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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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Eleven Myanmar.com

The Phnom Penh Post/ANN)—-Scientific test results of black rice fossils found in the basement of the Preah Ko temple site in Thala Barivat district, Stung Treng province late last year show that Cambodians have been cultivating and producing rice since the early Neolithic period.

The Neolithic age began around 12,000 years ago and ended as civilizations started to rise around 3500BCE.

In July last year, Thuy Chanthourn, the deputy director of the Institute of Arts and Culture of the Royal Academy of Cambodia and deputy president of the Cambodian Historians Association, brought the mysterious samples of black rice fossils from Preah Ko temple to the laboratory of the Australian National University (ANU) to conduct experiments to date the fossils.

With technical support from Rachel Wood, an archaeological and anthropological specialist at the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, Chanthourn successfully examined the rice which has since become the earliest scientific dating of early rice cultivation in Cambodia.

“We have dated a rice seed sample which we cleaned with Scalpel and types of acid. We kept it for a while and then measured it with a special machine.

“Experimental results show that the black rice fossils date from about 900 years to 1,000 years ago. Therefore, this scientific experiment has unveiled the oldest example of rice production in Cambodia,” he said.

In addition to the new evidence, Chanthourn also presented results of other studies conducted on ancient rice husks at Banteay Kou Circular Earthwork sites, east of the Mekong River at the red plateau areas, a site dating to around 2,000BC.

“The rice husks and the evidence on the temple carvings show that in Cambodia, we had a lot of rice production in the Angkor period. The inscription also mentions rice gifts evidencing that rice was not only being cultivated but had cultural value,” he said.

Chanthourn’s study showed that rice has been the mainstay cereal of Southeast Asians since the Neolithic period.

Many varieties of rice seeds come from Asia, such as Indica and Japonica rice seeds – the same variety that originated from about 8,200 to 13,500 years ago in the Pearl River valley region of China.

The black rice fossils sampled at the ANU’s laboratory came from the Tuol Ang Khmao or Preah Ko Temple located in Kaing Techo village in Thala Barivat commune of the district, behind the old district hall, about 300m away. The wonder of this rice is not decayed in water and buried for hundreds of years.

According to research books of the Stung Treng Provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts, during French colonial era, black rice was so rich people would collect and scatter it on the ground to wish well to one another.

Thala Barivat natives have regarded the black rice sample used in the experiment as a cultural treasure left behind from the ancient ancestors since the construction of Preah Ko Temple.

The black rice is still referred to today as the ‘glorious rice’ locally.

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Cosmosmagazine.com

By Natalie Parletta

Ancient Mongolian kingdoms may have been more sophisticated than history has credited them for, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The paper presents evidence that their diets relied heavily on millet, indicative of complex economies that helped sustain their colossal expansion.

“Mongolia’s past empires have long been portrayed as groups of violent, horseback riders thought to be exceptions to the established ideals of what makes an ‘empire’,” says lead author Shevan Wilkin from the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

But their economies are poorly understood as extreme winds in the historic Mongolian landscape have blown away sedimentary evidence of human activity, thwarting archaeological explorations.

Wilkin and a multidisciplinary, international team used stable isotope analysis of fragmented teeth and rib bones of 137 previously excavated individuals who lived between 4500 BCE to beyond the Medieval Mongol empire (ca. 1300 AD) to shed light on their shifting diets through the millennia.

“This method uses the principal ‘you are what you eat’ to study how the biochemical signatures of people’s bones changed in response to changing diets,” she explains.

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Before empires emerged in the Bronze Age, animal products – meat and milk – from domestic and wild animals appear to have featured heavily on the menu of most people, with very little plant food such as domesticated millet.

However, the researchers found clear evidence of increasingly diverse diets including high consumption of millet or millet-based foods, showing “previously unseen shifts in diet” during the rise of the formidable Xiongnu and Mongol empires.

Combined with multiple lines of evidence from archives, ancient farming tools and grain botanic remains, the discovery suggests that, although the empires relied heavily on dairy pastoralism, they also exploited local and imported grains to maintain food surpluses, Wilkin says.

“Namely, instead of roving hordes, these empires were supported by pastoralists and farmers practising different subsistence strategies that provided strength in diversity.”

The evidence challenges popular theories that Mongolia represents a unique example of dense human populations and hierarchical political systems developing without intensive farming or stockpiling grains.

“Instead of being starkly different to other empires around the world,” says Wilkin, “this suggests that grain surpluses were also important to the Mongolian Empires that were seeking to support expanding territories and populations.”

Co-author Bryan Miller notes also that the evidence suggests they were like most empires.

“In this regard,” he says, “this study brings us one step closer to understanding the cultural processes that led humanity into the modern world.”

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