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Dozens of thermopolia, or snack bars, have been found across Pompeii. Photograph: Massimo Ossana/Instagram

By/angela-giuffrida

Theguardian.com

Thermopolia used by poorer residents with few cooking facilities, archaeologists say

A well-preserved frescoed “fast food” counter is among the latest discoveries unearthed by archaeologists in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

The 150 or so thermopolia, or snack bars, dotted across the city were mostly used by the poorer residents, who rarely had cooking facilities in their home, to grab a snack or drink. Typical menus included coarse bread with salty fish, baked cheese, lentils and spicy wine.

An image of the 2,000-year old relic, found in Regio V, a 21.8-hectare (54-acre) site to the north of the archaeological park, was shared on Instagram by Massimo Ossana, the site’s outgoing superintendent.

“A thermopolium has been brought back to light, with its beautiful frescoed counter,” he wrote.

Dozens of other thermopolia have been found throughout the entire archaeological park. Regio V, which is not yet open to the public, is the most intensive dig at the site since the 1960s.

Excavations so far have yielded dozens of discoveries. In February, archaeologists found a stunningly preserved fresco depicting the mythological hunter Narcissus enraptured by his own reflection in a pool of water. Human remains have also been found, including the skeletons of two women and three children found huddled together in a villa. The remains of a harnessed horse and saddle were also found in late December.

Pompeii was destroyed in AD79 by an eruption that killed more than 2,000 people. The ruins were discovered in the 16th century and the first excavations began in 1748. Pompeii is one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world.

 

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A 5,000-year-old barley grain discovered in Aland, southern Finland, turns researchers’ understanding of ancient Northern livelihoods upside down. New findings reveal that hunter-gatherers took to farming already 5,000 years ago in eastern Sweden, and on the Aland Islands, located on the southwest coast of Finland.

Source: A 5,000-year-old barley grain discovered in Finland changes understanding of livelihoods

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An international team has analyzed eight prehistoric individuals, including the first genome-wide data from a 15,000-year-old Anatolian hunter-gatherer, and found that the first Anatolian farmers were direct descendants of local hunter-gatherers. These findings provide support for archaeological evidence that farming was adopted and developed by local hunter-gatherers, rather than being introduced by a large movement of people from another area. Interestingly, the study also indicates a pattern of genetic interactions with neighboring groups.

Source: First Anatolian farmers were local hunter-gatherers that adopted agriculture

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From Reuters

BBC.com

Road workers have uncovered what is thought to be the earliest evidence of beer being brewed in Britain, dating back more than 2,000 years.

Experts found “tell-tale signs of the Iron Age brew” during work on improvements to the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

It is believed the find could date back as far as 400BC.

Archaeobotanist Lara Gonzalez said it was “incredibly exciting to identify remains of this significance”.

Highways England said the find was uncovered in fragments of charred residue from the beer-making process.

Ms Gonzalez added: “I knew when I looked at these tiny fragments under the microscope that I had something special.

“The microstructure of these remains had clearly changed through the fermentation process and air bubbles typical of those formed in the boiling and mashing process of brewing.”

She said the fragments were similar to bread, but showed “evidence of fermentation and contains larger pieces of cracked grains and bran, but no fine flour”.

Dr Steve Sherlock, archaeology lead, said: “It’s a well-known fact that ancient populations used the beer-making process to purify water and create a safe source of hydration, but this is potentially the earliest physical evidence of that process taking place in the UK.”

A Highways England spokesman said further finds showed “the locals also had a taste for porridge and bread”.

The £1.5bn roadworks have already uncovered the Ice Age remains of a woolly mammoth which could be at least 150,000 years old.

‘Incredible discoveries’

It has also unearthed prehistoric henges, Iron Age settlements, Roman kilns, three Anglo-Saxon villages and a medieval hamlet.

Dr Sherlock added: “The work we are doing on the A14 continues to unearth incredible discoveries that are helping to shape our understanding of how life in Cambridgeshire, and beyond, has developed through history.”

The work includes creating a new bypass to the south of Huntingdon and upgrading 21 miles of road.

 

 

 

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Images of bog butter

The journal.ie

LONG BEFORE MODERN refrigeration Irish people discovered that storing butter in the bog keeps it fresher for longer. Much longer. A new study has now revealed that the ingenious practice dates back nearly 4,000 years, 1,500 years longer than previously thought.

The bog’s preservative powers are so strong that butter can still be edible after centuries in the ground. This is thanks to the cool, low oxygen and high-acid environment.

When the food finally deteriorates it takes on a hard, yellowish-white, wax-like texture and a cheesy smell. Chunks of these ancient foodstuffs are still often unearthed by turf cutters.

The new study has found that people were storing butter in Irish bogs in the Early Bronze age and there may have been a booming dairy industry at the time.

The practice lasted a staggering 3,500 years, from 1700 BC to, as recently as, the 17th century.

“The widespread occurrence of these enigmatic butter deposits fits with our increasing knowledge of the central importance of dairying in prehistoric northern Europe,” Professor Richard Evershed from the University of Bristol explained.

Four of the five Bronze Age bog butters studied by the researchers came from Offaly, they were found at Ballindown, Drinagh, Esker More and Knockdrin. The fifth was recovered from Clonava in Westmeath.

The earliest dated sample, from Knockdrin, dates from between 1745–1635 BC. It was found associated with bark, which was possibly a wrapping or container.

“Clearly, it is unlikely there was a single reason for the deposition of bog butter over four millennia,” Dr Jessica Smyth from the UCD School of Archaeology said.

“In certain periods they may have been votive deposits, while at other points in time it may have been more about storage and even protection of valuable resources.”

The National Museum of Ireland works with Bord Na Móna to record and retrieve bog butters that are found by chance.

The archaeology branch of the museum, which is on Dublin’s Kildare Street, has a collection of the butters on display to the public.

The findings of the new study are published in the journal Scientific Reports today.

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By Bruce Bower

Sciencenews.org

In Europe, Stone Age hominids began adding small, fast animals to their menus much earlier than previously thought, scientists say.

Now-extinct members of the human genus, Homo, hunted rabbits and, to a lesser extent, hares in southern France and probably other Mediterranean parts of Europe by around 400,000 years ago, researchers report online March 6 in Science Advances. Hunters also bagged larger creatures such as wild goats and deer. The new finding may highlight the flexibility and innovativeness of these ancient relatives of humans.

That dietary shift to smaller animals away from eating primarily large game emerged long before a previously recognized change in ancient humans’ eating habits, concludes a team led by paleoanthropologist Eugène Morin of Trent University in Peterborough, Canada. In the later transition, Stone Age people dramatically broadened what they ate, including a wide variety of small animals, starting around 36,000 years ago.

Morin’s group studied 21 sets of animal fossils and stone tools previously excavated at eight sites in southern France. All but one collection included large numbers of fossil leporids, the family of rabbits and hares. Cuts made by stone tools, likely during butchery, appeared on leporid remains from 17 fossil sets. At the oldest site, Terra Amata, about half of 205 identified animal bones from a 400,000-year-old sediment layer belonged to leporids. Other small-game sites studied by the researchers dated to as recently as around 60,000 years ago.

Ancient Homo groups mainly hunted rabbits that probably existed in large numbers in Mediterranean areas ranging from Spain to Italy, Morin’s team suspects. Colony-dwelling rabbits were probably easier to hunt than hares, which are solitary animals. After 40,000 years ago, the investigators suspect that humans hunted hares regularly, possibly tracking the elusive creatures down with the aid of dogs by 11,500 years ago (SN: 2/16/19, p. 13).

 

 

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Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of the earliest large-scale celebrations in Britain – with people and animals traveling hundreds of miles for prehistoric feasting rituals. The study, led by Dr. Richard Madgwick of Cardiff University, is the most comprehensive to date and examined the bones of 131 pigs, the prime feasting animals, from four Late Neolithic complexes. Serving the world-famous monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, the four sites hosted the very first pan-British events.

Source: Prehistoric Britons rack up food miles for feasts near Stonehenge

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