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Original article:

Sciencedaily.com

Citron

 

The fascinating find came to light in an investigation into a bizarre acidless mutation which makes citrus juice 1000 times less acidic.

John Innes Centre researchers used genetic analysis to trace the acidless mutations in citron, the first citrus species to be cultivated in the Mediterranean.

“Some people thought that this was a recent mutation that originated in Corsica, or somewhere in the Mediterranean, but we have found that this is not new. It’s an ancient mutation that is present in Chinese fingered citrons known as Buddha’s Hands and those used in the Sukkot Jewish ritual,” explains Dr Eugenio Butelli of the John Innes Centre and first author of the paper.

The acidless mutations have captivated botanists and breeders for centuries and appear in many citrus varieties including citron, sweet lime, limetta, lemon and sweet orange.

Acidless citrus fruit have also lost the ability to produce anthocyanin pigments, that give a blush of dark red to leaves, flowers and, sometimes, flesh.

The researchers identified a gene, which they called Noemi, as the key factor behind the regulation of fruit acidity. Analysis also revealed that this gene works in partnership with another, named Ruby, to control anthocyanin production.

The study identified specific mutations affecting the Noemi gene in several acidless citrus species and hybrids. These acidless fruits are often referred to as sweet or insipid because of the reduction in fruit acidity and are highly prized citrons (Etrog in Hebrew) used in the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

One of these mutations matched those found in fingered citron varieties first cultivated in China 3300 years ago. This confirmed that this mutation originated before the arrival of citron into the Mediterranean.

Further analysis revealed that the same ancient Noemi allele characteristic of the acidless trait was present in the Yemen citron, an ancient variety traditionally used in the Sukkot tradition since the time of the destruction of the first temple in 587 B.C.E. Another variety traditionally used in the Sukkot ritual, the Greek citron, also bore the same genetic hallmark.

The analysis suggests that the authentic Jewish Etrog used ritually was an acidless one, an idea supported by a reference to “sweet citron” in the Jewish legal text, the Talmud, dating from 200 C.E.

The study which appears in Current Biology illuminates the path of domestication of citron. It supports the view that the spread of citron in Mediterranean regions was facilitated by its adoption in Jewish culture as an important religious symbol. Some scholars speculate that Jews in exile in Babylonia brought the citron back to Palestine.

Why was this sweet, or insipid citrus, with plain white flowers and leaves drained of colour, the chosen fruit?

“Citron was first cultivated for its medicinal properties in China and its rind was used as a medicinal product, not as a food” explains Professor Cathie Martin of the John Innes Centre and a co-author on the study.

“By the time it reached the Mediterranean in Roman times, citron was a luxury item used for its fragrance to keep linen fresh. The presence of white flowers in the acidless mutation seems important because they are a symbol of purity and we speculate that there was a strong selection for the loss of anthocyanins, which normally add colour to leaves and flowers.”

Citron is one of four primary species that make up the citrus genus, a complex group of flowering plants with notable nutritional, medicinal and aromatic value. Despite becoming one of the world’s most economically important fruit crops, its history of evolution and domestication has remained obscure until recently.

The characterisation of Noemi provides researchers with an important genetic marker opening a fascinating landscape for genetic analysis of seeds found amid the burials of the ancient world and fossil remains from even further back in time.

The study also gives researchers the information they need to develop fruit of the future — to modulate their level of acidity and to increase their content of health-protecting anthocyanin compounds.

“If you could introduce these mutations stably in lemon, for example, you could make lemonade which does not need so much added sugar in it, making it healthier to drink and better for growing teeth.” explains Professor Martin.

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I may have already posted this, is so……enjoy anyway

 

Milk vessel

 

Source: When Things Got Cheesy

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Some types of fish roe these days are seen as luxury foods. Perhaps it’s been that way for 6000 years.
Jean-Blaise Hall/Getty Images

 

Original article:

Cosnosmagazine.com

 

Analysis of cooking gunk from six millennia ago reveals a surprisingly sophisticated palate. Andrew Masterson reports.

The meal – or, more likely, the dish, one element of a more varied repast – was simple, but elegantly so. It comprised freshwater carp eggs, cooked in a fish broth.

The top of the earthenware bowl in which it was prepared was sealed with leaves of some sort – the eggs perhaps fried off before the stock was added, the leaves holding in steam and perhaps also adding a note or two of their own.

All up, then, the dish – a fish roe soup a little like a Korean altang, perhaps, or a Thai tom yam khai pla – likely had a pleasing and rounded depth of flavour, a certain delicacy and a beguiling aroma. It would not have been out of place on a menu in any posh restaurant from New York to Tokyo.

Except that this particular meal was cooked almost 6000 years ago, not far from what is these days Berlin.

The ingredients were identified by scientists led by Anna Shevchenko from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology in Dresden, Germany.

They did so by analysing the proteins contained in a thin crust of ancient food gunk found clinging to a small coarse ceramic bowl unearthed at an archaeological site called Friesack 4, in the Brandenburg region. The bowl had previously been radio-carbon dated to around 4300 BCE.

Writing in the journal PLOS One, Shevchenko and her colleagues note that most archaeological approaches to studying historical food substances are unable to definitively identify the species consumed.

Assumptions – often very accurate – thus have to be made on the basis of isotopes, fats and a few common biological markers, as well as indirect evidence, including artefacts, contemporary artworks or written material, the contents of latrines and middens, and so forth.

Protein analysis, a relatively new field called proteomics, however, provides much more detailed results.

Ancient proteins, the authors explain, evince age-specific modifications which allow them to be distinguished from more recent contaminants. Many proteins are also species-specific, permitting source animals and plants to be confidently identified, and changes to their biological properties, wrought by enzymes, enable educated guesses regarding cooking methods and recipes.

And the proof, it seems, if not in the pudding, is at least in the soup tureen. The ceramic bowl tested by the researchers is one of about 150,000 objects so far excavated from the Friesack 4 site. The extensive collection includes many pieces of clay and stoneware, as well as artefacts made from bone, wood, pitch and antlers.

Almost all of the pieces recovered from the site have been dated as coming from the Mesolithic period, which ran from roughly 13,000 to 300 BCE.

Initial protein analysis of the “charred organic deposits” adhering to a group of 12 shards that together comprise an unglazed, smoothed, dark brown, 10-centimetre-high pot known as #3258 indicated an aquatic origin.

In order to properly identify age and species, and to eliminate later contaminants – including human-derived keratins, food particles from the fingers of archaeologists and previous researchers and, it turned out, a speck of hair gel – the samples had to be compared against modern equivalents.

Thus, Shevchenko and colleagues report, fresh carp roe was purchased from a fish farm in Dresden, and 125 milligrams of fish muscle tissue derived from Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) was also sourced.

The latter was boiled for 30 minutes in 300 milligrams of salty water. The result would have been a nice bit of fish stock, but instead of serving it the scientists mixed it with a couple of marker compounds and separated out its components in order to use it as a standard reference.

Once all the tests had been run, the identification of carp roe inside bowl #3258 was unequivocal. The analysis produced no evidence of microorganisms commonly associated with food fermentation, so it is very likely that the eggs were fresh when they went into the pot.

Fish roe, the researchers note, can be consumed “grilled, fired, marinated, baked, smoked, dried, cured, and also boiled in broth”.

In this case, they suggest, there is clear evidence that it was “thermally processed”, but more specific assumptions about preparation method are possible. It is likely, they add, that it was “cooked in a small volume of water or fish broth, for example by poaching on embers”.

Electron microscopy carried out on the pot itself revealed an organic crust around the rim, suggesting that it was “probably capped with leaves”. Alas, the plant species could not be determined, leaving moot the question of whether Stone Age cooks used the material just to keep the heat in, or to add another flavour profile to the dish.

A crust from another bowl subjected to proteomic analysis by Shevchenko and her colleagues suggested it had been used to cook “pork with bones, sinews or skin”.

All up, the evidence gathered from the Friesack 4 ceramics suggests that stereotypic images of Mesolithic hunters chowing down on great hunks of meat cooked brutally in camp fires are substantially wrong.

For some at least, poached caviar accompanied by boar spare ribs was perhaps a more likely meal.

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Original article:

Popular archaeology

CNRS—At the foot of the hill on which sits the ancient city of Cumae, in the region of Naples, Priscilla Munzi, CNRS researcher at the Jean Bérard Centre (CNRS-EFR), and Jean-Pierre Brun, professor at the Collège de France, are exploring a Roman-era necropolis. They now reveal the latest discovery to surface in the archaeological dig they have led since 2001: a painted tomb from the 2nd century B.C. In excellent condition, the tomb depicts a banquet scene, fixed by pigments.

Twice the size of Pompeii, the ancient city of Cumae is located 25 km west of Naples on the Tyrrhenian Sea facing the island of Ischia, at the Campi Flegrei Archaeological Park. Ancient historians considered Cumae the oldest Ancient Greek settlement in the western world. Founded in the latter half of the 8th century B.C. by Greeks from Euboea, the settlement grew quickly and prospered over time.

In recent years, French researchers have focused on an area where a Greek sanctuary, roads and a necropolis were found. Among the hundreds of ancient sepulchers unearthed since 2001, they have discovered a series of vaulted burial chambers made of tuff, a volcanic stone found in the area. People entered the tomb through a door in the façade sealed with a large stone block. The space inside was generally composed of a chamber with three vaults or funerary beds. The tombs were raided in the 19th century, but recovered remains and traces of funerary furnishings, which archaeologists have used to date the tombs to the second century B.C., indicate the high social status of those buried within.

Until now, only tombs painted red or white had been found, but in June 2018 researchers discovered a room with exceptionally executed figure painting. A naked servant carrying a jug of wine and a vase is still visible; the banquet’s guests are thought to have been painted on the side walls. Other elements of the banquet can also be distinguished. In addition to the excellent state of conservation of the remaining plaster and pigments, such a décor in a tomb built in that period is rare; its “unfashionable” subject matter was in vogue one or two centuries earlier. This discovery is also an opportunity to trace artistic activity over time at the site.

To preserve the fresco, archaeologists removed it, along with fragments found on the ground, in order to re-assemble the décor like a puzzle.

The digs were carried out with financial support from the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Ecole française de Rome and the Fondation du Collège de France. This research is part of a concession granted by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities in partnership with the Phlegraen Fields archaeological site.

 

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Analysis of fatty residue in pottery from the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia revealed evidence of fermented dairy products — soft cheeses and yogurts — from about 7,200 years ago, according to an international team of researchers.

Source: Evidence of 7,200-year-old cheese making found on the Dalmatian Coast

the above article is similar to the post yesterday but I thought it worthwhile to give everyone both to read. JLP

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The dig site where the traces of cheese were found

 

original article:

By Kenneth Macdonald

BBC.com

Scientists have found traces of what they believe is the world’s oldest cheese.

It was made 7,000 years ago in what is now Croatia.

An international team, including Heriot-Watt university researchers, say it led to the transformation of Europe.

It is neither a sturdy cheddar nor a cheeky brie, rather some traces of fatty acids found on fragments of pottery from an archaeological site at Pokrovnik on the Dalmatian coast.

But it is enough for the researchers from Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh and Pennsylvania State universities, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Šibenik City Museum to conclude the sieve-like pottery objects were used for straining curds out of whey to make cheese.

Traces of ancient milk fats have been found before but the new study has used carbon dating to produce a definitive chemical diagnosis that the Pokrovnik samples are from the cheese making process.

The team says their discovery means humans were making cheese 2,000 years earlier than previously thought, pushing the date back from the Bronze Age to the Neolithic era.

Cheese making was a breakthrough technology which transformed humanity.

More portable and longer lasting than liquid milk, it enabled early farming to spread into cooler central and northern areas.

Dr Clayton Magill, a research fellow at the Heriot-Watt’s Lyell Centre, says the discovery is both astounding and delightful.

‘Reduced infant mortality’

He is sure cheese lovers everywhere will be interested to find out more about the origins and antiquity of their cheese.

“We know that the consumption of milk and dairy products would have had many advantages for early farming populations because milk, yogurt and cheese are a good source of calories, protein and fat,” Dr Magill said.

“They could have even been reliable food between harvests or during droughts and famines.”

Previous archaeological finds have offered tantalising clues that humans made cheese in the New Stone Age.

Some Neolithic objects have been tentatively identified as strainers or cheese graters but this is the first direct evidence that milk was being fermented.

Pennsylvania State’s associate professor of anthropology Dr Sarah McClure says that while young children of the era could drink milk, many adult farmers were lactose intolerant.

Cheese changed that because adults could digest it.

“We suggest that milk and cheese production among Europe’s early farmers reduced infant mortality,” Dr McClure says, “and helped stimulate demographic shifts that propelled farming communities to expand to northern latitudes.”

How cheese was first produced is lost in prehistory. One theory is that before pottery vessels were developed, milk was stored in bladders made from animals’ stomachs. The rennet in the skins would have reacted with the milk to create curds and whey.

 

 

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East side of the Barbegal mill complex looking north. The buildings on the left are the millbuildings where the grain was milled, the higher walls and basins on the right are the waterbasins of the mill complex that housed the water wheels. Robert Fabre, Saint Etienne du Grès, France

original article:

Populararchaeology

New information about one of the first industrial complexes in history revealed.

Analyzing carbonate deposits from a second century AD Roman watermill site – thought to be one of the first industrial complexes in human history – has revealed characteristics of the mill, including its nonuse for several months of the year. These findings suggest that the Barbegal mill site was not the Roman city of Arelate’s main flour supplier as hypothesized, but rather it was likely used to produce non-perishable “ship’s bread” for the many ancient ships that visited the major ports of Arles during certain times of the year. These findings shed light on the variable uses of ancient mills, as well as on their maintenance and on the destruction of the related sites, information that has otherwise been hard to decipher for these ancient formations. Over the past decades, the unearthing of Roman mill sites has offered proof of notable innovation during the Roman times, especially in the field of hydraulics. A key example of such a watermill is located at Barbegal, in southern France. However, since its discovery in 1937, little has been revealed about its unique history. Gül Sürmelihindi and colleagues sought to discern more about the mill’s use by analyzing 142 carbonate deposits from the complex. Formed on the now decayed wooden parts of the watermill that had been in contact with karst springs, these carbonates can preserve information of the environment of the complex. The fragment samples can be split into two groups: large carbonate slabs that formed in water channels that turned the wheel (millrun flumes) and deposits that had formed on the wooden part of the wheel. Stable isotope analyses of oxygen and carbon showed a distinct, cyclical pattern in the deposits, suggesting interruptions of the water flow during the late summer and autumn, a pattern of activity in accordance with Roman shipping activities, the authors say. Roman shipping usually halted in late autumn, meaning flour production to support shipping could have subsided then, too. Thus, they propose that the mill’s main use was not for widely consumed flour but specifically to produce non-perishable ship’s bread.

 

Mill basin of the Barbegal mill with carbonate deposits.
Robert Fabre, Saint Etienne du Grès, France

 

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