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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

 

Original Article:

Szymon Zdziebłowski 

Scienceinpoland.pap.pl

 

The development of agriculture in Europe not only revolutionised food acquisition, but also brought changes in the light sources our ancestors used, says archaeologist Dr. Krzysztof Tunia.

In the area of present-day Poland, until about the 5th millennium BC, to light up the darkness people used light from bonfires and probably torches in the form of wooden fins. Lighting changed with the knowledge of agriculture and farming coming from the Middle East to Europe.

Why did this happen? “Along with the more advanced farming system, the capability to manufacture a variety of ceramic vessels appeared. During excavations in Poland territory – mainly on the Baltic coast – we find not only kitchen forms, but also items that had a different function. They were probably simple lamps” – explains archaeologist from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology PAS Dr. Krzysztof Tunia. He refers to items in the form of shallow “baths” or “boats”. He adds that their main part was a container for flammable substance. The light was obtained by igniting a submerged plant wick.

According to the scientist, the “brightest” area in the late Mesolith and early Neolithic was the Baltic Sea zone, including the northern part of present Poland, where archaeologists find many vessels that served as lamps. The deeper inland you go on the European continent, the less light sources are found. Inland, in his opinion, was dominated by torches. These are usually not preserved to our times and archaeologists do not encounter them during excavations.

Some ceramic lamps used in Central Europe were probably suspended with strings, as their appearance indicates. These objects are cubes with a few centimetres long edges, with a depression in the middle and four holes in the corners. Other lamps were made in the form of figures of bulls, also with a recess on the back and with holes.

“These objects come from areas south of the Carpathians, but perhaps they will be also found in Poland” – says Dr. Tunia.

He adds that so far very few ceramic forms have been discovered in southern Poland, in the shape of double-cone, small vessels with holes for hanging. It can not be ruled out that they were used as lamps, Dr. Tunia believes.

“The main problem was access to flammable substances. Only by the sea there was a sufficiently large amount of available raw material for the production of combustible material used in lamps – it was the fat obtained from marine animals”. The farther south of the Baltic coast, the more common torches were. “I think that torches were not wrapped or smeared with anything, people used the natural resins in the wood material” – said Dr. Tunia.

Archaeologists, like detectives, find indirect evidence for the use of torches in prehistory. For example, during the excavations at a striped flint mine in Krzemionki Opatowskie that was active already in the Neolithic period, they found charcoal – most likely the remains of torches or fires burned there. The first possibility is more likely, because a bonfire would consume too much oxygen miners needed to breathe. Fires were burned near the bottoms of vertical shafts, where torches necessary to illuminate the darkness in the shaft would be lit up – archaeologists believe.

Lines made with charcoal, visible on mine walls, are also considered evidence of the use of torches. Dr Tunia thinks these are traces of charred tips being removed by rubbing the torch against the wall to create a larger flame.

According to the archaeologist, starting from the Neolithic period one can gradually see the desire to light up the darkness among the inhabitants of Europe, but their life was still regulated by the natural rhythm of day and night. Lighting was usually needed in places the sunlight never reached – in the mines, caves or … huts. In households, hearths and fires were being replaced by more advanced clay furnaces. They generated less smoke, they kept warm longer, but they were bad sources of light.

“The darkness was deeper still because those houses did not have many openings. It seems that the main function of a hut was to provide shelter and heat for its inhabitants, and the aspect of interior lighting – especially through openings in the walls, windows and doors – was secondary. In any case, valuable heat would escape through these holes” – says Tunia. Artificial light, even to a limited extent, was needed at any time of the day, for example to prepare a meal.

Only the outlines of prehistoric houses and their foundations or underground parts survive to our times. Reconstructing them is very difficult. It most often is based on ethnographic analogies. “And here we often see that in communities still living outside the mainstream of civilization, the huts are dark, without window openings, smoky, but providing shelter and warmth. I had the opportunity to see such houses in Andean communities” – adds the archaeologist.

According to Dr. Tunia, specialized analyses of possible ceramic lamps could bring advances in research on prehistoric lighting. “They have not been analysed so far, so it will be the next step to understanding an important aspect of our ancestors` lives” – the scientist concludes.

PAP – Science in Poland

 

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Researchers pack the shaft at Augusta Raurica with snow. File photo: Peter-Andrew Schwarz

 

Original article:

Thelocal.ch

 

 

Archaeologists near the Swiss city of Basel are trying to definitively establish if mysterious shafts discovered at Switzerland’s extensive Augusta Raurica site in 2013 could have been ancient refrigerators.

The Romans used shafts like the four-metre deep examples at Augusta Raurica – some 20 kilometres from Basel – as cool stores during summer.

The shafts were filled with snow and ice during winter and then covered with straw to keep the space cool well into the summer months. This then allowed for everything from cheese to wine – and even oysters – to be preserved during warm weather.

Now a team lead by Peter-Andrew Schwarz from the University of Basel is attempting, for the third time, to demonstrate that the Augusta Raurica shafts were indeed used as fridges, Swiss news agency SDA/ATS reports.

A first attempt to recreate the ancient cool box failed after archaeologists at the dig filed the shaft with snow all in one go. But that experiment showed temperatures in the shaft were above freezing point even in winter.

The second try was more successful: the shaft was gradually filled with snow and ice blocks were placed inside as well. Using these methods, snow remained until June.

Now, however, researchers plan to use methods developed by the so-called ‘nevaters’ or ice-makers on the Spanish island of Majorca. This will see Schwarz and his team placing 20–30-centimetre-thick layers of snow into the shaft. These individual layers will then be compacted down with a straw cover placed on top of each one.

“With this method, people in Majorca could keep food cool in summer before the arrival of electric fridges,” Schwarz told regional daily Basler Zeitung in 2017.

Work at the site of the ‘fridge’ will continue until Friday with the dig open to the public.

The experiment won’t prove that the mysterious shaft was actually a Roman fridge but will show that this is possible, Schwarz told the SDA/ATS news agency.

A final evaluation will be made in August.

 

 

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Windwick Bay at South Ronaldsay, close to the site of the massive cliff top feast held more than 1,700 years ago. PIC: http://www.geography.co.uk

 

Original article:

Scotsman.com

 

Archaeologists have identified the site of a huge Iron Age feast on Orkney where more than 10,000 animals were cooked and eaten in a vast cliff top celebration.

Tests have shown that horses, cattle, red deer and otters were on the menu at the gathering above Windwick Bay, South Ronaldsay, more than 1,700 years ago.

READ MORE: Early 19th Century whale skeletons found on Orkney dig

Archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands have been working at The Cairns for several years.

A large number of jewellery fragments and tools have already been discovered at the site, where the remains of an Iron Age broch and metalworking site can be found, with recent radiocarbon tests carried out at a midden – or rubbish tip – nearby.

READ MORE: Archaeologists survey Scotland’s forests under the sea

Examination has identified the cooked bones of around 10,000 animals in the dump.

Martin Carruthers, an Iron Age expert at UHI and programme leader for MSc Archaeological Practice at the UHI Archaeology Institute, said: “These numbers tell you about the scale of the feast and the largesse of being able to have that amount of food in circulation for what appears to be a short lived event.

“The feast is doing two things. Its probably celebrating the successful conclusion of the making of a big batch of jewellery.

“The second point is the feast is pretty enormous and it is it probably the arena where pins and brooches are being handed out to individuals within the community.”

He said the event was likely to maintain and reinforce the structure of Iron Age society on the island at a time when Romans could be found further south on the mainland.

A large rectangular building with a huge central hearth, similar to the ‘Wag’ structures found in Caithness, can also be found at The Cairns.

This imposing building dates to around the time of the feasting event and perhaps represents the residence of a powerful household who organised the production and distribution of the valuable jewellery pieces.

Mr Carruthers added: “Whoever is causing this metal work to be produced is responsible for metal workers on the site or bringing in itinerant workers.

“The elites are driving their authority from the people and offering out these tokens in return.

“Thee items are probably of such high value that people could never have the capacity to pay back the debt. It holds you in your place.

“This whole event is about maintaining society.”

He also suggested that open air feasting could have been a method in which evolving Iron Age society expressed identity and solidarity.

The broch at The Cairns is known to have fallen out of use around the middle of the Second Century AD.

Later, two iron-working furnaces were set up at the site and more than 60 moulds used to cast fine bronze objects have been found at The Cairns over time.

These were used to cast a variety of objects ranging from simple bronze rings, to distinctive decorated dress pins and penannular brooches -the open-ring, cloak brooches that are sometimes referred to as Celtic brooches.

 

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Researchers stored 17th-century foodstuffs aboard the 19th-century tall ship Elissa as part of an investigation into how well food preservation worked during the age of discovery. Photo by age fotostock/Alamy Stock Photo

 

An unprecedented archaeology experiment is putting historical shipboard food and drink to the test.

Original article:

Hakaimagazine.com

by Jeremy Hsu

In 1619, a hurricane sank the English merchant ship Warwick in Bermuda’s Castle Harbor. The struggling settlers of Jamestown, Virginia, were desperately awaiting the shipload of fresh supplies, and keenly felt the loss. Almost 400 years later, artifacts from the wreck are helping archaeologist Grace Tsai uncover if unrefrigerated food and drink remained edible and nutritious during long sea voyages.

Since 2012, Tsai, a doctoral candidate in nautical archaeology at Texas A&M University, has been studying archaeological records of provisions from three different shipwrecks from the 16th and 17th centuries and analyzing shipboard diets based on modern nutritional guidelines.

Now, Tsai and her colleagues are going one step further: for two months, they stored period-accurate provisions aboard the closest thing to the Warwick they could find—the 19th-century tall ship Elissa, docked in Galveston, Texas.

“The whole premise is to see how things age aboard ships,” Tsai says. Researchers, including her, have typically studied how to prepare food based on historical recipes, “but nobody has been testing how well they lasted on a transatlantic voyage.”

The two-month shipboard study took place from August to October 2017, and included its own hurricane scare, when Harvey swept through just a week into the experiment.

Now, Tsai and her colleagues are back in the lab, analyzing the provisions’ surviving nutritional value and investigating the microbes that grew on them. Chemical analyses could even reveal any remaining—or acquired—flavors.

Yet before they could get to this point, Tsai and her team had to make all the foodstuffs that would have sustained a 17th-century English sailor, such as salted meats, peas, oatmeal, tough ship biscuits, beer, wine, and a barrel of natural spring water. The project also included a variety of heirloom rice, which was more common in the diets of Spanish or Portuguese sailors.

To better understand the salted meats, Tsai traveled to Bermuda to study animal bones recovered from the Warwick’s wreck. Her examination of butcher marks on cattle bones helped her identify the best size to cut beef to enable preservation. The team also imported sea salt from Guérande, France, a region that has been producing salt for more than 1,000 years, which remains a chefs’ favorite.

Previously, scientists have tried to re-create food and drink from various historical periods. But independent experts agree that this project is an unprecedented experiment in maritime archaeology.

“[The experiment] would certainly be the closest we could come to replicating the stowage conditions of a sailing ship in that environment,” says Chuck Meide, director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program in Florida.

James Delgado, a maritime archaeologist and senior vice president at SEARCH, an independent archaeological consultancy in Florida, agrees. “While we’ve studied food waste and food based on archaeological remains, this is the first time, as far as I know, that someone has done experimental archaeology with shipboard provisions from that period.”

After their stint in the Elissa’s hold, many of the provisions still seem edible. For safety reasons, nobody will actually be tasting the experimental results, but the baked ship biscuits are in the best shape by far, a testament to their legendary hardiness. The salted beef, however, has taken on a pinkish center resembling prosciutto. It has a pungent smell, says Tsai, though it isn’t rotten.

A big exception is the natural spring water, which has turned cloudy with greenish bits and “smelled pretty disgusting,” Tsai says. Sailors may have preferred quenching their thirst with beer and wine, which remained more palatable. Still, a surprising amount of lingering yeast fermentation and carbonation caused the beer barrel to leak and grow mold.

Yet the biggest surprise came from the diversity of microbes found in some of the food. Early genomic sequencing analyses, mostly from the salted beef, suggest that many of the bacteria are neither illness-causing pathogens nor beneficial probiotics—most seem to be relatively neutral. The unexpected microbial bounty, however, has forced the researchers to expand their genomic sequencing efforts.

Even though no one is eating the food and drink stored aboard the Elissa, the team is organizing a fundraising event aboard the ship later this month to sample beer based on the historical recipe.

The event illustrates the project’s benefits beyond the research findings by getting more people interested in history and archaeology, says Meide. “There is something compelling about literally re-creating the past in order to learn about it.”

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Original article:

Ronan McGreevy Thu, Mar 22, 2018

Irishtimes.com

Note: Not much in the way of food-stuffs mentioned, but there was an oven discovered so with more excavation…hope they find seeds or pottery made for cooking.

Terrace of houses from 11th century reveals treasure trove of  artifacts.

 

An archaeologist has described the discovery of a well-preserved Viking-era terrace in Dublin as an “extraordinary find”.

The four adjacent Hiberno-Norse properties with gardens and cobbled stones dating from the around the 11th century were found during excavations for a hotel development in Dublin.

The site in Dean Street is owned by the Hodson Bay Group who plan to open a 234-room hotel in the Coombe area next year.

Further excavations found two other settlements from a later period. One dating from the 13th to the 14th century had evidence of industrial activity including a tanning pit and two lime pits.

Vaulted cellars

The upper level dating from the 17th century revealed ovens, vaulted cellars, kilns and cobbled working areas.

The site has been waterlogged for almost the last millennium. As a consequence organic material, including leather shoes and wooden utensils, have been very well preserved.

Archeologist Aisling Collins, whose team made the find, said they were lucky to make such a discovery.

“It’s incredible. You could work on a site like this all your life and never find anything like this. It’s that significant. The artefacts we have found are very unique,” she said.

Among the objects found in the excavations were a copper alloy, decorated stick pin, a 12th century copper alloy key and worked bone objects. Shards of pottery were found in several locations.

The most significant find was a rare example of graffiti art carved onto a piece of slate depicting a figure on a horse with a shield, sword and two birds present. The slate was found to the rear of one of the houses which was made from wattle.

Industrial activity

There was evidence of industrial activity with the presence of a tanning pit, lots of animal horn and two lime pits.

To the north of the site was a stone built medieval well with steps leading down to the water. There were two medieval wall foundations also present.

Another layer led to the discovery of a copper alloy merchant’s weighing scales, a 13th-14th silver King Edward coin and medieval pottery – mostly local and some imported. Medieval floor tiles were discovered with very unusual ceramic bird that looks like a dove.

Hudson Bay director Johnny O’Sullivan said the company intends to incorporate elements of the discovery into the design of the hotel and to keep a section of the site for preservation.

“So many corporate hotels are bland, but we are delighted to have such a compelling story to tell,” he said.

The site has been cleared and the artefacts are now in storage. They will eventually be given to the National Museum of Ireland for cataloguing and preserving.

 

 

 

 

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hArchaeological Service of the Canton of Bern

Original article:

Food and wine.com

How and when wheat and other grains became domesticated has long been a mystery.
JILLIAN KRAMER July 28, 2017

It’s not exactly difficult to get grains these days. You can add them to your cart at the grocery store and have oats, cereal, or rice in your house in just a matter of minutes. It wasn’t always that easy; the domestication of wheat-bearing plants was a huge and somewhat mysterious step for the human race. And thanks to a discovery by a team of archeologists, we’re starting to understand just when and where the exploitation (which is to say, human cultivation and use) of some grains occurred.
Archeologists from the University of York set out to the Swiss Alps on a dig, where they discovered a Bronze Age wooden container lodged in an ice patch some 8,600 feet up a mountain. Thinking the container was for some kind of porridge, the team was surprised to find lipid-based biomarkers for whole wheat or rye grain—called alkylresorcinols—in place of the milk residue they had expected to find. But that residue, they say, could help other archeologists trace the development of early grain farming in Eurasia

Here’s why this discovery is such a big deal: plants are all-but-impossible to find in archeological deposits because they degrade so quickly. A deposit like this one, the archeologists say, is really the first of its kind to be found and recorded.

“This is an extraordinary discovery, if you consider that of all domesticated plants, wheat is the most widely grown crop in the world,” University of York archeologist André Colonese said in a statement, “and the most important food grain source for humans, lying at the core of many contemporary culinary traditions.” Next, Colonese said, the team will search for lipid-based grain biomarkers in ceramic artifacts.
In the meantime, here’s what the discovery already tells the team: “Strong evidence that cereals were being transported across this [Swiss] alpine pass,” Jessica Hendy, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, said in a statement.

As they make additional, similar discoveries, the archeologists should also be able to glean “when and where this food crop spread through Europe,” Hendy said

 

 

 

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“They’ll definitely be tasted, but we’re taking our time.” BY VITTORIA TRAVERSO FEBRUARY 16, 2018

Original Article:

atlasobscura.com

These champagne bottles were last seen 118 years ago. Michael Boudot/Champagne Pol Roger

At the beginning of 1900, French wine-making brothers Maurice and Georges Roger had an estimated 1.5 million champagne bottles and 500 casks of other wine safely stored in the cellar below their family estate in Épernay, in northern France. But during a particularly damp February that year, part of the estate collapsed—right into the cellar, trapping the precious bottles under 80 feet of dirt and debris. Worried that attempting to dig survivors out would cause more damage to the estate, the brothers left them there.

So it was with great surprise that last month, 118 years after the collapse, the Roger family, which still makes champagne there, discovered a new passage into the long-lost cellar during the construction of a nearby packing facility. “In a moment of euphoria we decided to enlarge the passage and after further digging we found some fully preserved bottles,” Damien Cambres, deputy cellar manager at Pol Roger, told French news site franceinfo.

Bad weather conditions led to the collapse of part of the Roger estate in February 1900.
Bad weather conditions led to the collapse of part of the Roger estate in February 1900. Champagne Pol Roger

The bottles are estimated to date to the years between 1887 and 1898, according to a statement issued by the company. Because they have not been exposed to sunlight, and have been at a constant temperature, they may still be drinkable. “We will find a lot of roundness and freshness, because there has been no alteration of acidity,” Dominique Petit, the outgoing cellar master at Pol Roger, told franceinfo. “And some notes of maturity and grilled aromas.”

This would not be the first time that experts get to taste 19th-century wine. The record for oldest champagne tasted goes to a 1825 Perrier-Jouet opened in 2009. “Although there was only a hint of bubbles left, it was perfectly fresh, the color was fine and it resembled a very great chablis, with a note of white truffles and chocolate,” wine expert Olivier Cavil told U.K. daily The Times.

Further excavations of the Pol Roger cellar have now stopped due to weather conditions, but the company plans to dig further. “We found one bottle the first day, then five or six the next day, then we had 19, then we stopped,” CEO Laurent d’Harcourt told Wine Spectator. “They’ll definitely be tasted, but we’re taking our time.

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