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Vanilla

 

 

Original article:

Archaeology.org

Source: Possible Vanilla Chemicals Detected in Bronze Age Tomb in Israel

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Giza Plateau 2018

 

Original Article:

By DANIEL WEISS

Archaeology.org

 

A large number of livestock bones found in a mound of settlement debris on Egypt’s Giza Plateau are offering possible insights into the diet of workers who toiled there some 4,500 years ago. Amid the debris, archaeologists from Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA) have unearthed sealings dating to the reign of the 4th Dynasty pharaoh Khafre (r. ca. 2520–2494 B.C.), along with chunks of painted plaster suggesting the material is from wealthy settlements.

They also found a concentration of long, meat-bearing sheep and goat bones, many of whose ends had been snapped off. Two Egyptian archaeologists taking part in a field school at the site immediately recognized that the snapped-off ends were likely used to make gelatin soup, a cheap source of protein enjoyed to this day in Egypt. AERA director Mark Lehner suggests the meat from the bones was likely reserved for the area’s elites, while workers—quite possibly those who built Khafre’s pyramid, the second largest in Giza—were allotted the bone ends to make a protein-rich stew.

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Jaw with a durophagous dentition consisting of teeth with thick enamel of the gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata): The large molariform tooth was used for oxygen isotope analysis and to estimate the size of the fish. photo/©: Guy Sisma-Ventura, Israel

original article:

Popular-archaeology.com

 

JOHANNES GUTENBERG UNIVERSITAET MAINZ—Some 3,500 years ago, there was already a brisk trade in fish on the shores of the southeastern Mediterranean Sea. This conclusion follows from the analysis of 100 fish teeth that were found at various archeological sites in what is now Israel. The saltwater fish from which these teeth originated is the gilthead sea bream, which is also known as the dorade. It was caught in the Bardawil lagoon on the northern Sinai coast and then transported from Egypt to sites in the southern Levant. This fish transport persisted for about 2,000 years, beginning in the Late Bronze Age and continuing into the early Byzantine Period, roughly 300 to 600 AD. “Our examination of the teeth revealed that the sea bream must have come from a very saline waterbody, containing much more salt than the water in the Mediterranean Sea,” said Professor Thomas Tütken of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The geoscientist participated in the study together with colleagues from Israel and Göttingen. The Bardawil lagoon formed 4,000 years ago, when the sea level finally stabilized after the end of the last Ice Age. The lagoon was fished intensively and was the point of origin of an extensive fish trade.

As demonstrated by archeological finds, fishing was an important economic factor for many ancient cultures. In the southern Levant, the gilthead sea bream with the scientific name of Sparus aurata was already being fished by local costal fishermen 50,000 years ago. More exotic fish, such as the Nile perch, were already being traded between Egypt and Canaan over 5,000 years ago. However, the current study shows the extent to which the trade between the neighbors increased in the Late Bronze Age and continued for 2,000 years into the Byzantine Period. “The Bardawil lagoon was apparently a major source of fish and the starting point for the fish deliveries to Canaan, today’s Israel, even though the sea bream could have been caught there locally,” stated co-author Professor Andreas Pack from the University of Göttingen.

Fish teeth document over 2,000 years of trade

Gilthead sea bream are a food fish that primarily feed on crabs and mussels. They have a durophagous dentition with button-shaped teeth that enable them to crush the shells to get at the flesh. For the purposes of the study, 100 large shell-cracking teeth of gilthead sea bream were examined. The teeth originate from 12 archeological sites in the southern Levant, some of which lie inland, some on the coast, and cover a time period from the Neolithic to the Byzantine Period. One approach of the researchers was to analyze the content of the oxygen isotopes ^18O and ^16O in the tooth enamel of the sea bream. The ratio of ^18O to ^16O provides information on the evaporation rate and thus on the salt content of the surrounding water in which the fish lived. In addition, the researchers were able to estimate the body size of the fish on the basis of the size of the shell-cracking teeth.

The analyses showed that some of the gilthead sea bream originated from the southeastern Mediterranean but that roughly three out of every four must have lived in a very saline body of water. The only water that comes into question in the locality is that of the Bardawil lagoon, the hypersaline water of which has a salt content of 3.9 to 7.4 percent, providing the perfect environment for the growth of sea bream. The Bardawil lagoon on the Sinai coast is approximately 30 kilometers long, 14 kilometers wide, and has a maximum depth of 3 meters. It is separated from the Mediterranean by a narrow sand bar.

There was a mainland route from there to Canaan, but the fish were probably first dried and then transported by sea,” added Tütken. Even back then, sea bream were probably a very popular food fish, although it is impossible to estimate actual quantities consumed. However, it became apparent that the fish traded from the period of the Late Bronze Age were significantly smaller than in the previous era.

According to the researchers, this reduction in body size is a sign of an increase in the intensity of fishing that led to a depletion of stocks, which is to be witnessed also in modern times. “It would seem that fishing and the trade of fish expanded significantly, in fact to such a degree that the fish did not have the chance to grow as large,” continued Tütken, pointing out that this was an early form of the systematic commercial exploitation of fish, a type of proto-aquaculture, which persisted for some 2,000 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Courtesy Prof. Danny Nadel

Jewishpress.com

 

The earliest evidence of alcohol production, some 13,000 years ago, was discovered in the Rakefet Cave in Mount Carmel, in a joint study by researchers from the University of Haifa and Stanford University. The alcohol, probably a kind of beer made from fermented grains, was produced by the Natufians, who lived in the region at that time. This brewery precedes by five thousand years the earliest site to date, in northern China.

The Epipaleolithic Natufian culture existed from around 13,050 to 7,550 BCE in the Levant. The culture was unusual in that it supported a sedentary or semi-sedentary population even before the introduction of agriculture. The Natufian communities may be the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements in the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. The Natufians are believed to have founded Jericho, considered by many to be the oldest city in the world. Some evidence suggests deliberate cultivation of cereals, specifically rye, by the Natufian culture, at Tell Abu Hureyra, in northern Syria, the site of earliest evidence of agriculture in the world. The world’s oldest evidence of bread-making has been found at Shubayqa, a 14,500 year old site in Jordan’s northeastern desert.

Mount Carmel was one of the most important and crowded areas in the system of Natufian settlements, and sites in the Carmel and surrounding areas have been studied by archaeologists from the University of Haifa for decades.

“The Rakefet Cave does not stop offering new discoveries about the wonderful Natufian culture,” said Prof. Danny Nadel of the Zinman Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa, who leads the excavations. “We have already discovered that they buried their dead and that they lined the graves with a bed of flowers. We discovered their technological capabilities through a variety of tools and now we find that they produced beer and consumed it, apparently at special ceremonies.”

Another finding at the Rakefet Cave site were dozens of craters carved several centimeters deep in the rock, dating back 13,000 years.

The new study, a collaboration between Prof. Danny Rosenberg of the ancient stone tools laboratory at the Zinman Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa and researchers from Stanford University, focused on a microscopic examination of the remains found in these three craters, of starches and phytoliths (rigid, microscopic structures made of silica, found in some plant tissues and persisting after the decay of the plant) containing traces of precipitation.

The first test showed evidence of several different grains stored in the same craters, including wheat, barley, oatmeal, legumes and flax.

A microscopic examination two of the three craters showed microscopic remains of starch grains that underwent morphological changes which correspond to changes in starch during fermentation. The evidence shows that the craters were used to store grains before and after fermentation.

In the third crater, evidence was found that it was used for storage, but also as a receptacle in which grain could be beaten and crushed, a necessary stage in fermentation.

According to the researchers, the grains were apparently stored in baskets that made it easier to remove and feed the grains into the craters, evidenced by the remnants of fibers found at the bottom of the craters. A microscopic examination showed evidence that the fibers were rotated and processed to fit the pattern of woven baskets.

“The creation of these craters in the stone, and then the necessary actions to produce alcohol required great effort and professionalism, which attests to the great ceremonial importance that the Natufian culture related to the production of alcohol,” Prof. Nadel concluded, speculating that “since they were the first to invest considerable effort in their burial rituals, it is not inconceivable that the production and consumption of alcohol were also part of the Natufian burial ceremonies.”

 

 

 

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Knowledge of the diet of people living in the prehistoric settlement of Çatalhöyük almost 8000 years ago has been complemented in astonishing scope and detail by analyzing proteins from their ceramic bowls and jars. Using this new approach, an international team of researchers has determined that vessels from this early farming site in central Anatolia, in what is now Turkey, contained cereals, legumes, dairy products and meat, in some cases narrowing food items down to specific species.

Source: Cuisine of early farmers revealed by analysis of proteins in pottery from Çatalhöyük

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180344_webThis is the site location and artifacts analyzed. (A) The location of Raqefet Cave and three additional Natufian sites in Mt. Carmel; (B) field photos of the studied boulder mortars (BM1,2) and the location of BM3 on the cave floor (scale bar and arrow: 20 cm); (C) a functional reconstruction of the mortars: a boulder mortar used to store plants in a basket with a stone slab on top, and a bedrock mortar used for pounding and cooking plants and brewing beer.

Source: A Prehistoric Thirst for Craft Beer

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In the necropolis of Saqqara, Egypt, researchers discovered a broken jar containing what appeared to be a hunk of 3,300-year-old cheese — possibly the oldest known cheese in the world.
Credit: Courtesy of Enrico Greco, University of Catania, Italy

 

Original article:

Livescience.com

By Brandon Specktor,

 

If you are still disappointed about being denied the opportunity to drink the toxic red mummy juice unearthed in Egypt last month, we have some good news for you. Researchers have just discovered the world’s oldest cheese (also in Saqqara, Egypt), and it is almost certainly cursed… or at least contaminated.

The cheese in question was discovered among a large cache of broken clay jars inside the tomb of Ptahmes, former mayor of Memphis (ancient Egypt, not Tennessee) and a high-ranking official during the reigns of pharaohs Seti I and Ramesses II. The tomb is thought to have been built in the 13th century B.C., making it — and the cheese within — about 3,300 years old.

Researchers from the University of Catania in Italy and Cairo University in Egypt stumbled upon the cache during an excavation mission in 2013-14. Inside one of the fragmented jars, they noticed a powdery, “solidified whitish mass,” according to a study published online July 25 in the journal Analytical Chemistry. Nearby, they found a scrap of canvas fabric that was likely used to preserve and cover the ancient blob of food. The texture of this fabric suggested that the food had been solid when it was interred alongside Ptahmes a few millennia ago — in other words, the find probably wasn’t a jar of ancient spoiled milk.

To be sure about this, the researchers cut the cheese and took a small sample back to the chemistry lab for analysis. There, the team dissolved the sample in a special solution to isolate the specific proteins inside. The analysis revealed that the cheese sample contained five separate proteins commonly found in Bovidae milk (milk from cows, sheep, goats or buffalo), two of which were exclusive to cow’s milk. The researchers concluded that the sample was probably a “cheese-like product” made from a mixture of cow’s milk and either goat or sheep milk.

“The present sample represents the oldest solid cheese so far discovered,” the researchers wrote in their study.

Of course, this being mummy cheese, there must be a curse attached, right? In this case, that curse might just be a nasty foodborne infection. According to the team’s protein analysis, the cheese also contained a protein associated with Brucella melitensis, a bacterium that causes the highly contagious disease brucellosis. The disease is commonly spread from bovine animals to humans through unpasteurized milk and contaminated meat. Symptoms include severe fever, nausea, vomiting and various other nasty gastrointestinal ailments.

If the cheese is indeed infected with Brucella bacteria, that makes the find the “first biomolecular direct evidence of this disease during the pharaonic period,” the researchers wrote. Further study is required to say for sure whether the protein in question came from a contaminated animal, but in the meantime, we offer this obligatory disclaimer: Please, do not eat the mummy cheese.

 

 

 

 

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