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Pottery vessels which had contained beer, found with human remains in platform moundPeer-Reviewed Publication

DARTMOUTH COLLEGE

original article: eurekalert.org

Alcoholic beverages have long been known to serve an important socio-cultural function in ancient societies, including at ritual feasts. A new study finds evidence of beer drinking 9,000 years ago in southern China, which was likely part of a ritual to honor the dead. The findings are based on an analysis of ancient pots found at a burial site at Qiaotou, making the site among the oldest in the world for early beer drinking. The results are reported in PLOS ONE.

The ancient pots were discovered in a platform mound (80 m x 50 m wide, with an elevation of 3 m above ground level), which was surrounded by a human-made ditch (10-15 m wide and 1.5-2 m deep), based on ongoing excavations at Qiaotou. No residential structures were found at the site. The mound contained two human skeletons and multiple pottery pits with high-quality pottery vessels, many of which were complete vessels. The pottery was painted with white slip and some of the vessels were decorated with abstract designs. As the study reports, these artifacts are probably some of “the earliest known painted pottery in the world.” No pottery of this kind has been found at any other sites dating to this time period.

The research team analyzed different types of pottery found at Qiaotou, which were of varying sizes. Some of the pottery vessels were relatively small and similar in size to drinking vessels used today, and to those found in other parts of the world. Each of the pots could basically be held in one hand like a cup unlike storage vessels, which are much larger in size. Seven of the 20 vessels, which were part of their analysis, appeared to be long-necked Hu pots, which were used to drink alcohol in the later historical periods.

To confirm that the vessels were used for drinking alcohol, the research team analyzed microfossil residues— starch, phytolith (fossilized plant residue), and fungi, extracted from the interior surfaces of the pots. The residues were compared with control samples obtained from soil surrounding the vessels.

The team identified microbotanical (starch granules and phytoliths) and microbial (mold and yeast) residues in the pots that were consistent with residues from beer fermentation and are not found naturally in soil or in other artifacts unless they had contained alcohol.

“Through a residue analysis of pots from Qiaotou, our results revealed that the pottery vessels were used to hold beer, in its most general sense— a fermented beverage made of rice (Oryza sp.), a grain called Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi), and unidentified tubers,” says co-author Jiajing Wang, an assistant professor of anthropology at Dartmouth. “This ancient beer though would not have been like the IPA that we have today. Instead, it was likely a slightly fermented and sweet beverage, which was probably cloudy in color.”

The results also showed that phytoliths of rice husks and other plants were also present in the residue from the pots. They may have been added to the beer as a fermentation agent.

Although the Yangtze River Valley of southern China is known today as the country’s rice heartland, the domestication of rice occurred gradually between 10,000 and 6,000 years ago, so 9,000 years ago, rice was still in the early stage of domestication. At that time, most communities were hunter-gatherers who relied primarily on foraging. As the researchers explain in the study, given that rice harvesting and processing was labor intensive, the beer at Qiaotou was probably a ritually significant drink/beverage.

The residue analysis of the pots also showed traces of mold, which was used in the beermaking process. The mold found in the pots at Qiaotou was very similar to the mold present in koji, which is used to make sake and other fermented rice beverages in East Asia. The results predate earlier research, which found that mold had been used in fermentation processes 8,000 years ago in China.

Beer is technically any fermented beverage made from crops through a two-stage transformation process. In the first phase, enzymes transform starch into sugar (saccharification). In the second phase, the yeasts convert the sugar into alcohol and other states like carbon dioxide (fermentation). As the researchers explain in the study, mold acts kind of like an agent for both processes, by serving as a saccharification-fermentation starter.

“We don’t know how people made the mold 9,000 years ago, as fermentation can happen naturally,” says Wang. “If people had some leftover rice and the grains became moldy, they may have noticed that the grains became sweeter and alcoholic with age. While people may not have known the biochemistry associated with grains that became moldy, they probably observed the fermentation process and leveraged it through trial and error.”

Given that the pottery at Qiaotou was found near the burials in a non-residential area, the researchers conclude that the pots of beer were likely used in ritualistic ceremonies relating to the burial of the dead. They speculate that ritualized drinking may have been integral to forging social relationships and cooperation, which served as a precursor to complex rice farming societies that emerged 4,000 years later.

Jiajing Wang is available for comment at: jiajing.wang@dartmouth.edu. Leping Jiang and Hanlong Sun at Zhejian Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in China, also served as co-authors of the study.
 

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Original article: eurekalert.org

Long-held eating habits beliefs debunked

UNIVERSITY OF OTAGO

23-Jul-2021

Long-held eating habits beliefs debunked

New research from the University of Otago debunks a long-held belief about our ancestors’ eating habits.

For more than 60 years, researchers have believed Paranthropus, a close fossil relative of ours which lived about one to three million years ago, evolved massive back teeth to consume hard food items such as seeds and nuts, while our own direct ancestors, the genus Homo, is thought to have evolved smaller teeth due to eating softer food such as cooked food and meats. 

However, after travelling to several large institutes and museums in South Africa, Japan and the United Kingdom and studying tooth fractures in more than 20,000 teeth of fossil and living primate species, Dr Ian Towle, an Otago biological anthropologist, working with Dr Carolina Loch, of the Faculty of Dentistry, says this “neat picture is far more complex than once thought”.

“By individually studying each tooth and recording the position and size of any tooth fractures, we show tooth chipping does not support regular hard food eating in Paranthropus robustus, therefore potentially putting an end to the argument that this group as a whole were hard food eaters,” he says.

Dr Towle says the findings challenge our understanding of dietary and behavioural changes during human evolution.

“The results are surprising, with human fossils so far studied – those in our own genus Homo – showing extremely high rates of tooth fractures, similar to living hard object eating primates, yet Paranthropus show extremely low levels of fracture, similar to primates that eat soft fruits or leaves.

“Although in recent years there has been a slow acceptance that another species of Paranthropus, Paranthropus boisei, found in East Africa, was unlikely to have regularly eaten hard foods, the notion that Paranthropus evolved their large dental apparatus to eat hard foods has persisted. Therefore, this research can be seen as the final nail in the coffin of Paranthropus as hard object feeders.”

The fact that humans show such contrasting chipping patterns is equally significant and will have “knock on” effects for further research, particularly research on dietary changes during human evolution, and why the human dentition has evolved the way it has, he says. 

“The regular tooth fractures in fossil humans may be caused by non-food items, such as grit or stone tools. However, regardless of the cause, these groups were subjected to substantial tooth wear and fractures. So, it raises questions to why our teeth reduced in size, especially compared to groups like Paranthropus.”

Dr Towle’s research will now focus on if our dentition evolved smaller due to other factors to allow other parts of the skull to expand, leading to evolution then favouring other tooth properties to protect it against wear and fracture, instead of increased tooth size. 

“This is something we are investigating now, to see if tooth enamel may have evolved different characteristics among the great apes. Our research as a whole may also have implications for our understanding of oral health, since fossil human samples typically show immaculate dental health.

“Since extreme tooth wear and fractures were the norm, our ancestors likely evolved dental characteristics to not just cope with but actually utilise this dental tissue loss. For example, without substantial tooth wear our dentitions can face all sorts of issues, including impacted wisdom teeth, tooth crowding and even increased susceptibility to cavities.”

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Paranthropus robustus tooth chipping patterns do not support regular hard food mastication, co-authored by Dr Towle and Dr Loch, was published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Tooth chipping prevalence and pattern in extant primates, co-authored by Dr Towle and Dr Loch was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Chipping and wear patterns in extant primate and fossil hominin molars: ‘Functional’ cusps are associated with extensive wear but low levels of fracture, co-authored by Dr Towle and Dr Loch was published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

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Original article posted on https://www.heritagedaily.com

February 17, 2020

Credit : Xinying Zhou

Most people are familiar with the historical Silk Road, but fewer people realize that the exchange of items, ideas, technology, and human genes through the mountain valleys of Central Asia started almost three millennia before organized trade networks formed.

These pre-Silk Road exchange routes played an important role in shaping human cultural developments across Europe and Asia, and facilitated the dispersal of technologies such as horse breeding and metal smelting into East Asia. One of the most impactful effects of this process of ancient cultural dispersal was the westward spread of northeast Asian crops and the eastward spread of southwest Asian crops. However, until the past few years, a lack of archaeobotanical studies in Central Asia left a dearth of data relating to when and how this process occurred.

This new study, led by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, provides details of recently recovered ancient grains from the far northern regions of Inner Asia. Radiocarbon dating shows that the grains include the oldest examples of wheat and barley ever recovered this far north in Asia, pushing back the dates for early farming in the region by at least a millenium. These are also the earliest domesticated plants reported from the northern half of Central Asia, the core of the ancient exchange corridor. This study pulls together sedimentary pollen and ancient wood charcoal data with archaeobotanical remains from the Tiangtian archaeological site in the Chinese Altai Mountains to reveal how humans cultivated crops at such northern latitudes. This study illustrates how adaptable ancient crop plants were to new ecological constraints and how human cultural practices allowed people to survive in unpredictable environments.

The Northern Dispersal of Cereal Grains

The ancient relatives of wheat and barley plants evolved to grow in the warm and dry climate of the eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asia. However, this study illustrates that ancient peoples were cultivating these grasses over five and a half thousand kilometers to the northeast of where they originally evolved to grow. In this study, Dr. Xinying Zhou and his colleagues integrate paleoenvironmental proxies to determine how extreme the ecology was around the archaeological cave site of Tangtian more than five millennia ago, at the time of its occupation. The site is located high in the Altai Mountains on a cold,dry landscape today; however, the study shows that the ecological setting around the site was slightly warmer and more humid at the time when people lived in and around this cave.

The slightly warmer regional conditions were likely the result of shifting air masses bringing warmer, wetter air from the south. In addition to early farmers using a specific regional climate pocket to grow crops in North Asia, analysis showed that the crops they grew evolved to survive in such northern regions. The results of this study provide scholars with evidence for when certain evolutionary changes in these grasses occurred, including changes in the programed reliance of day length, which signals to the plant when to flower, and a greater resistance to cold climates.

The Trans-Eurasian Exchange and Crop Dispersal

The ancient dispersal of crops across Inner Asia has received a lot of attention from biologists and archaeologists in recent years; as Dr. Spengler, one of the study’s lead authors, discusses in his recent book Fruit from the Sands, these ancient exchange routes shaped the course of human history. The mingling of crops originating from opposite ends of Asia resulted in the crop-rotation cycles that fueled demographic growth and led to imperial formation. East Asian millets would become one of the most important crops in ancient Europe and wheat would become one of the most important crops in East Asia by the Han Dynasty. While the long tradition of rice cultivation in East Asia made rice a staple of the Asian kitchen, Chinese cuisine would be unrecognizable without wheat-based food items like steamed buns, dumplings, and noodles. The discovery that these plants dispersed across Eurasia earlier than previously understood will have lasting impacts on the study of cultivation and labor practices in ancient Eurasia, as well as the history cultural contact and shifts in culinary systems throughout time.

These new discoveries provide reason to question these views, and seem to suggest that mixed small-scale human populations made major contributions to world history through migration and cultural and technological exchange. “This study not only presents the earliest dates for domesticated grains in far North Asia,” says Professor Xiaoqiang Li, director of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, “it represents the earliest beginning of a trans-Eurasian exchange that would eventually develop into the great Silk Road”.

Dr. Xinying Zhou, who headed the study and directs a research team at the IVPP in Beijing, emphasizes that “this discovery is a testament to human ingenuity and the amazing coevolutionary bond between people and the plants that they maintain in their cultivated fields.”

MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN HISTORY

Header Image – Dr. Xinying Zhou and his team from the IVPP in Beijing excavated the Tangtian Cave site during the summer of 2016. Credit : Xinying Zhou

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Original article in archaeology.org

Korea

By MARLEY BROWN

November/December 2020Alcohol Korea Goryeo Celadon Bottle Flask(Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo, National Museum of Korea Collection)

Longnecked celadon bottle and celadon flaskAlthough the ancient city of Xi’an in what is now central China is often considered the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, the flow of goods, people, and ideas between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia did not end there. Drinking vessels that date to Korea’s Goryeo Period (ca. A.D. 918–1392) suggest that imported spirits, including grape wines, a distilled anise-flavored drink called arak, and a fermented dairy product known as kumis, inspired artisans to craft novel types of ceramic containers to hold these newly enjoyed beverages. “New kinds of alcohol led to a proliferation in vessel shapes,” says art historian In-Sung Kim Han of SOAS University of London. She explains that many traditional East Asian alcoholic substances made from grains such as rice, millet, and barley, were thick and porridge-like. Pre-Goryeo vessels uncovered during archaeological excavations, mostly of tombs, suggest that these were primarily consumed from drinking bowls. More delicate cups from the same period were probably reserved for drinking tea and filtered rice wine, which was relatively rare.

Han suggests that while medieval Korea is often thought of as having been closed off to the rest of the world, the Goryeo Kingdom’s contact with nomadic groups to the west kept it in touch with global trends and foreign commodities, including alcoholic beverages. Particularly after the kingdom became part of the Mongol Empire in 1270, elite members of Goryeo society adopted some of the consumption habits of their counterparts across Central Asia and the Islamic world, where alcohol was widely available despite its prohibition in the Koran. One particular type of long-necked bottle introduced during the Goryeo Period, which was used to store wine, appears to have come to Korea from Islamic Persia. “It seems that the tastes of the upper class in any era tend toward the cosmopolitan,” Han says. The Goryeosa, a history of the kingdom compiled in the fifteenth century, describes one Goryeo ruler who began wearing Mongolian clothing, sporting a pigtail hairstyle, and taking part in large-scale hunts, just like other princes across Eurasia. “Despite his courtiers’ criticisms,” Han says, “he and his immediate followers pursued a worldly lifestyle, including enthusiasm for exotic drinks.”

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Original article in UTM.utoronto.ca

Friday, October 16, 2020 – 3:09pmTy Burke

In the fertile river valley along the border of modern-day India and Pakistan, the Indus Valley Civilization built some of the largest cities in the ancient world. Feeding such a large population would have been a significant challenge. New research from Kalyan Sekhar Chakraborty reveals one of the ways the civilization was able to sustain so many people. The postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto Mississauga has shown that dairy was being produced as far back as 2500 BCE. It is the earliest known dairy production in India, and could have helped produce the type of food surplus needed for trade.

In a report published in Nature, Chakraborty used molecular analysis techniques to study residues from ancient pottery, and demonstrate that dairy fats were not only present, but relatively common. He studied 59 shards of pottery from Kotada Bhadli, a small site in the present-day Indian state of Gujarat. Twenty-two of them showed evidence of dairy lipids. It is the earliest known dairy production in India, and dates to the height of the Indus Valley Civilization.

“We found that dairy was an integral part of their diet at a site that dates to about 2500 BCE,” says Chakraborty, who is conducting his post-doctoral research with Heather Miller, an anthropology professor at UTM.

“This would have allowed the accumulation of a surplus of animal protein, without affecting the number of animals in your herd. The question becomes the role of dairy. Why is it so important in this ancient settlement? It is something that could be exchanged between settlements and regions. It is an opportunity for different economic specializations to develop.” 

Chakraborty worked with Professor Greg Slater of McMaster University to determine that dairy was being produced. Pottery is porous and absorbs some of the food cooked inside it. Chakraborty looked for lipids because they don’t dissolve in water. Centuries later, it’s still possible to identify which types of fat are present using a technique called stable isotope analysis.

Using an organic solvent to dissolve the residues, Chakraborty and Slater used were able to identify which lipids were present. They analyzed palmitic and stearic acids – both abundant at archaeological sites. Depending on the carbon isotopes present, it’s possible to determine if the lipids in the residue came from plants, fish, or ruminant animals. 

They were also able to determine which type of ruminant animals were being used for dairy production. Cows and water buffalo ate a diet that consisted primarily of millet, while sheep and goats grazed on nearby grasses. These plants have different photosynthetic processes that produce different acids. From their analysis, the researchers were able to determine that the dairy residues came from animals that had eaten millet.

Chakraborty credits Slater with helping him navigate the chemistry needed to prove that dairy production was occurring. The archaeological record suggested it, but it was impossible to be sure. 

“Archaeological remains have their limitations. You can identify certain things. If animals were used for meat, there will be cut marks on their bones, but uses like dairy are generally invisible,” says Chakraborty.

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First posted by Anahi.com

Photo/Illutration

KYOTO–No fancy machines here, just a lot of hard work. But this brewery still produced sake, and it’s believed to be the oldest ever found in Japan.

Excavation firm Kokusai Bunkazai Co. unearthed the brewery believed to be from the 15th century at the Saga archaeological site, formerly on the grounds of Tenryuji temple, in Kyoto’s Ukyo Ward.

Among the finds are a facility for squeezing the unrefined sake out and about 180 holes for holding storage jars.

The brewery is believed to have been used until the time of the Onin War (1467-1477).

The previously oldest-known brewery found in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, is estimated to have been built in the Edo Period (1603-1867).

“The discovery (in Kyoto) is likely the oldest sake squeezing facility,” said Masaharu Obase, director of an Itami city-run museum. “It is smaller but has the same structure as the one dating to the Edo Period, indicating that a similar sake squeezing method was used in the medieval period.”

It was already known that sake was produced at Tenryuji temple during the Muromachi Period (1336-1573), allowing it to earn major profits and lend the money out at high interest rates. However, it was the first time that an archaeological finding has corroborated the fact, according to Kokusai Bunkazai.

The Tokyo-based company surveyed a 700-square-meter area near the current grounds of Tenryuji ahead of apartment construction between May and August 2018.

During the research, part of a sake squeezing facility believed to be from the 15th century was unearthed. Researchers said unrefined sake in cloth bags was placed in a tank and squeezed out, using a wooden bar with stones as leverage.

A pillar 1 meter long and 45 centimeters across, as well as two crosspieces to support it, each 15 cm per side and 1.8 meters long, were discovered along with about 20 stones that would have been placed on the crosspieces.

A hollow 1.8 meters across and 1 meter deep for a pot to receive drops of pressed sake was also found.

A smaller pillar from around the 14th century, 30 cm across and 40 cm long, was spotted two meters east of the hollow. Researchers said it is likely that the brewery was rebuilt.

The 180 holes for jars that stored sake are 60 cm across and 20 cm deep. Fragments of 14th-century Bizen ware jars, apparently with a diameter of 60 cm and a height of 1 meter, were unearthed as well.

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First posted June23 2010
via 9,000 year old beer recreated

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Archaeology.org

How monotonous was Neanderthal cuisine? The bones of large herbivores found at Neanderthal sites across Europe and Asia seem to indicate that their meals consisted of one course: meat. Several new studies, however, reveal a wider variety of menu options.

Isotope analysis of bones from Kudaro 3 in the Caucasus Mountains (in a disputed area of Georgia) show that Neanderthals there dined on salmon. Fish was also on the menu in southeastern France, at Abri du Maras, where analysis of the residue left on stone tools shows that Neanderthals also ate duck, rabbit, and possibly mushrooms. And when the meals were over, Neanderthals cleaned up with toothpicks that left grooves in their teeth found at Cova Foradà in Spain.

Neanderthals may have made for good dinner companions, but maybe not everything they ate accorded with modern tastes. Research published in 2012 shows that the tartar on Neanderthal teeth contains microfossils from a wide variety of plant foods and medicines (“Neanderthal Medicine Chest,”November/December 2012). But Laura Buck and Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum suggest that Neanderthals may not have directly eaten these plants, but rather ate herbivores’ stomachs containing them. Before you make a face: “We know that many modern hunter-gatherers eat the stomach contents of their prey,” says Stringer. “The Inuit regarded this as a special treat.”

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A couple of days late..original post Jun 4, 2010
via 2,000-year old ‘icebox’ unearthed in NW China

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On this day( one day late) ten years ago…
via 12 fun facts in pickled history

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