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Original Article:

news.com.au

 

Religious dogma in the Middle Ages helped create the modern domestic chicken, research suggests.

Scientists found traits such as reduced aggression, faster egg-laying and an ability to live in close proximity to other birds emerged in chickens in about AD 1000.

Chicken evolution might have been strongly influenced by the impact of Christian beliefs on what people ate.

During the Middle Ages, religious edicts enforced fasting and the exclusion of four-legged animals from menus.

However, the consumption of chickens and eggs was permitted during fasts.

Increasing urbanisation might have helped drive the evolution of modern domesticated chickens, the study, published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, said.

“Ancient DNA allows us to observe how genes have changed in the past, but the problem has always been to get high enough time resolution to link genetic evolution to potential causes,” Oxford University lead researcher Dr Liisa Loog said.

“But with enough data and a novel statistical framework, we now have timings that are precise enough to correlate them with ecological and cultural shifts.”

Chickens were domesticated from Asian jungle fowl around 6000 years ago.

But the new study, which combined DNA data from archaeological chicken bones with statistical modelling, showed some of the most important features of the present-day chicken arose in the high Middle Ages during a time of soaring demand for poultry.

They traced the evolutionary history of more than 70 chickens, looking for changes in the THSR gene that determines levels of aggression.

Natural selection favoured chickens with THSR variants that helped them cope with living close to one another, the study found.

THSR variants also led to faster egg laying and a reduced fear of humans.

A thousand years ago, just 40 per cent of the chickens studied had this gene, which is present in all modern domesticated chickens.

“We tend to think that there were wild animals and then there were domestic animals rather than thinking about the selection pressures on domestic plants and animals that varied through time,” Dr Loog said.

“This study shows how easy it is to turn a trait into something that becomes fixed in an animal in an evolutionary blink of an eye.”

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Roman baths at Caracalla

Pbs.org
By Carla RaimerPosted 11.01.00NOVA
What foods did Romans feast upon 2,000 years ago? To get a flavor, peruse these ancient recipes, most of which come from the Roman chef Apicius. We also include modern interpretations of these recipes from two books: A Taste of Ancient Rome by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa and The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. Imagine yourself spending a luxurious day at a Roman bath, and as the Romans today say, buon appetito.

MULSUM (HONEYED WINE)
Romans were not averse to drinking alcohol, a habit they carried into the public baths. The Roman philosopher Seneca and the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder both opposed drinking at the baths. The poet Martial complains about one sloppy bather who “doesn’t know how to go home from the baths sober.” The sweet Roman drink mulsum, a mixture of wine and honey, is one of the mixtures that might have contributed to this particular man’s drunken evenings.
Modern Recipe: Mulsum
Warm 1/2 cup clear honey and add it to a bottle of medium-dry white wine. Chill before serving.
LUCANIAN SAUSAGES
This sausage was brought back to Rome by soldiers who had served in Lucania, located in the heel of southern Italy, probably around 200 B.C. Peppery, spicy, smoked sausages are still made in many parts of the world, from Palestine to Brazil, under names that can be traced back to Lucania. In Brazil, for example, these types of sausage are today called linguica.
Ancient Roman Lucanian Sausage Recipe
Pepper is ground with cumin, savory, rue, parsley, condiments, bay berries, and garum. Finely ground meat is mixed in, then ground again together with the other ground ingredients. Mix with garum, peppercorns, and plenty of fat, and pine nuts; fill a casing stretched extremely thin, and thus it is hung in smoke.
Modern Lucanian Sausage Recipe (serves six)
1 pound belly pork, minced
2 tablespoons pine kernels
20 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dried rue
2 teaspoons dried savory
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
30 bayberries (if available)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons fish sauce
sausage skins
Combine all the filling ingredients and mix well. Use a food processor if available.
If you have fresh sausage skins, they will be preserved in salt and need to be washed.
You will need about six 12-inch lengths. Tie a knot in the end of each one.
Put a 1/2 inch plain tube in a piping bag and 1/2 fill with the mixture; do not put too much in at one time or it will be difficult to squeeze. Take the open end of the skin, pull it over the tube and push down repeatedly until the majority of the skin sits like a collar half way down the tube. Grip this with your finger and thumb and slowly release the skin as you squeeze the bag. Stop squeezing well before the skin runs out, leaving 2-3 inches of skin to allow for shrinkage. It will take some practice before you get this procedure right.
When you have used up all the meat, twist each length of sausage into 4 even or similar segments.
If you are able to smoke the sausages, drape them over a coat hanger or similar item and suspend in smoke. You can still give them a smoky flavor before grilling them. If you have an open fireplace, suspend them from the mantelpiece for a few hours while you burn wood. You can use your barbecue: Sprinkle wood chips over the coals and suspend the sausage at least 12 inches above the fire for an hour or so. Otherwise, cut them into individual sausages and grill them under a medium heat.
BOILED EGGS WITH PINE NUT SAUCE
Perhaps the most popular of all the Roman appetizers was the egg. In fact, the ancient Latin saying ab ovo usque ad malum literally means “from the egg to the fruit,” which translates loosely as “the beginning of the meal to the end.” In this recipe, the egg is adorned with lovely pine nut sauce.
Ancient Roman Egg Recipe
For medium-boiled eggs: Pepper, lovage, and soaked pine nuts. Pour on honey and vinegar; mix with garum fish sauce.
Modern Egg Recipe
4 medium-boiled eggs
2 ounces pine nuts
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch each of pepper and lovage (or celery leaf)
Soak the pine nuts 3-4 hours beforehand in the vinegar.
Mix all the sauce ingredients thoroughly in a blender. This exquisite sauce should be presented in a sauce boat so that each person can serve himself or herself, since the eggs cannot be sliced and placed on a dish in advance.
GARUM FISH SAUCE
As they are with modern Romans, sauces and marinades were an essential element in ancient Roman cuisine. One of the most popular was garum, a salty, aromatic, fish-based sauce. Like so many other Roman treasures, it was borrowed from the ancient Greeks. Apicius used it in all his recipes, and the poet Martial wrote of it: “Accept this exquisite garum, a precious gift made with the first blood spilled from a living mackerel.”
We won’t recommend you try the ancient version (see below). Instead, try the easier modern recipe.
Ancient Garum Recipe
Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a well-sealed (pitched) container with a 26-35 quart capacity. Add dried, aromatic herbs possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others, making a layer on the bottom of the container; then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat these layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid.
Modern Garum Recipe
Cook a quart of grape juice, reducing it to one-tenth its original volume. Dilute two tablespoons of anchovy paste in the concentrated juice and mix in a pinch of oregano.
SEASONED MUSSELS
With an empire that spanned both sides of the the Mediterranean Sea, Romans often feasted on seafood. Romans might salt, smoke, or pickle their fish, or even preserve it with honey. This recipe for seasoned mussels, though, calls for just a simple cooking before they are eaten.
Ancient Roman Seasoned Mussels Recipe
For mussels: Garum, chopped leek, cumin, passum, savory, and wine. Dilute this mixture with water and cook the mussels in it.
Modern Seasoned Mussels Recipe (serves 4)
40-50 mussels
2 tablespoons garum fish sauce
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup passum (a modern version of this raisin wine is the Italian dessert wine Vin Santo)
1 leek, chopped
1 handful of fresh cumin and savory, minced

Wash the mussels thoroughly to remove the sand, then boil them in sufficient water to cover, along with the remaining ingredients.
PEAR PATINA
The Romans referred to their dessert course as mensa secunda, or “second meal.” They satisfied their fondness for sweets with desserts such as fruitcakes, pudding, sweet egg-based dishes, and sweet cheeses—and in this case, a delicious pear patina.
Ancient Roman Pear Patina Recipe
A pear patina: Grind boiled and cored pears with pepper, cumin, honey, passum, garum, and a bit of oil. When the eggs have been added, make a patina, sprinkle pepper over, and serve.
Modern Pear Patina Recipe (serves 4)
4 pears
water or white wine (to cook the pears)
1 tablespoon honey
pinch each pepper and cumin
1/2 cup passum (a modern version of this raisin wine is the Italian dessert wine Vin Santo)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Poach the whole pears in water or white wine. When they are done, peel and core them, then crush them into a puree, mixing in the honey, pepper, cumin and passum. Beat the eggs, adding the milk if desired. Then blend this into the pear mixture with the olive oil. Pour into a casserole and bake for around 20 minutes at 350° F.
LIBUM (SWEET CHEESECAKE)
Libum was a sacrificial cake sometimes offered to household spirits during Rome’s early history. The recipe below comes from the Roman consul Cato’s agricultural writings, which included simple recipes for farmers. Libum, sometimes served hot, is a cheesecake he included.
Ancient Roman Libum Recipe
Libum to be made as follows: 2 pounds cheese well crushed in a mortar; when it is well crushed, add in 1 pound bread-wheat flour or, if you want it to be lighter, just 1/2 a pound, to be mixed with the cheese. Add one egg and mix all together well. Make a loaf of this, with the leaves under it, and cook slowly in a hot fire under a brick.
Modern Roman Libum Recipe (serves 4)
1 cup plain, all purpose flour
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
bay leaves
1/2 cup clear honey

Sift the flour into a bowl. Beat the cheese until it’s soft and stir it into the flour along with the egg. Form a soft dough and divide into 4. Mold each one into a bun and place them on a greased baking tray with a fresh bay leaf underneath. Heat the oven to 425° F. Cover the cakes with your brick* and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden-brown. Warm the honey and place the warm cakes in it so that they absorb it. Allow to stand 30 minutes before serving.
*The Romans often covered their food while it was cooking with a domed earthenware cover called a testo. You can use an overturned, shallow clay pot, a metal bowl, or casserole dish as a brick.

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photo: Iris

 

Original Article:

the local.dk

New research suggests the Vikings indulged in a bit of viticulture.

Studies of grape pips point to wine production in Denmark during the time of the Vikings.

The Vikings liked alcohol, but while it is easy enough to grow crops and produce beer in the Danish climate, wine is a different challenge and was thought to have always been imported from southern parts of Europe to northern countries.

But new research has showed that at least one of the two oldest grape cores found in Denmark was grown locally, reports science news site Videnskab.dk.

Results of the analysis could be the final piece of evidence needed to prove that wine was produced in Denmark during the Viking era, says the report.

“This is the first discovery and sign of wine production in Denmark, with all that that entails in terms of status and power. We do not know how [the grapes] were used – it may have been just to have a pretty bunch of grapes decorating a table, for example – but it is reasonable to believe that they made wine,” archaeological botanist and museum curator Peter Steen Henriksen of Denmark’s National Museum told Videnskab.dk.

 

Henriksen himself discovered the two centuries-old wine pips in a sample of earth at the site of a Viking settlement at Tissø. Analysis of the pips found one to date from the Viking era and the other from the Iron Age.

No evidence of grapes in Denmark prior to the Middle Ages was previously known.

Henriksen sent the pips to the National Museum, where they underwent strontium isotope tests similar to those that confirmed Danish preserved bodies the Skydstrup girl and the Egtved girl originated from geographical areas further south in Europe.

The tests showed that the Viking era grape was probably grown on Zealand, reports Videnskab.dk.

“Before we only had suspicions, but now we can see that they actually had grapes and therefore the resources to produce [wine] themselves. Suddenly it all becomes very real,” professor Karin Margarita Frei of the National Museum told Videnskab.dk.

The Tissø settlement is one of the richest Viking locations in Denmark and was home to a dynasty that stretched from the early Iron Age to the late Viking period, reports Videnskab.

Production of wine in the area may have been a way of expressing status, say researchers.

Although it is also possible that the grapes were grown to be consumed as fruit, the Vikings are known to have come across wine on their voyages abroad, and Roman wine cups and other remnants of wine have been found in Scandinavia. The climate in the region was also similar to the present-day climate, making it possible to grow grapes.

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Source: Ancient Concession Stands and Shops Found at Roman Gladiator Arena

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Source: A Cornucopia of Condiments – Archaeology Magazine

 

 

 

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Source: DNA Study Suggests New Dates for Mediterranean Farmers

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El Sidrón: Working in the Tunnel of Bones cave, where 12 Neandertal specimens dating around 49,000 years ago have been recovered. Image credit: Paleoanthropology Group MNCN-CSIC; Photo by Antonio Rosas)

 

El Sidrón upper jaw: a dental calculus deposit is visible on the rear molar (right) of this Neandertal. This individual was eating poplar, a source of aspirin, and had also consumed moulded vegetation including Penicillium fungus, source of a natural antibiotic. Image credit: Paleoanthropology Group MNCN-CSIC

 

Original Article:

popular-archaeology.com

Ancient DNA found in the dental plaque of Neanderthals – our nearest extinct relative – has provided remarkable new insights into their behaviour, diet and evolutionary history, including their use of plant-based medicine to treat pain and illness.

Published today in the journal Nature, an international team led by the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and Dental School, with the University of Liverpool in the UK, revealed the complexity of Neandertal behaviour, including dietary differences between Neanderthal groups and knowledge of medication.

“Dental plaque traps microorganisms that lived in the mouth and pathogens found in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract, as well as bits of food stuck in the teeth – preserving the DNA for thousands of years,” says lead author Dr Laura Weyrich, ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow with ACAD.

“Genetic analysis of that DNA ‘locked-up’ in plaque, represents a unique window into Neandertal lifestyle – revealing new details of what they ate, what their health was like and how the environment impacted their behaviour.”

The international team analysed and compared dental plaque samples from four Neanderthals found at the cave sites of Spy in Belgium and El Sidrón in Spain. These four samples range from 42,000 to around 50,000 years old and are the oldest dental plaque ever to be genetically analysed.

“We found that the Neandertals from Spy Cave consumed woolly rhinoceros and European wild sheep, supplemented with wild mushrooms,” says Professor Alan Cooper, Director of ACAD. “Those from El Sidrón Cave on the other hand showed no evidence for meat consumption, but appeared instead to have a largely vegetarian diet, comprising pine nuts, moss, mushrooms and tree bark – showing quite different lifestyles between the two groups.”

“One of the most surprising finds, however, was in a Neanderthal from El Sidrón, who suffered from a dental abscess visible on the jawbone. The plaque showed that he also had an intestinal parasite that causes acute diarrhoea, so clearly he was quite sick. He was eating poplar, which contains the pain killer salicylic acid (the active ingredient of aspirin), and we could also detect a natural antibiotic mould (Penicillium) not seen in the other specimens.”

“Apparently, Neanderthals possessed a good knowledge of medicinal plants and their various anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, and seem to be self-medicating. The use of antibiotics would be very surprising, as this is more than 40,000 years before we developed penicillin. Certainly our findings contrast markedly with the rather simplistic view of our ancient relatives in popular imagination.”

Neanderthals, ancient and modern humans also shared several disease-causing microbes, including the bacteria that cause dental caries and gum disease. The Neandertal plaque allowed reconstruction of the oldest microbial genome yet sequenced – Methanobrevibacter oralis, a commensal that can be associated with gum disease. Remarkably, the genome sequence suggests Neandertals and humans were swapping pathogens as recently as 180,000 years ago, long after the divergence of the two species.

The team also noted how rapidly the oral microbial community has altered in recent history. The composition of the oral bacterial population in Neanderthals and both ancient and modern humans correlated closely with the amount of meat in the diet, with the Spanish Neanderthals grouping with chimpanzees and our forager ancestors in Africa. In contrast, the Belgian Neanderthal bacteria were similar to early hunter gatherers, and quite close to modern humans and early farmers.

“Not only can we now access direct evidence of what our ancestors were eating, but differences in diet and lifestyle also seem to be reflected in the commensal bacteria that lived in the mouths of both Neanderthals and modern humans,” says Professor Keith Dobney, from the University of Liverpool.

“Major changes in what we eat have, however, significantly altered the balance of these microbial communities over thousands of years, which in turn continue to have fundamental consequences for our own health and well-being. This extraordinary window on the past is providing us with new ways to explore and understand our evolutionary history through the microorganisms that lived in us and with us.” 

Medicine at El Sidrón

While studies have shown that one of the El Sidrón individuals was a left-handed adult female, one other individual is considered the ‘Star of the Show’ by the project investigators. As previous studies have pointed out, this male individual appears to have used his mouth to sharpen the blades of stone tools (rather like a third hand), leading to chipping on the enamel and dentine on his upper teeth. Now, the study of his dental plaque has brought new and quite unique information to light.

“We have evidence that this Neanderthal was self-medicated. We have discovered that the plaque preserved in his teeth contains sequences of the pathogen Enterocytozoon bieneusi which causes gastrointestinal problems, including serious diarrhoea. Additionally, thanks to a hole in his jaw we know he had a dental abscess. Both health issues must have caused him intense pain”, Rosas points out.

What is more, this Neanderthal’s dental plaque contains traces of DNA from both the natural antibiotic fungus, penicillium, as well as from poplar, a tree whose bark, roots and leaves contain silicic acid, the active ingredient in well-known medications.

This is not the first nod in this direction, given that the researchers at El Sidrón had already taken part in a study which clearly showed that Neanderthals recognised the curative and nutritional properties of some plants, since they took camomile and yarrow, most probably to help digest heavy meals.

Exchange of microorganisms between Neanderthals and sapiens

The scientific investigators compared Neanderthal oral micro-biotic data with human samples from Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, African nomads, the first Neolithic farmers as well as from present-day man.

“Micro-biotic information is key to learning about the host’s health. Neanderthals for example have fewer potentially pathogenic bacteria than we do. In today’s human population a link has been seen between oral micro-biotics and a spectrum of health issues such as cardiovascular problems, obesity, psoriasis, asthma, colitis and gastroesophageal reflux”, highlights CSIC researcher Carles Lalueza-Fox, who works at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (a CSIC-University of Pompeu Fabra shared centre).

Furthermore, the dental plaque from the individuals at El Sidrón has also made it possible to retrieve the oldest complete microorganism genome: the ancient Methanobrevibacter oralis, which is now classified as a Neanderthal subspecies. The Neanderthal and modern human strains appear to have diverged between 112,000 and 143,000 years ago, after the two evolutionary lines split.

“Today we know that crossbreeding took place on two occasions between sapiens and those Neanderthals who later lived in the Siberian region, but not with those in Asturias. If there was micro-biotic transfer between the Asturias Neanderthals and sapiens, then perhaps a cross-line existed between them, although we are yet to identify that”, concludes Lalueza Fox.

The El Sidrón cave

The El Sidrón cave, situated in Piloña, in Asturias in northern Spain, has provided the finest Neanderthal collection in the Iberian Peninsula and is one of the most active archaeological dig sites in the world. Discovered in 1994, around 2,500 skeletal remains from at least 13 individuals of both sexes and of varying ages who lived there around 49,000 years ago have been recovered.

The multidisciplinary team which worked at El Sidrón consisted of palaeontologist Antonio Rosas from CSIC’s National Natural Science Museum, the geneticist, Carles Lalueza-Fox, from the CSIC / Institute of Evolutionary Biology’s Pompeu Fabra University mixed centre, and the archaeologist, Marco de la Rasilla, from the University of Oviedo in Asturias.

At El Sidrón, the team developed a pioneering protocol, known as ‘clean excavation’, which minimises the risk of contaminating the early DNA with that of modern-day human DNA from the researchers working on the cave excavation. This allowed both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA to be extracted from teeth and skeletal remains. (Spanish National Research Council)

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Article Sources: Edited and adapted from press releases of the University of Adelaide and the Spanish National Research Council.

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