Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

First posted on Aug 9, 2010
via Palace recreates wine fountain fit for a king

Read Full Post »

Stone Age harpoons found in southern Norway speak of perilous fishing. But now the traces from this time are slowly crumbling away.

 
Sciencenorway.no

The whole story starts with a farmer.

Specifically, the farmer at Jortveit farm in southern Norway. Around the beginning of the 1930s he decided to drain a wetland near the farm so he could cultivate new land.

But while he was working on the deep drainage trenches, strange things started to crop up. Bones from a bluefin tuna and a killer whale. And huge fish hooks and harpoons made of bones. In the middle of the wetland!

The tools eventually ended up in the University Museum of Antiquities in Oslo, where they were studied by archaeologists. The bones, on the other hand, were examined by geologists at the Natural History Museum.

But none of the researchers could make sense of what they had.

Putting the tools and bones in context

The archaeologist at the time thinks the tools must have come from a settlement. They are reminiscent of Stone Age finds from elsewhere. But the site is far too low compared to the sea level at that time.

The geologist, for his part, can’t understand what this killer whale was doing so far up on land. Was it stranded there more than 6,000 years ago, during a period when the sea level was dropping?

According to the documentation, none of the researchers ask the obvious question:

Why were these bones and tools in the same place? Was there a connection between them?

Now, Svein Vatsvåg Nielsen, a PhD candidate from the University of Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History, has finally put the pieces together – almost 90 years after they were found.

Very rare stone age finds

“In 2017, I wanted to study some artefacts from the storage magazine for my doctoral work,” Nielsen says.

The tools from the Jortveit farm were particularly interesting.

Stone-age objects of bone are very rare because bones easily rot and disappear. Most bone and wood finds date from the Middle Ages and later because of this.

But the fish hooks and harpoons from Jortveit were probably much older. Just extremely well preserved.

Nielsen had read about the old find and knew the gear had originally been discovered along with fish and whale bones. Could the bones and the tools be from the same time? Maybe, combined, they could say something about the find.

But where were the bones?

Bones on the move

Nielsen contacted the University of Oslo’s Natural History Museum — which was immediately open to letting him try to date the old fish bones.

Finding the bones in question, however, was another matter.

The museum had just gone through the process of a big move, and the new location of the bones was somewhat unclear. Eventually the bones were found, and Nielsen was able to date material from both the gear and the whale and fish bones.

Fishing site from the Stone Age?

The finds were from the same period — somewhere between 3700 and 2500 years BC.

At that time, the sea was higher than today, and the area where the field is located was probably a lagoon. Maybe this was not a settlement at all, but a fishing area!

“It was known that people had come across a number of bones in the wetland in this area, both before and after the 1931 discovery,” Nielsen says.

But no additional archaeological excavations were ever undertaken on the site.

Might there still be more artefacts there that had not been destroyed by the ravages of time?

“I suggested to my colleagues that we could do an excavation, as part of the field work requirements for students at the University of Oslo,” Nielsen says.

Piles of bones

In the summer of 2018, Nielsen finally put a shovel into the ground.

He and the students dug through layers of arable land and hard clay. They found an arrowhead first, but nothing more.

Further down, the clay became moist and sticky. This was definitely old seabed! It was tough to dig in. It didn’t smell very good either. They dug a metre into the ground, but still found nothing.

“We had almost given up,” Nielsen says.

But then something happened. At around 125 centimetres below the surface, bones appeared. Piles of them.

Mostly bluefin tuna

Today, after three seasons of excavations, Nielsen has made a huge number of discoveries from the field. He recently published a scientific article about them, in the Journal of Wetland Archaeology.

The finds include arrowheads, fish hooks and harpoons. But mostly bones. Some of the bones are from cod or small whales, but they are mainly from bluefin tuna — a giant of a fish.

Together, the bones and the implements tell a story, Nielsen says.

People from nearby settlements fished in the lagoon. Occasionally, bluefin tuna followed schools of herring or mackerel into the lagoon. Then people were probably able to hunt them from boats.

All the bones at the bottom may be due to the fact that the fishermen cleaned the fish before they went ashore. Or they may be the remains of fish that escaped but were too injured to survive.

Coincidence unlikely

“It’s unlikely that so many bluefin tuna just ended up there by chance,” says Nielsen.

If some natural phenomenon had killed the fish in the lagoon, there would be bones from many different species there, not just from bluefin tuna.

The harpoons from the wetland are also very similar to harpoons that archaeologists know were used solely to catch big fish or small whales.

“It would be an incredible coincidence if these rare harpoons and fish bones were just randomly collected there, says Nielsen.

A glimpse of life outside the settlement

Interpreting archaeological finds is always associated with a great deal of uncertainty.

“We haven’t found a fish with a hook in its mouth,” Nielsen says.

Still, he believes the evidence from the wetland gives us insight into a little of the everyday lives of these people, which we didn’t previously have.

“Usually we only see what people did on land, and just right around where they lived. We typically do excavations of a hundred square metres around homes. But as soon as people leave their residences, we have no idea what they are doing. They disappear into in the fog for us,” he said.

“But this gives us an insight into what they did in their boats,” he said.

We even get a hint as to what happened when things went wrong, when an unlucky hunter lost an arrow over a gunwale, or a harpoon snapped and the fish swam away.

Dangerous fishing

The finds clearly raise an interesting question: What else might lie under the Jortveit farm field? In theory, the extremely good conditions in the wetland may have preserved everything.

“There could have been people out in boats hundreds of times a year. And there are signs that there has been activity on the site over a period of a thousand years,” he says.

What might have been lost during all that time?

Jars, utensils and articles of wood and bones. Yes, even whole boats.

Or in the extreme, dramatic situation, life.

“It’s a risky endeavour to catch a bluefin with harpoon from a boat,” says Nielsen.

The fish are very strong. If the foot of an unlucky fisherman got stuck in the fishing line, it is not unlikely that his story would have ended at a depth of nine metres.

“I’ve been thinking about it — we might suddenly find a skull! But we haven’t found one yet,” he says.

Poorer conditions

Nielsen has stopped feeling frustrated that not everything can be excavated.

“No, we have to take what we get,” he says.

The hope is nevertheless to undertake a slightly more extensive project on the site in the future, with even more analyses of sediments and finds.

However, it might be wise not to wait too long.

“What is a pity is that the drainage in the wetland has resulted in worse conditions for preservation. The finds from 1932 are actually better preserved today than the finds we are making now,” he said.

A picture of two fish hooks clearly shows the difference. The hook found in the 1930s is clearly in better condition than the one recently excavated. Nevertheless, it is not outside of the realm of possibilities that something truly unique still lies under the field.

“It would be fantastic to find a boat,” says Nielsen.

Read Full Post »

Pork and possibly chicken became more popular in England after arrival of William the Conqueror

The Norman conquest led to far-reaching and long-lasting political change across England – and new research suggests it also led to the English eating more pork and chicken.

Before 1066, beef, lamb, mutton and goat were among the meats most likely to be served in England, but a study of human and animal bones – as well as fat residue found on fragments of cooking pots – found that pork and possibly chicken became much more popular following the arrival of William the Conqueror.

Experts believe the Normans passed on their love of pork to local people, and pigs and chickens began to be farmed much more intensively.

The study also suggests there were food shortages for a few years after the Norman invasion, but supplies were soon restored and life returned to normal.

Richard Madgwick, an osteoarchaeologist at Cardiff University’s school of history, archaeology and religion, said 1066 was arguably the most famous and important date in English history.

“It’s seen as a grand transition after which nothing was the same again. For the elite, the nobility, everything did change radically – the administration of the country, legal frameworks, the organisation of the landscape. But at a lower level, people adapted to the new normal rapidly.”

The research team used a range of bio-archaeological techniques to study human and animal bones recovered from sites across Oxford, along with fragments of ceramics used for cooking.

They found that pork and chicken became a more popular choice for the cooking pot at the expense of beef, lamb and mutton. Some things did not change, however: cabbage remained a staple.

Elizabeth Craig-Atkins, a senior lecturer in human osteology at the University of Sheffield, said: “Examining archaeological evidence of the diet and health of ordinary people who lived during this time gives us a detailed picture of their everyday experiences and lifestyles.

“There is certainly evidence that people experienced periods where food was scarce. But following this, an intensification in farming meant people generally had a more steady food supply and consistent diet.”

The researchers used a technique called stable isotope analysis on bones to compare the diets of 36 men and women who lived between the 10th and 13th centuries, whose remains were found in various locations around Oxford, including at Oxford Castle.

They found there was not a huge difference between the health of the individuals, who were alive at different points before and after the conquest. Levels of protein and carbohydrate consumption were similar in the group and evidence of bone conditions related to poor diet – such as rickets and scurvy – were rare.

However, detailed analysis of teeth showed evidence of short-term changes in health and diet during the transitional phase after the invasion.

Isotope analysis was also used on 60 animals found at the same sites, to ascertain how they were raised. Studies of pig bones found their diets became more consistent and richer in animal protein after the conquest, suggesting pig farming was intensified under Norman rule. They were probably living in pig sties in towns and being fed scraps instead of being allowed to forage in the countryside.

Fragments of pottery were examined using a technique called organic residue analysis. When food is cooked in ceramic pots, fats are absorbed into the vessel. The 11th-century cook would sometimes roast pork or chicken but most often simply threw it into a pot and turned it into a stew.

Read Full Post »

Science in Poland.pap.pl

Szymon Zdziebłowski

Adobe stock

People in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages were largely vegetarian, new research has shown.

Through the analysis of bones of those living in Miechów (Małopolska), scientists found that meat made up only a fraction of their diet, with plants accounting for nearly 50 percent.

Anthropologist Professor Krzysztof Szostek from the Institute of Biological Sciences of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw said: “We were able to determine that the diet of people living in the lands of today’s southern Poland several thousand years ago, in the Neolithic and Bronze Age, consisted of meat only to a small extent. Nearly 50 percent of its composition were plants, and the rest were other foods, probably dairy products.”

In addition, scientists found that there was no statistical change in diet over a period of around 5,000 years

Professor Szostek said: “The use of animals was maximised, for example, to obtain milk or skins. Obtaining meat from animals was not a priority.”

The analyses show that the cereals consumed (probably in various forms) included mainly barley, einkorn wheat, emmer wheat, and later also spelt.

The scientists’ findings are a result of extensive comparative research, mainly related to one archaeological site in Miechów (Małopolska). Various groups of people lived in the area covered by the research over the period of nearly 5,000 years, from the first groups of farmers in today’s Poland, defined by archaeologists as the Linear Pottery culture, to the Lusatian culture during the Bronze Age.

Experts took collagen for nitrogen isotope analysis from both their bones and animal remains discovered at this site. Obtaining the full picture was possible after combining these data with data from archaeobotanical analyses (of cereal grains).

Professor Szostek said: “Until now, isotope research on diet reconstruction was performed without taking archaeobotanical analyses into account. This meant that the image of prehistoric people’s diet was incomplete, the models even showed that mainly meat was consumed during that time, which could not be true.”

The research was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports.

 

Read Full Post »

On this day ten years ago…
via Remains of 1,100-year-old drinking pot help pinpoint Wallingford’s history

Read Full Post »

Upi.com

Analysis of hundreds of pottery fragments from the Baltic suggests different groups of hunter-gatherers in the region developed unique culinary traditions. Photo by Harry Robson/University of York

Analysis of hundreds of pottery fragments from the Baltic suggests different groups of hunter-gatherers in the region developed unique culinary traditions. Photo by Harry Robson/University of York

April 22 (UPI) — Analysis of ancient pottery fragments suggest groups of hunter gatherers living in the Baltic had developed culturally distinct cuisines between 6,000 and 7,500 years ago.

Researchers collected hundreds of fragments from pottery vessels found at 61 different archaeological sites in the Baltic region. Scientists analyzed the fragments for evidence of the purpose and contents of the ancient vessels.

Their findings — published this week in the journal Royal Society Open Science — suggests different groups of prehistoric humans evolved unique culinary traditions, cooking and combining foods in distinctive ways.

“People are often surprised to learn that hunter-gatherers used pottery to store, process and cook food, as carrying cumbersome ceramic vessels seems inconsistent with a nomadic lifestyle,” lead study author Harry Robson, archaeologist at the University of York in Britain, said in a news release. “Our study looked at how this pottery was used and found evidence of a rich variety of foods and culinary traditions in different hunter-gatherer groups.”

Scientists found little evidence of ceramic vessel use for non-food purposes, like making resin. Instead they found a diversity of culinary practices, even among groups with access to similar resources. The evidence suggests cultural practices, not variations in food availability, dictated the differences in how and what different groups cooked and ate.

“Our study suggests that culinary practices were not influenced by environmental constraints but rather were likely embedded in some long-standing culinary traditions and cultural habits,” said co-author Blandine Courel, scientist at the British Museum.

Researchers found evidence that hunter-gatherers in the Baltic were taking advantage of a wide variety of foods, including marine fish, seals, beavers, wild boar, bear, deer, freshwater fish, hazelnuts and plants. Some groups were also consuming dairy.

“The presence of dairy fats in several hunter-gatherer vessels was an unexpected example of culinary ‘cultural fusion,'” Robson said. “The discovery has implications for our understanding of the transition from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to early farming and demonstrates that this commodity was either exchanged or perhaps even looted from nearby farmers.”

Pottery usage and the development of culinary traditions has previously been linked to the spread of agriculture across Europe, but the latest research — made possible by improved molecular and isotopic analysis techniques — suggests groups of hunter-gatherers had developed similar levels of culinary sophistication and diversity.

“Chemical analysis of the remains of foods and natural products prepared in pottery has already revolutionized our understanding of early agricultural societies, we are now seeing these methods being rolled out to study prehistoric hunter-gatherer pottery,” said Oliver Craig, study co-author and University of York archaeologist. “The results suggest that they too had complex and culturally distinct cuisines.”

Read Full Post »

On this day ten years ago…
via Respect Your Elders, Human!

Read Full Post »

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.”

Read Full Post »

A few days late.original post Jun2, 2010
via Ancient Roman gluten death seen

Read Full Post »

On this day ten years ago…
via Farming’s rise cultivated fair deals

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: