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Viking drinking hall

 

Scotsman.com

A Viking “drinking hall” that could have been used by a high-ranking chieftain 800 years ago has been unearthed in Orkney, archaeologists say.

The discovery was made at Skaill Farmstead in Westness, Rousay, and is believed to have been a high-status Norse hall, dating as far back as the tenth century.

Westness is mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga – a historical narrative of the archipelago – as the home of Sigurd, a powerful 12th-century chieftain.


The site offers an “unparalleled” opportunity to research eating habits in the region over a millennia, according to researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

The name Skaill suggests the site was home to a Norse hall or drinking hall and was a high-status site.

A team from the UHI Archaeology Institute, residents and students have been digging at the site for a number of years in an effort to find the building.

Dan Lee, co-director of the excavation project, said “The exciting news this season is that we have now found the hall at Skaill, as the place name suggests.

“You never know, but perhaps Earl Sigurd himself sat on one of the stone benches inside the hall and drank a flagon of ale.”

The hall is believed to date to the tenth to 12th centuries and was discovered below a more recent farmstead.

“Substantial” stone walls were found 5.5m apart, with internal features such as stone benches along either side.

The building appears to be more than 13m long and facing down a slope towards the sea, although it is not yet fully uncovered.

Finds have included soapstone from Shetland, pottery and a bone spindle whorl, while a fragment of a Norse bone comb was also unearthed.

Archaeologists have been investigating the later stages of the farm complex and its middens, with a particular focus on past diet, farming and fishing practices.

 

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Early Neolithic sote

 

Heraldscotland.com

 

 

By Jody Harrison

THE first farmers to till the soil in Scotland may have initially put down roots in Aberdeenshire, archaeologists have said.

A team digging near Stonehaven have uncovered the earliest pottery remains ever found north of the border, dating back to 6,000 years ago.

The Neolithic artefacts indicate that the first settled communities may have sprung up in the region, which was previously occupied by ancient tribes of nomadic hunter gatherers.

Archaeologists believe they may have come across from mainland Europe by boat and settled nearby, instead of following major rivers inland.

The sherds of carinated bowls – the earliest type of pottery found in Britain – were discovered during work at Kirkton of Fetteresso by Cameron Archeaology.

New radiocarbon dating indicates they were probably deposited sometime between 3952 BC to 3766 BC, pre-dating previous finds by more than a century.

The beginning of the Neolithic period was one of the most significant periods in Scotland, marking an enormous change in the population and the landscape.

The act of farming the land was begun by new communities of settlers from Europe who brought new species of plants and animals, established permanent homes and cleared huge tracts of woodland, transforming the landscape.

Robert Lenfert, who co-authored a report on the discoveries, said: “This new evidence doesn’t support the previous notion that early Neolithic colonisation followed major rivers. “Rather, it is more convincing to postulate that this technology – and those capable of producing it – arrived directly via sea-routes into Stonehaven Bay, further supporting the evidence that this pottery is very early in the Neolithic period in Scotland.

There are only one or two sites in Britain which have similar early dates: Coupland in Northumberland and Eweford Pit in East Lothian, which corroborates the notion that the carinated bowl tradition first reached north-eastern Britain, primarily Scotland but also Northumbria, before becoming visible elsewhere in Britain.”

The team say Kirkton of Fetteresso was occupied by various groups down through the ages, with the dig revealing evidence of human occupation and activity spread over at least four and a half millennia from the early Neolithic to the early medieval period.

 

What is also particularly striking about Kirkton of Fetteresso is the apparent repetitive yet episodic activity within this relatively small area over at least four millennia,” said co-author Alison Cameron.

“The landscape surrounding the site contains numerous prehistoric features which span a similar timeframe, including Mesolithic remains and early Neolithic pits also containing carinated bowls.

 

“The new radiocarbon dating evidence we have gathered has revealed Kirkton of Fetteresso as a palimpsest of periodic activity covering the early Neolithic, the late Bronze Age, the early and middle to later Iron Ages (pre-Roman) and the early medieval or Pictish period.”

Analysis of the findings has been published on the archaeology reports online website.

 

 

 

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University of Bristol

Phys.org

Scientists from the University of Bristol have uncovered, for the first time, definitive evidence that determines what types of food medieval peasants ate and how they managed their animals.

Using chemical analysis of pottery fragments and animal bones found at one of England’s earliest medieval villages, combined with detailed examination of a range of historical documents and accounts, the research has revealed the daily of peasants in the Middle Ages. The researchers were also able to look at butchery techniques, methods of food preparation and rubbish disposal at the settlement Dr. Julie Dunne and Professor Richard Evershed from the University of Bristol’s Organic Geochemistry Unit, based within the School of Chemistry, led the research, published today in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Julie said: “All too often in history the detail, for example food and clothing, of the everyday life of ordinary people is unknown.

“Traditionally, we focus on the important historical figures as these are the people discussed in .

“Much is known of the medieval dietary practices of the nobility and ecclesiastical institutions, but less about what foods the medieval peasantry consumed.”

The scarce historical documents that exist that tell us that medieval peasant ate meat, fish, , fruit and vegetables but there is little direct evidence for this.

The OGU team used the technique of organic residue analysis to chemically extract residues from the remains of cooking pots used by peasants in the small medieval village of West Cotton in Northamptonshire.

Organic residue analysis is a scientific technique commonly used in archaeology. It is mainly used on ancient pottery, which is the most common artefact found on worldwide.

Researchers used chemical and isotopic techniques to identify lipids, the fats, oils and natural waxes of the natural world, from the ceramics.

These can survive over thousands of years and the compounds found are one of the best ways scientists and archaeologists can determine what our ancestors ate.

The findings demonstrated that stews (or pottages) of meat (beef and mutton) and vegetables such as cabbage and leek, were the mainstay of the medieval peasant diet.

The research also showed that dairy products, likely the ‘green cheeses’ known to be eaten by the peasantry, also played an important role in their diet.

Dr. Dunne added: “Food and diet are central to understanding daily life in the medieval period, particularly for the medieval peasant.

“This study has provided valuable information on diet and animal husbandry by medieval peasants and helped illustrate agricultural production, consumption and economic life in one of England’s early medieval villages.”

Professor Evershed said “West Cotton was one of the first archaeological sites we worked on when we began developing the organic residue approach – it is extraordinary how, by applying the suite of the latest methods, we can provide information missing from historical documents.”


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Written records suggest viniculture in France dates back to the sixth century BCE AFP/File

France24.com

 

Grape varieties brought to France by the Romans are identical to those grown for wine in some of the most famous appellations today, a new analysis of ancient vine DNA showed Monday.

Researchers unearthed evidence that one grape — from which well-known varieties such as chenin and riesling are derived — had been grown continuously for 900 years, long enough for a good many vintages.

Unlike many agricultural crops, which grow annually from seed, grapevines are normally propagated by replanting trimmings from an existing vine.

This saves both time and the risk of producing an inferior wine, and the new plants are genetically identical to their predecessors.

This means that a single generation of a grape variety can last for hundreds of years.

Written records suggest viniculture in France dates back to the sixth century BCE, introduced by the Greeks to their colony Massalia, the modern-day Marseille.

But until now scientists have been unable to accurately date many specific varieties, nor have they been able to chart how older vines are related to those used in winemaking today.

A Europe-wide team of archeologists and geneticists analysed the genomes of 28 grape pips unearthed at nine dig sites across France, the oldest dating to around 2,500 years ago.

They then cross-referenced them with a DNA database of modern varieties.

“We were able to show that we can identify varieties in the past, we can use these archaeological samples and get DNA from them and link them to modern varieties,” Nathan Wales, from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology, told AFP.

Among the most corking discoveries was savignan, a white grape variety dated to 1100 CE.

Savignan is today used to produce the famed vin jaune of the Jura region, which gets its unique palate and colour from being stored in oak barrels for up to six years.

“That shows us that this grape has been maintained for at least 900 years,” said Wales, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Plants.

“People have been taking that plant, cutting it, grafting it and maintaining that lineage. We have never had the opportunity to understand how long these processes have been going on.”

– Thousand-year vintage –

Savignan is the mother variety for more than two dozen white grapes, including gruner veltliner, chenin, riesling and petit manseng.

The team also found that humagne blanche, a white grape grown today in the Swiss Alps, was directly related to grapes grown in southern France by the Romans.

“There are stories where at some point Romans took vines into the Alps in Switzerland, and this shows that these stories were probably true,” said Wales.

“We have really close relationships between the archeological samples and samples grown today.”

Other famous grapes, such as chardonnay and pinot noir, were proven to be virtually genetically identical to other Roman varieties.

“It kind of gives a new appreciation for this tradition, of winemaking, and the longevity of it,” Wales said.

“We knew that the Romans were doing cuttings but we didn’t know how long these particular grapes had been around but now we can see that these lineages have been maintained for thousands of years.”

? 2019 AFP

 

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Analysis of plant, animal and human remains from Portus, the maritime port of Imperial Rome, has reconstructed for the first time the diets and geographic origins of its inhabitants, suggesting a shift in food resources following the Vandal sack of Rome in AD 455.

Source: Diet at the docks: Living and dying at the port of ancient Rome

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Wild apples

 

 

Recent archaeological finds of ancient preserved apple seeds across Europe and West Asia combined with historical, paleontological, and recently published genetic data are presenting a fascinating new narrative for one of our most familiar fruits. The apple was originally spread by ancient megafauna and later as a process of trade along the Silk Road. When previously separated varieties came into contact, hybridization and grafting allowed for the development of the varieties that we know today.

Source: Exploring the origins of the apple

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Source: Migrant Farmers May Have Replaced Britain’s Hunter-Gatherers

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