogen cycle– the process that keeps nitrogen, a critical element necessary for life, circulating between the atmosphere, land and oceans.

“Scientists are increasingly recognizing that humans have always impacted their ecosystems, but finding early evidence of significant and lasting changes is rare,” said Eric Guiry, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral research fellow in UBC’s department of anthropology. “By looking at when and how ancient societies began to change soil nutrients at a molecular level, we now have a deeper understanding of the turning point at which humans first began to cause environmental change.”

For the study, the researchers performed stable isotope analyses on 712 animal bones collected from at least 90 archaeological sites in Ireland. The researchers found significant changes in the nitrogen composition of soil nutrients and plants that made up the animals’ diet during the Bronze Age.

The researchers believe the changes were the result of an increase in the scale and intensity of deforestation, agriculture and pastoral farming.

While these results are specific to Ireland during the Bronze Age, Guiry said the findings have global implications.

“The effect of human activities on soil nitrogen composition may be traceable wherever humans have extensively modified landscapes for agriculture,” he explained. “Our findings have significant potential to serve as a model for future research.”

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The study, “Anthropogenic changes to the Holocene nitrogen cycle in Ireland,” was co-authored by researchers at the Institute of Technology Sligo, Trent University, the University of Oxford, Queen’s University Belfast, and Simon Fraser University.

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Original Article:

By JASON URBANUS

Thursday, March 22, 2018

archaeology.org

Pompeii, Italy

Evidence continues to reveal much about the quality of life of the residents of ancient Pompeii. The city created an intricate and robust system for the local production of food and wine. Researchers have long been aware of frescoes, found in many surviving houses and villas, depicting plants and the pleasure of eating and drinking. Remains of triclinia, or dining rooms, and of food stalls, bakeries, and shops selling the fish sauce garum are abundant.

 

 

Garden archaeology as a discipline was pioneered in Pompeii in the 1950s when archaeologist Wilhelmina Jashemski began to excavate areas between the remaining structures. She discovered that homeowners planted flowers, dietary staples, and even small vineyards. “From the oldest type of domestic vegetable garden, the hortus, to ornate temple gardens,” explains Betty Jo Mayeske, director of the Pompeii Food and Wine Project, “you see evidence of cultivation in nearly every available space in Pompeii.” It appears that both grain and grapes were grown in small, local contexts. “There was a bakery on practically every single corner and the mills were there too, as well as a counter room and large ovens,” she says. “The whole production process took place there, and there are also several similar examples of small-scale vineyards.” One of Jashemski’s innovations was to apply the practice of making molds of the dead, known since the 1860s, to making molds of individual plants. “Casting had been done in cement and plaster on human remains for years,” Mayeske says, “but Jashemski used that technology to cast the plants’ roots, which helped definitively identify all of these gardens and vineyards.”

 

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Original Article:

By Karen Michelmore

abc.net.au

Archaeologists have uncovered a treasure trove of ancient artefacts — including evidence of a kangaroo cook-up — inside a remote cave in the far north-west of Australia.

An archaeological dig is underway in this cave, located about 10km from BHP Billiton’s Mining Area C iron ore mine in the West Australian Pilbara region.

The site in Western Australia’s Pilbara region is being leased by mining giant BHP Billiton, but of late a different kind of digging has been going on.

A team of scientists from Scarp Archaeology and BHP, led by Michael Slack, has already uncovered hundreds of ancient artefacts from the small cave in the Hamersley Ranges.

“The guys have just uncovered an ancient campfire that, given the depth below the surface and the relationship with the stones around it, we think is potentially around 20,000 years old,” Dr Slack said.

The remnants of the ancient camp fire consist of about 20cm of fine white ash and contains pieces of charcoal which will be sent off for radiocarbon dating.

“To make it even better, they found flake stone artefacts right next to the charcoal,” he said.

“So we’ll get a really good association between people and the campfire itself, and we’ll have a really clear idea of how old it is.”

It was possible the stone tools were used to cut the meat for the fire, as remnants of kangaroo bone were also found.

“We’ll have to have a look at them under the microscope, but they are the pieces that people were using in the site,” Dr Slack said.

“A family sitting around a campfire having a meal probably.”

Using garden trowels, the scientists are painstakingly digging centimetre by centimetre, through thousands of years of history.

“You only have to look at the ground in this cave and you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of little chips of stone, and these were all coming off stone artefacts that were used as tools,” Dr Slack said.

“Some of them just look really pretty, others you can see have lots of evidence of wear on the side.

“This little cave has hundreds of them on the surface which is very rare for the Pilbara.

“Quite often the caves have nothing … but they are lying around.

“We looked at a bunch of caves out here and as soon as we got to this one we thought, ‘wow we really want to come and do some archaeology here’ — it’s going to be really rich and there’s the potential there to tell a good story about what the Aboriginal people were doing here over possibly the last 40,000 years.”

Banjima man and traditional owner Garren Smith, who is working with the archaeologists, said stories about the site have been passed down over time.

“It’s good that they are doing this and getting the records, having a look at how old things are,” Mr Smith said.

“A lot of other young fellas and older people come out.

“A lot of stories have been passed on to us and now they’re just finding out about it.”

The site was discovered a decade ago by a survey party made up of Aboriginal traditional owners working with BHP Billiton as part of their mine compliance requirements.

Years later scientists returned to do a test dig in a 1m-square patch, and in the process uncovered a cache of stone tools, some of which are up to 32,000 years old, making it one of the oldest sites in the region.

“The artefacts span what’s known as the last glacial maximum, or what most people know as the last ice age, between 18000 years ago and 28,000 years ago,” Dr Slack said.

“It’s one of those jobs where you never know what the next hour or minute is going to find for you.

“It might be nothing, but every time you put a little trowel in the ground and touch something, it could be something really exciting,” he says.

Dr Slack, who is also president of the Australian Archaeological Association, said there are around 600 archaeologists working around Australia.

Fittingly, the Pilbara excavation coincides with National Archaeology Week, and is just one of many sites of archaeological interest around the country.

“There’s a growing number of these sorts of sites in Australia because there’s been a lot more research that’s been going on over the last 10 years in particular,” he says.

“But in terms of the size in Australia and the number of places that we know to be over 10,000 years, we are still only looking at dozens of places in the continent, in the period of up to 65,000-70,000 years [old].

“So they are really significant places to study and understand.”

 

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May I add my congratulation as well for this paper,

Ritaroberts's Blog

via Academia.edu THESIS The Minoan and Mycenaean Agricultural Trade and Trade Routes in the Mycenaean Empire by Rita Roberts

Please click on the link above to read this post on Richard Vallance Janke blog.

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Piece of bone from medieval cemetery in Northern Finland.
Credit: Maria Lahtinen

 

Original Article:

sciencedaily.com

 

Researchers investigated the diet of people buried in the Ii Hamina, Northern Finland, cemetery from the 15th to the 17th centuries by analysing isotopes in the bones of the deceased. Isotopes preserve information on the various nutrient sources used by humans during their lifetime. A study reveals that the dominant protein source was small fish, such as roach or Baltic herring.

Researchers investigated the diet of people buried in the Ii Hamina cemetery from the 15th to the 17th centuries by analysing isotopes in the bones of the deceased. Isotopes preserve information on the various nutrient sources used by humans during their lifetime. A study published in the Environmental Archaeology journal reveals that the dominant protein source was small fish, such as roach or Baltic herring.

The medieval cemetery of Ii Hamina is located next to the centre of the Ii municipality. Through investigations conducted at the cemetery, significant knowledge has been gained on past human generations in Northern Ostrobothnia and in Finland in general.

The study of the diet of medieval Ii residents indicated a very large share of fish-based food. Of all protein consumed, as much as 70% may have been fish. On the one hand, this is evidence of the importance of waterways; on the other hand, it indirectly indicates the insignificance of farming and dairying in the region.

Sufficient but unbalanced nutrition

A previous study already revealed that medieval residents of Ii had no significant trouble finding food.

“This new study confirms the notion that the diet in Ii was very likely sufficient,” says researcher Maria Lahtinen from the Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus, part of the University of Helsinki.

The recently published study indicates that the fish consumed by the residents of Ii was probably from the middle of the food web, in other words roach, Baltic herring or other species feeding on benthic and other invertebrates. Species-specific findings cannot, however, be gained through isotope analysis, so the species mentioned are based on guesswork.

Seal hunting, on the other hand, most likely did not play a significant role in medieval Ii, the study finds.

In prior studies, the dental health of the deceased has also been investigated, revealing a very protein-rich diet compared to today. On average, the population at that time was also shorter. These factors are evidence of an unbalanced diet.

Another finding in the new study was an individual whose bone isotope consistency differed from others. The diet of this individual was much closer to living habits based primarily on farmed food. The bones of altogether 98 buried individuals were analysed in the study, which makes it very likely that this individual was originally from somewhere else or in some way enjoyed a special status in the community.

 

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(Jon Arnold Images Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo)
The stunning landscape of Ifugao Province, located deep within the Philippine Cordilleras, reflects and defines the identity of the people who live there.

Recent archaeological research has pushed the date of Ifugao’s rice terraces forward by some 1,600 years.

 

Original Article:

archaeology.org

By KAREN COATES

 

Archaeologists uncover evidence suggesting rice terraces helped the Ifugao resist Spanish colonization

High in the Philippine Cordilleras, the terrain is a work of engineering and art so stunning it has been called the Eighth Wonder of the World. Steep, furrowed mountains are sculpted into terraces, stacked one atop the other, following the craggy contours of the land. In lush green paddies, people cultivate rice just as their ancestors did, passing the land down from one generation to the next.

Since 1995, UNESCO has included the rice terraces of Ifugao Province on its World Heritage list, describing them as expressions of “harmony between humankind and the environment.” Ecology, geography, and agronomy mingle with the culture, religion, economy, and politics of indigenous Ifugao life. “The rice terraces are emblematic of Philippine heritage; they exemplify human ingenuity and humanity’s ability to modify even the most marginal landscape,” says University of California, Los Angeles, anthropological archaeologist Stephen Acabado, who was born in the Philippines and has researched the region for years. This intricate agroecological system, he says, highlights the consonance between human needs and sustainable ecological management.

According to UNESCO and Philippine history books, the rice terraces were built 2,000 years ago by the ancestors of today’s Ifugao people. But this description is problematic, Acabado says, because it’s not based on any scientific evidence. Rather, it stems from the work of early twentieth-century anthropologists Roy Franklin Barton and Henry Otley Beyer, who calculated the terraces’ age based on the length of time they guessed it would have taken people to build them.

By contrast, Acabado’s archaeological investigations show that the adoption of wet-rice agriculture, accomplished by planting seedlings in flooded fields, is much, much younger in Ifugao than previously thought—1,600 years younger, in fact. While some terraces likely existed in Ifugao centuries before that, Acabado says, evidence suggests they were used for growing taro, not rice, and that those terraces were small. Imagine the difference between a backyard garden and the expansive farm fields that define much of the American Midwest. That’s the kind of difference Acabado believes existed between the earliest Ifugao terraces and what we see today. According to him, the spectacular landscape that garnered Ifugao World Heritage status dates to an era that coincides with the arrival of Spanish colonizers. For Acabado, that changes everything.

The dominant historical narrative told throughout the Philippines is a story of small, remote minority populations that moved higher and higher into the mountains over millennia as waves of new people arrived and settled in the lowlands. It is accepted that Spanish colonizers were unable to conquer the Ifugao because the terrain they occupied was so rugged. This paints the highlanders as essentially outside the march of history, as bystanders, while colonization and modernization swept through other corners of the Philippines. This account is what Acabado recalls learning in school. By the time he reached college, he realized it was based on colonial notions of indigenous people. “I started to think about how to decolonize our history,” he says.

Acabado knew it was important to date the terraces archaeologically. When the evidence connected the timing of the origins of Ifugao wet-rice cultivation with the arrival of the Spanish, he envisioned an entirely different narrative, one of determined people who took refuge in the mountains when faced with the prospect of colonization. “They were not mere spectators on the sidelines of history,” says Acabado. Rather than retreating, they reshaped their culture through the development of an intricate agricultural system that depended on organization, social unity, and ritual feasts. “Wet-rice agriculture was an expression of imperial resistance,” Acabado says. “It also facilitated political integration.”

Contrary to previous thought, it is also now known that colonial-era Ifugao were not isolated. Archaeological findings of ceramics and glass beads show they had established continuous contact and trade across China and elsewhere in Asia between 1600 and 1800. The Ifugao also introduced new foods—domesticated pigs and water buffalo—to the highlands.

With the intention of scientifically documenting local history, Acabado joined other archaeologists from the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, and elsewhere to launch the Ifugao Archaeological Project (IAP) in 2012. The organization sponsors an archaeological field school and contributes to local heritage conservation projects. “Most of what we know about our history is contained in our oral history,” says Marlon Martin, chief operating officer of Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMo), a nonprofit cultural conservation group that collaborates with the archaeologists. “IAP’s research has made things clearer and empirical,” he says.

The position that the IAP takes does have its detractors. The Archaeology Division of the National Museum in Manila released a statement in September of 2017 signed by eight scientists and researchers saying, “We do not agree that the rice terraces are as young as [he] claims.” They emphasize the need for further research before drastically rewriting history. Their criticism centers on the fact that Acabado’s excavations focus only on one area of Ifugao, known as Kiangan.

Acabado says, “I could not agree more with their assessment that a region-wide research program in and around the Ifugao highlands is necessary.” This could aid his goal of adding indigenous perspectives to a government-designed education system that he thinks remains rooted in its colonial origins.

Standard textbook lessons throughout the Philippines portray highland people in stereotypical terms as “primitive,” “warlike,” and “savage,” says Pia Arboleda of the University of Hawaii’s Filipino and Philippine Literature Program, who studies indigenous oral histories. She thinks mainstream Philippine society doesn’t take into account the diversity of the country, which is home to dozens of ethnic groups. “People don’t really like to accept that we are a multicultural, multiethnic community,” she says. “An entire generation of Ifugao has been made to believe, by the formal education system, that the terraces are 2,000 years old,” says Martin. SITMo helps Acabado’s team conduct educational programs on the archaeologists’ scientific findings.

Acabado notes an additional flaw in the standard view of Ifugao history. It implies that Ifugao ancestors did little beyond growing rice for 2,000 years. This has never made sense to him, because elsewhere in the world, the emergence of intensive farming typically coincides with scientific and other developments. He sees the Ifugao shift to wet-rice cultivation as a story of strength.

The Philippines as a whole suffers a dearth of archaeologists, says Grace Barretto-Tesoro, an IAP member. Her institution, the University of the Philippines Diliman, is the only one in the country that grants archaeology degrees. “There are foreign archaeologists who come and go,” she says. Much more comprehensive study is needed. Acabado conducted his first Ifugao excavations in 2007 while working on his Ph.D., and he has followed up with multiple digs since 2012. It’s hard to archaeologically date agricultural features because of the nature of agricultural soils. “They keep on churning,” he explains, as the dirt is turned with each new season. Unlike most archaeological sites, Ifugao is a land in action. People still use the fields today. Terrace walls frequently collapse from old age and wear and tear. Acabado had to devise a methodology to address those issues.

He examined how the terraces were constructed and discovered that the foundations were made of large boulders that stay in place even when the walls they support collapse. Acabado was able to design a statistical model for dating the surrounding soils based on the idea that despite the constant churning of those topsoils, whatever substance remained under the terrace foundations would logically be the oldest.

 

By listening to the oral stories of Ifugao people today, researching possible historical migration routes, and tracing plausible passages that followed riverbeds from lowlands to highlands, he found evidence of dates that were progressively younger the higher he looked in the mountains, and hypothesized that early migrants settled in areas they could manage and farm. In addition, Acabado and his colleagues have searched for direct evidence of wet-rice production in what is thought to be the first Ifugao village, Old Kiyyangan, which was settled about 1,000 years ago. “It wasn’t until 1650 that we see a clear, unambiguous appearance of wet rice and also grasses that are associated with wet rice,” Acabado says.

Researchers collected 12 sediment samples from two trenches for pollen, phytolith, and starch analyses. The earliest rice remains appear in terrace sediments dating to roughly 675 years ago, but it isn’t until between 470 and 530 years ago that the results show a marked increase in these rice remains. This supports a later date for the expansion of wet-rice cultivation in Ifugao. Further, the team tested cooking-pot residues to determine what locals were eating in precolonial times. They found evidence of taro and a substance similar to sugarcane—but no wet rice. “With that knowledge,” says Acabado, “we argue that there would have been terraces in the region, but not for rice.” Small-scale terraces such as those found in Hawaii and other Pacific Islands would have been used for taro, but not until the Spanish arrived did the region see a distinct population increase and a massive undertaking in the change to wet-rice production. That’s when Acabado suggests that Ifugao’s iconic sculpted landscape came to be.

Initially, Acabado thought it logical to find wet rice at the same time as a population increase because it’s a more productive crop than taro and can feed more people. “It also has a longer shelf life. Much, much longer. It can last for 20 years in a perfect environment, as opposed to taro, which can last for only two weeks at most,” he says. But further research showed that wet-rice production in Ifugao supported only 10 percent of the population. The vast majority continued to eat other carbohydrates, likely sweet potatoes, taro, and dry rice grown in swidden fields. Paddy rice was an elite meal, accessible only to society’s upper classes.

Why did the Ifugao start growing wet rice at all? Why not stick to taro? The answer gets to the heart of Acabado’s theory. When the Spanish arrived in the Philippines, the Ifugao consolidated their power in the mountains. They shifted to a form of agriculture that required social organization to manage the control of water, hard labor, access to land, and shared resources. The upper classes owned the land, the lower classes worked it. Wet-rice production was not an economic move, Acabado believes, but one of social structure. The Ifugao performed rituals for every stage of the agricultural cycle, and in anthropological literature, such rituals are portrayed as cohesive activities key to group organization. That organization is what Acabado thinks allowed the Ifugao to collectively fend off the Spanish. “It was just really amazing how the data fell into place to support the model,” says John Peterson, IAP member and director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of Guam. Peterson has decades of archaeological experience in the American Southwest and the Pacific. He says IAP data suggest early Ifugao taro terraces date to about 1,500 years ago. Those terraces preadapted the region for an expansion to wet-rice paddies.

Using basic tools and materials as the early Ifugao might have, the researchers constructed their own terrace system. It took the team 11 days to build a 10-level system of stone walls more than six feet high. Acabado says, “It is not unthinkable that [early Ifugao] were able to modify the landscape in a very short amount of time.” IAP hopes to change the terraces’ age in the UNESCO description to reflect the new archaeological evidence. “We’ve got to address that,” says Peterson. But what would this take?

The Philippines national government must submit a modification request to UNESCO. “This will be treated as a new nomination,” says Feng Jing, chief of Asia and the Pacific for UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in Paris. “It is up to the State Party of the Philippines.” That means the national government must agree that a change should be made. However, the government is not ready to draw conclusions, as noted in the National Museum’s statement. “I have differing views from experts,” says Lila Ramos Shahani, secretary general of the Philippine National Commission for UNESCO. “Scholars often differ in their views, and it’s my job to listen to all of them.” The conversation has prompted her to attempt to organize a conference with the National Museum.

In the meantime, Acabado’s scholarship is highly regarded in the Philippines. “The government accepts Stephen’s work as contributory to arriving at some understanding of the complexity of the terracing issue,” says Jesus Peralta, a consultant to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. It takes time for new research to work its way into the educational system, he says. “The story behind the terraces is much more complex than we think.”

Historically, rice and rice farming have framed Ifugao identity. But times are changing, and so is local culture. “Many young people no longer farm,” Peralta says. Thanks to a government that makes higher education inexpensive and accessible, they leave their villages for city jobs, or they go to college. Consequently, terraces sometimes fall into disrepair. For several years, along with World Heritage status, UNESCO placed the rice terraces on its list of endangered sites. They were removed from the list in 2012 after the success of a movement aimed at preserving the landscape and its traditions. “The foundation of Ifugao culture is the rice,” Martin says. “All religious rituals of the Ifugao have a reference to rice and rice gods, and ancestors who owned rice terraces.” His group aims to preserve that legacy.

This is not easily accomplished. For one thing, Acabado says rice production in Ifugao is actually no longer economically viable. During one of his expeditions, he talked with a landowner who paid $1,000 in costs associated with one season of rice production—but earned only $700 back. Nonetheless, Acabado believes that there are greater incentives for the Ifugao to continue cultivating. “It’s not about the money,” he says. “It’s more about the prestige and also about continuing their heritage.”

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