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Source: Eurekalert.org

Living plant varieties reveal ancient migration routes across Eurasia

The emergence of agriculture is one of the most important transitions in the development of human societies, as it allowed the establishment of settled communities, specialization of labour and technological innovation.

One centre of agricultural origins is the Near East, where barley was domesticated around 10,500 years ago, along with wheat and a number of other crops. Archaeological evidence shows that barley cultivation spread to its ecological limits in Europe, North Africa, and Central, South and East Asia, over a period of approximately 6,000 years.

New results published in PLOS ONE today show that different types of barley, suited to different end uses, ecological conditions and cropping regimes, spread via a variety of routes across Eurasia. In many cases, these routes of spread are backed up by archaeological and archaeobotanical evidence.

According to lead author Dr Diane Lister, researcher at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, “These results are based on the genetic analysis of living crops – traditional farmers’ varieties known as ‘landraces’.”

“These landraces were mostly collected during the early 20th century and are maintained in what are known as ‘germplasm’ collections around the world, with many landraces having precise geographical coordinates recorded. Numerous studies have shown that, remarkably, landraces can preserve an ancient and local genetic signature of the initial spread of farming during prehistory, and this is beautifully illustrated in this current study.”

The results indicate that the different eastward routes of spread of each barley population were distinct from each other in a number of ways, reflecting human choice of particular attributes or the effect of environmental adaptation. These different routes include ones to the north and south of the Iranian Plateau; through the Inner Asian Mountain Corridor in Central Asia, possibly connecting up to the Chinese section of the Silk Road; a high altitude spread on the southern edge of the Tibetan Plateau; a high latitude spread through the northern steppe; two distinct spreads into Japan; and a maritime route from South Asia. Previous research has provided increasing numbers of direct radiocarbon dates enabling the different routes to be dated.

Lister describes further, “One barley population is widespread, particularly around the coastlines. This population may have travelled eastwards via a maritime route from South Asia, via Southeast Asia. This particular population is made up of winter-sown varieties of barley, which are thought to be important in rice-growing areas of East Asia, where a crop of rice is commonly grown in the summer months, and barley adapted to winter-sowing regimes can be planted after the rice harvest. The development of multi-cropping practices during prehistory is thought to have greatly increased productivity and stability, enabling more complex societies to develop.”

“Another barley population predominates on the high Tibetan Plateau. This barley has a naked grain, making it a particularly attractive staple, as it doesn’t require the pearling process that hulled barley requires for human consumption. Along with the herding of yak, this naked type of barley is an essential for the Tibetan way of life, and their importance are clearly seen in the offerings of naked barley grains and yak butter in Tibetan Buddhist temples around the region. The staple carbohydrate eaten by the Tibetans is tsampa, made from roasted naked barley flour and mixed with salty Tibetan butter tea.”

Previous research carried out through the Food Globalization in Prehistory project at the University of Cambridge showed that barley cultivation appeared in the Chinese Tibetan Plateau 4,000 years ago, and is thought to have been of essential importance in colonizing the ‘roof of the world’. Some scholars have questioned whether this barley was a product of a local domestication of a wild ancestor separate from those in the Near East. This current study also looked at the genetic relationship between landrace barley, it’s wild progenitor, and weedy varieties. The results show that is unlikely that barley was domesticated in this region, and that ‘wild’ barleys on the plateau are probably weedy derivatives of cultivated barley.

What does this mean for today? Lister concludes, “Barley is an extremely hardy crop, able to grow in regions where other crops are unable to grow, and is an important staple in such environments. Understanding the spread of its cultivation during prehistory, and the various factors that affected its establishment in different regions of Eurasia, will contribute towards our understanding of climate change and its current and future effects on agriculture.”

 

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Lets here it for technology. If not for such advancements, we would never have come this far in our discovery of the foods Paelolithic man really ate. Imagine the discoveries that were just thrown on the  trash heap because archaeologist at the time had no idea plant material could survive this long. Think of the grinding stones that were washed, all their valuable information of the past…gone forever!

Original article:

The guardian.com

Nicola DavisMon 16 Jul 2018 15.00 EDT

Tiny specks of bread found in fireplaces used by hunter-gatherers 14,000 years ago, predating agriculture by thousands of years

Charred crumbs found in a pair of ancient fireplaces have been identified as the earliest examples of bread, suggesting it was being prepared long before the dawn of agriculture.

The remains – tiny lumps a few millimetres in size – were discovered by archaeologists at a site in the Black Desert in north-east Jordan.

Using radiocarbon-dating of charred plant materials found within the hearths, the team found the fireplaces were used just over 14,000 years ago.

“Bread has been seen as a product of agriculturist, settled societies, but our evidence from Jordan now basically predates the onset of plant cultivation … by at least 3,000 years,” said Dr Tobias Richter, co-author of the study from the University of Copenhagen, noting that fully-fledged agriculture in the Levant is believed to have emerged around 8,000 BC.

“So bread was being made by hunter-gatherers before they started to cultivate any plants,” he said.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Richter and colleagues from Denmark and the UK describe how during excavations between 2012 and 2015 they found the crumbs in the fireplaces of a site used by hunter-gatherers known as Natufians, who foraged for wild grains.

Among the remains, the team unearthed small, round tubers of a wetland plant known as club-rush, traces of legumes and plants belonging to the cabbage family, wild cereals including some ground wheat and barley – and 642 small charred lumps.

Analysis of 24 of these lumps revealed they are bread-like – with the others expected to be similar.

“They are charred breadcrumbs, sort of what you might find at the bottom of your toaster at home – the sort of stuff that falls off when you put it on high power,” said Richter.

Further analyses revealed that 15 of the 24 crumbs contain tissues from cereal plants – probably, says Richter, from barley, einkorn wheat or oats.

Some of the crumbs were also found to contain ingredients from other plants, with the team saying club-rush tuber is the most likely candidate.

What’s more, the analysis of the crumbs suggests the flour used to make the bread might have been sieved, while the team say the lack of an oven means the bread was probably baked in the ashes of the fire, or on a hot stone.

The team say the crumbs appear most likely to be from a sort of unleavened flat bread.

While the newly discovered crumbs are now the earliest bread remains found so far, taking the title from remains found at the site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey and dated to about 9,100 years ago, the team say the food might have emerged even earlier.

“Food remains have long been ignored in archaeology, and therefore have not been sufficiently studied,” said Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, first author of the study from the University of Copenhagen. “I’m sure that if we look at older sites, we may find bread-like cereal products during the Paleolithic [for example] 25,000 years ago.”

Richter said it is unlikely the bread found at the Natufian site was consumed as a staple, given it would have been very labour intensive to gather and process the grains. While the team suggest the bread could have been made by the hunter-gatherers for their onward journey, they say other evidence adds weight to the idea it could have been part of a feast or ritual event.

“[The older fireplace] also had a number of gazelle [bones] in it from at least a dozen or more animals as well as water birds and hare,” said Richter. “So it looks like a bit of a meal [shared] between a larger group of people, like a little feast that was then discarded in the fireplace.”

Amy Bogaard, professor of Neolithic and bronze age archaeology at the University of Oxford and who was not involved in the research, described the study as fascinating. “We previously knew that these communities were grinding and preparing plants in various ways, but this study is the first to identify actual bread-like remains of this early date,” she said. “ In terms of food history, it suggests that preparation of flatbread-like foods long predates the establishment of agriculture, and that farming in this region emerged within a pre-established culture of grinding and baking.”

While the team have yet to recreate the recipe, Richter says they have tried bread made with club-rush tubers, offering a clue as to how the ancient bread might have tasted.

“It tastes a little bit salty, so it is probably not to our particular tastes in the present,” he said.

 

 

 

 

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Ancient winepress in Tzippori.

 

By Mara Vigevani/TPS

jewishpress.com

An ancient winepress dating back to the Byzantine period was discovered two weeks ago at the Tzippori National Park in the central Galilee region an during archaeological excavations, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said Sunday.

The excavations, led by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, in cooperation with the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Israel Antiquities Authority, took place in a 3.5 meter deep ancient water reservoir with a ceiling that rests on five arches from the Roman period.

The archaeologists were very surprised when they found the wine press as they had never previously encountered a winepress installed in secondary use in an ancient water reservoir.

“This is the first time we found a wine press in a place that was previously used as a water reservoir. Probably the owners of the vineyards thought it was a convenient location as it was close to their vines,” Dr. Zvika Zuk, chief archaeologist of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority told Tazpit Press Service.

According to the researchers, the water reservoir was adapted to a winepress in the 4th century C.E.

“The winepress was found in the largest water reservoir in the Tzippori National Park, which is part of the impressive water system at the site that also includes long aqueducts that provided water to the ancient city of Tzippori,” Zuk said.

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Minoan Linear A, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae

All-new complete decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 86 (Haghia Triada):

linear-a-haghia-triada-ht-86In the previous post, we witnessed the almost complete decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 95 (Haghia Triada). Now we are presented with a full decipherment down to the last word of HT 86 (Haghia Triada), which is practically a mirror-image of HT 95. This is the first time ever I have succeeded in deciphering two almost identical Linear A tablets inscribed entirely in Old Minoan (OM), the original Minoan substrate language. This constitutes a major advancement in the decipherment of Linear A, all the more so, since DAME & SARU appear on other Linear A tablets from Haghia Triada. So we are making at least some progress in the decipherment of the original Minoan substrate language, Old Minoan (OM).

Here is the decipherment of HT 86:

RECTO:

1. AKARU (in a) field, KUNI…

2. SU = emmer wheat…

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Another interesting read.

Minoan Linear A, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae

Linear A words and ideograms for cereals + general Linear A ideograms:

all Linear A ideograms grainsThe chart above lists almost all of the Linear A words and ideograms for cereals + general Linear A ideograms. The Linear A Semitic words and ideograms for cereals are identical to those found on Linear A tablets HT 86 and HT 95 (Haghia Triada). Simply refer to the previous posts on these two highly significant Linear A tablets to confirm these interpretations. Also found in this chart are general Linear A ideograms, the majority of which are identical to their Linear B counterparts, which should come as no surprise to anyone, considering that the Linear B syllabary is merely a refinement of the Linear A syllabary.

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Original article:

Jewishpress.com

 

Pigeons played a central role some 1,500 years ago in transforming the Byzantine Negev into a flourishing garden, according to a new study conducted at the Zinman Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa and published Wednesday in the journal PlosOne.

The study, which focused on the ancient settlements of Shivta and Sa’adon, found archaeological evidence that the Byzantines in the Negev did not raise their pigeons for food, but to fertilize the dry loess soil and making it more suitable for intensive agriculture.

Loess is made up of fragment of geological detritus, formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust. But despite its lowly origins, loess tends to develop into very rich soils. Under appropriate climatic conditions, it forms some of the most agriculturally productive terrain in the world.

“The pigeon droppings are rich in phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen, which are essential for agriculture and lacking in the loess soil of the Negev,” the researchers noted, adding that “the fact that the pigeon bones we found are much smaller than pigeons grown for meat, along with the nesting materials discovered in the trenches and the location of these within the agricultural fields, indicate that the pigeons were grown without significant human intervention, with people mainly providing them with protection.”

In recent years, a large-scale study has been conducted in the Byzantine Negev communities, led by Prof. Guy Bar-Oz of the University of Haifa, in an attempt to understand, among other things, how the Byzantines managed to maintain an extensive farming system in the desert about 1,500 years ago, and what caused these thriving communities to be abandoned overnight.

In a study published several months ago, the research group presented significant archaeological evidence of the extent of agriculture in the Negev at the time, using the bones of a rodent (Marion), which lives only in more humid environments and is not found in desert.

Now, Dr. Nimrod Marom of the University of Haifa and Tel Hai College, together with Prof. Bar-Oz and Dr. Yotam Tepper of the Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa and Dr. Baruch Rosen of the Volcani Institute, are focusing on the study of the bones of pigeons found in coops in the agricultural areas near the Byzantine settlements.

According to the researchers, pigeon droppings are renowned to be a source of important minerals for agriculture, such as phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen, and in many areas of the world it was customary until recently to use them to improve and fertilize the soil. However, throughout history, pigeons have also been raised for meat. In order to determine main use of the pigeons in the Negev Byzantine colonies, the researchers examined the pigeon bones found in the coops, as well as the chemical composition of the droppings themselves.

The large amount of bones found in the excavations allowed the researchers to identify the average length of the wing, the body structure, and the characteristics of the skull of the pigeons from the Byzantine period, compared to the bones of pigeons of different races from modern times.

The work was based, among other things, on comparing the pigeons from the Negev to the pigeons collected and classified by the father of evolutionary theory Charles Darwin himself. Their bones are stored in the British Museum.

The researchers’ most important discovery was that the pigeons from the Byzantine period were small, muscular and “athletic,” and no different in size from Darwin’s wild pigeons. According to Dr. Marom, a smaller body size is not only a clear indication of the pigeons in question having less meat on their bones, but that they also had a faster metabolism. Simply put: smaller ions produce more guano relative to the food they consume.

The chemical tests conducted in the laboratory showed that the droppings are indeed rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

“In addition to this fact, the coops’ location, in an agricultural area and away from the settlements, strengthens the hypothesis that the pigeons were grown in the coops to produce high quality manure intended to improve the loess soil of the desert,” the researchers concluded.

“The pigeons from Shivta could fly freely and get their food themselves, the guano that was collected on the floor of the coops was used to fertilize fruit trees and vines in the local vineyards and orchards. In addition, we discovered inside the coops a rich botanical finding that included vines, dates, olives, peaches and a variety of wild plants, all scraps of food the pigeons ate,” they added, suggesting “this is additional evidence that the Negev in the Byzantine period was green and blooming.”

 Photo credit: University of Haifa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Takarkori rock shelter. University of Huddersfield

 

Original article:

Popular-archaeology.com

 

UNIVERSITY OF HUDDERSFIELD—By analyzing a prehistoric site in the Libyan desert, a team of researchers from the universities of Huddersfield, Rome and Modena & Reggio Emilia has been able to establish that people in Saharan Africa were cultivating and storing wild cereals 10,000 years ago. In addition to revelations about early agricultural practices, there could be a lesson for the future, if global warming leads to a necessity for alternative crops.

The importance of the find came together through a well-established official collaboration between the University of Huddersfield and the University of Modena & Reggio Emilia.

The team has been investigating findings from an ancient rock shelter at a site named Takarkori in south-western Libya. It is desert now, but earlier in the Holocene age[our present age], some 10,000 years ago, it was part of the “green Sahara” and wild cereals grew there. More than 200,000 seeds – in small circular concentrations – were discovered at Takarkori, which showed that hunter-gatherers developed an early form of agriculture by harvesting and storing crops.

But an alternative possibility was that ants, which are capable of moving seeds, had been responsible for the concentrations. Dr Stefano Vanin, the University of Huddersfield’s Reader in Forensic Biology and a leading entomologist in the forensic and archaeological fields, analyzed a large number of samples, now stored at the University of Modena & Reggio Emilia. His observations enabled him to demonstrate that insects were not responsible and this supports the hypothesis of human activity in collection and storage of the seeds.

The investigation at Takarkori provides the first-known evidence of storage and cultivation of cereal seeds in Africa. The site has yielded other key discoveries, including the vestiges of a basket, woven from roots, that could have been used to gather the seeds. Also, chemical analysis of pottery from the site demonstrates that cereal soup and cheese were being produced.

A new article that describes the latest findings and the lessons to be learned appears in the journal Nature Plants. Titled Plant behaviour from human imprints and the cultivation of wild cereals in Holocene Sahara, it is co-authored by Anna Maria Mercuri, Rita Fornaciari, Marina Gallinaro, Savino di Lernia and Dr Vanin.

One of the article’s conclusions is that although the wild cereals, harvested by the people of the Holocene Sahara, are defined as “weeds” in modern agricultural terms, they could be an important food of the future.

“The same behavior that allowed these plants to survive in a changing environment in a remote past makes them some of the most likely possible candidates as staple resources in a coming future of global warming. They continue to be successfully exploited and cultivated in Africa today and are attracting the interest of scientists searching for new food resources,” state the authors.

Research based on the findings at Takarkori continues. Dr Vanin is supervising PhD student Jennifer Pradelli – one of a cohort of doctoral candidates at the University of Huddersfield funded by a £1 million award from the Leverhulme Trust – and she is analyzing insect evidence in order to learn more about the evolution of animal breeding at the site.

 

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