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Israeli researchers raised a glass Wednesday to celebrate a long-brewing project of making beer and mead using yeasts extracted from ancient clay vessels —some over 5,000 years old.

By ILAN BEN ZION

Apnews.com

 

Archaeologists and microbiologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority and four Israeli universities teamed up to study yeast colonies found in microscopic pores in pottery fragments. The shards were found at Egyptian, Philistine and Judean archaeological sites in Israel spanning from 3,000 BC to the 4th century BC.

The scientists are touting the brews made from “resurrected” yeasts as an important step in experimental archaeology, a field that seeks to reconstruct the past in order to better understand the flavor of the ancient world.

“What we discovered was that yeast can actually survive for a very, very long time without food,” said Hebrew University microbiologist Michael Klutstein. “Today we are able to salvage all these living organisms that live inside the nanopores and to revive them and study their properties.”

Beer was a staple of the daily diet for the people of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Early Egyptian texts refer to a variety of different brews, including “iron beer,” ″friend’s beer,” and “beer of the protector.”

The yeast samples came from nearly two dozen ceramic vessels found in excavations around the country, including a salvage dig in central Tel Aviv, a Persian-era palace in southern Jerusalem and ’En Besor, a 5,000-year-old Egyptian brewery near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. The project was spearheaded by Hebrew University microbiologist Ronen Hazan and antiquities authority archaeologist Yitzhak Paz.

Other researchers of ancient beers, such as University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Patrick McGovern, have concocted drinks based on ancient recipes and residue analysis of ceramics. But the Israeli scientists say this is the first time fermented drinks have been made from revived ancient yeasts.

Aren Maeir, a Bar Ilan University archaeologist, excavates at Tel es-Safi, the biblical city of Gath, where ancient Philistine beer pots yielded yeasts used to brew a beer offered to journalists. He likened the revival of long-dormant yeast to the resurrection of ancient beasts fictionalized in “Jurassic Park,” but only to a point.

“In Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs eat the scientists,” he said. “Here, the scientists drink the dinosaurs.”

“It opens up a whole new field of the possibility that perhaps other microorganisms survived as well, and you can identify foods such as cheese, wine, pickles,” opening a portal into tasting cultures of the past, he said.

For this initial experiment, the team paired up with a Jerusalem craft brewer to make a basic modern-style ale using yeast extracted from the pots. The ale had a thick white head, with a caramel color and a distinctly funky nose. The mead, made using yeast extracted from a vessel found in the ruins of a palace near Jerusalem that contained honey wine roughly 2,400 years ago, was champagne bubbly and dry, with a hint of green apple.

The beer incorporates modern ingredients, like hops, that were not available in the ancient Middle East — but it’s the revived yeast that provides much of the flavor.

“We tried to recreate some of the old flavors that people in this area were consuming hundreds and thousands of years ago,” said Shmuel Naky, a craft brewer from the Jerusalem Beer Center, who helped produce the beer and mead. Yeasts, he said, “have a very crucial impact on flavor.”

Naky described the beer as “spicy, and somewhat fruity, and it’s very complex in flavor,” all attributes produced by the ancient yeast.

Genome sequencing of the yeast colonies extracted from the pots showed that the ancient strain of yeast was different from the yeast used in beer-making today, but similar to those still used to make traditional Zimbabwean beer and Ethiopian tej, a type of honey wine.

The researchers said their next aim is to pair the resurrected yeasts with ancient beer recipes to better reproduce drinks from antiquity.

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New scientist.com

By Michael Le Page

Did ancient Egyptian children compete to see who could spit seeds the furthest as they ate watermelons? It seems likely, because thanks to some DNA detective work we now know for sure that the ancient Egyptians ate domesticated watermelons with sweet, red flesh.

The wild watermelons found in parts of Africa are nothing like the domesticated varieties. They are small, round and have white flesh with a very bitter taste due to compounds called cucurbitacins. There’s long been debate about when and where they were domesticated, with some suggesting it took place in south Africa or west Africa.

However, pictures on the walls of at least three ancient Egyptian tombs depict what look like watermelons – including one that looks strikingly like modern varieties (pictured below). And in the 19th century, watermelon leaves were found placed on a mummy in a tomb dating back around 3500 years.

When botanist Susanne Renner at the University of Munich, Germany, learned about these leaves, she realised their DNA might reveal what the ancient melons were like. She also discovered that some of the leaves had been sent to the famed botanist Joseph Hooker, then head of Kew Gardens in London. “It was my love of the old literature,” she says.

We’ve been enjoying watermelons for thousands of years
age fotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

 

Mark Nesbitt at Kew gave Renner’s team a tiny sample of one leaf. He had trouble opening the display case containing the leaves, she says, as it had not been opened since the leaves were first placed in it in 1876.

The ancient DNA was then sequenced by Renner’s colleague Guillaume Chomicki, now at the University of Oxford. The team were only able to get a partial genome sequence, but it includes two crucial genes that reveal what these melons were like. “We were so lucky,” says Renner.

One of these genes controls the production of the bitter cucurbitacins. In the 3500-year-old melon, there was a mutation that disabled this gene, meaning it had sweet flesh just like modern varieties.

The other gene codes for an enzyme that converts the red pigment lycopene – the same pigment that makes tomatoes red – into another substance. This gene was also disabled by a mutation, meaning lycopene accumulates and the fruit would have red flesh.

What the team can’t tell from the partial sequence is how large the melons were and whether they had an elongated shape or round shape. But one of the ancient Egyptian pictures shows what appears to be an elongated melon, so it seems farmers had bred watermelons with most if not all of the key features at least 3500 years ago.

The DNA also reveals that the ancient melon was closely related to a sweet watermelon with white flesh still grown in the Darfur region of Sudan. That suggests the watermelon was first grown by farmers in this region and the use of the plant then spread northwards along the Nile, with further improvements like red flesh occurring along the way.

 

Watermelons are depicted on the walls of at least three ancient Egyptian tombs
Courtesy of Renner, Perez-Escobar,Silber,Nesbitt,Preick,Hofreiter,Chomicki

 

 

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An international team has analyzed eight prehistoric individuals, including the first genome-wide data from a 15,000-year-old Anatolian hunter-gatherer, and found that the first Anatolian farmers were direct descendants of local hunter-gatherers. These findings provide support for archaeological evidence that farming was adopted and developed by local hunter-gatherers, rather than being introduced by a large movement of people from another area. Interestingly, the study also indicates a pattern of genetic interactions with neighboring groups.

Source: First Anatolian farmers were local hunter-gatherers that adopted agriculture

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Preservation work on the 1,600-year-old inscription and wine press unearthed at the home of a wealthy Samaritan in Tzur Natan. (Galeb Abu Diab/Israel Antiquities Authority)

 

By Amanda Borschel-Dan

Timesofisrael.com

Rare mosaic attests to the 1,600-year-old holdings of wealthy landowner ‘Master Adios’ in the heartland of a Samaria at war with the encroaching Christian empire

A salvage excavation ahead of the construction of a new neighborhood in the central Israel village of Tzur Natan has unearthed rare written evidence of much earlier occupation — 1,600 years earlier — when the agriculturally fertile area was racked by turmoil and rebellion.

Just outside an ancient wine press in the small southern Sharon Plain settlement, the Israel Antiquities Authority team discovered a well-preserved Greek inscription from the 5th century recording a blessing for one “Master Adios.”

According to Prof. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who deciphered the inscription, the short inscription reads, “Only God help the beautiful property of Master Adios, amen.”

Archaeological and historical evidence point to Adios as being a wealthy Samaritan landowner. Previous excavations at the site have also uncovered an ancient Samaritan synagogue that was converted into a church in the 6th century — just after the height of the Samaritan settlement in the region.

The current excavation, which ended this week, was conducted on behalf of the Israel Lands Authority and headed by Dr. Hagit Torge, who has dug there previously. In addition to the wine press and inscription, her team discovered “stone quarries with rock-cut depressions used for cultivating grapevines, apparently part of Master Adios’s estate,” according to the IAA press release.

“The inscription was discovered in an impressive winepress that was apparently part of the agricultural estate of a wealthy individual called Adios. This is only the second such winepress discovered in Israel with a blessing inscription associated with the Samaritans. The first was discovered a few years ago in Apollonia near Herzliya,” said Torge.

Master Adios would have been an elite member of the society, said Torge. “The location of the winepress is near the top of Tel Tzur Natan, where remains of a Samaritan synagogue were found with another inscription, and reveals Adios’ high status,” said Torge.

The current excavation adds insight into a previous well-documented one conducted by the Texas Foundation for Archaeological & Historical Research (TFAHR) Tzur Natan in 1989-1994. The TFAHR dig concentrated on a Samaritan agricultural-industrial complex, which was home to a donkey-mill for grinding wheat that the IAA release states was incised with a seven-branch candelabrum, and the aforementioned synagogue that was later converted into a Christian monastery and church. According to the detailed excavation report on Tzur Natan, there is ample evidence of agricultural activity in the region for millennia.

The erosion of the bedrock creates soil that is “especially good for vines and olives,” according to the report. Nearby is an ancient water source, the Springs of Dardar, which has aided the region’s continuous settlement since the pre-Neolithic period (see this 2007 excavation report) through the Ottoman era, during which the tomb of Sheikh Musharaf was constructed and other graves were dug around it (see the 2016 report). The current Tzur Natan settlement was founded in 1966 and is very close to the Green Line, or the de facto border with the West Bank.

Located a mere 18 kilometers from the Mediterranean coast, there was noted settlement activity at Tzur Natan during the Iron Age (10th-7th centuries BCE), in which two small villages were inhabited in the area and left remains of wine and olive presses. Later, during the Roman and Byzantine eras (2nd-5th centuries CE), the area was heavily cultivated. At that time some 120 wine presses, 50 olive presses, 50 cisterns and multitudes of agricultural terraces were noted in the region, according to the 1994 report.

These groups were repeatedly found every 100-200 meters… It was thus concluded that in this period the settlement was inhabited by farmers who own their own land and cut their own installations into their individual plots,” states the 1994 report. And the people who settled this land, were the Samaritans, found the Texas team’s archaeologists.

According to TFAHR archaeologist and historian Dr. William J. Neidinger, the Samaritans’ historical origins are not completely clear. One school of thought says they were brought to the Land of Israel by the conquering Assyrians. Another portrays them as peoples living in Israel during the time of the Assyrian conquest, who intermarried with Israelites who were not expelled, and began to worship the same God in a slightly different manner.

The animosity between Jews and Samaritans is clear in the historical record, however, according to Neidinger. Few Samaritans participated in the Jewish Revolt against the Romans (which ended in the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple), and none joined the Second Jewish Revolt (132-35). Following the second uprising, in fact, Samaritans often were granted or occupied land from which Jewish farmers were expelled.

The Samaritan community prospered through the 3rd and 4th centuries, until the rise of Christianity during the Byzantine era, which spelled the beginning of the end for the community. Today it only has a small foothold, at Mount Gerizim and in Holon.

After religious persecution and desecration of their holy sites, the Samaritan community embarked upon a series of rebellions that began in 415 CE and continued off and on until 636. According to Neidinger, the most serious rebellion was in 529, which is noted in the annals of the historian Procopius.

A rebellion, states Neidinger, requires capital as well as willing, armed men. That riddle was probed during the Texas team’s excavation at Tzur Natan, which gave insight to the potential wealth amassed by the Samaritan community, he wrote.

The newly discovered estate, wine press and inscription in praise of a wealthy lord, add a further layer of understanding to the Samaritan culture of this “rebellious era,” some 1,600 years ago.

 

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Archaeologists think that pottery artifacts at an ancient winery were used for daily activities by the people who worked there.
Credit: Ministry of Antiquities, Arab Republic of Egypt

By Mindy Weisberger,

Livescience.com

 

Archaeologists recently uncovered ancient storage rooms in a 2,000-year-old winery, at a site in Egypt’s Nile Delta to the north of Cairo.

Inside these rooms — which appeared to be climate-controlled for keeping wine — archaeologists also found coins, pots used in winemaking and other pottery objects, said officials with the Ministry of Antiquities for the Arab Republic of Egypt (MOA), who shared the find in a Facebook post today.

The rooms were linked to a larger winery complex, which had already been partly unearthed during earlier excavations. Based on evidence gathered during this latest dig, experts suspect that there may be additional buildings nearby, which housed the winery’s employees and their supervisors thousands of years ago, according to the Facebook post

The winery was built in what is now the Beheira governorate on Egypt’s northern coast, during the Greco-Roman era — which lasted from the fourth century B.C. to the seventh century A.D., the Associated Press reported. During that time, this region of the Nile Delta was renowned for producing some of the finest wine in Egypt, Ayman Ashmawy, head of ancient Egyptian artifacts at MOA, said on Facebook.

Walls that made up the newfound storage chambers were thick and built from mud bricks; in some places, the walls incorporated limestone slabs of different sizes. This building technique probably helped to cool the chamber and regulate the temperature of the stored wine, Mostafa Waziri, general secretary of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said on Facebook.

A set of kilns and assorted pottery artifacts associated with daily activities was found alongside coins that spanned centuries: from the time of Ptolemy I Soter, a successor of Alexander the Great who ruled Egypt from 323 B.C. to 285 B.C., to the Islamic conquest from A.D. 639 to A.D. 646, MOA reported.

Archaeologists also found painted shards that may have once covered a building’s walls, as well as fragments of a mosaic layer that could have decorated the floor. These decorative elements hint at the presence of yet another building in the winery complex — possibly a residential structure for people who worked there, Ashmawy said.

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11,500 years ago in what is now northeast Jordan, people began to live alongside dogs and may also have used them for hunting, a new study from the University of Copenhagen shows. The archaeologists suggest that the introduction of dogs as hunting aids may explain the dramatic increase of hares and other small prey in the archaeological remains at the site.

Source: 11,500-year-old animal bones in Jordan suggest early dogs helped humans hunt

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Vanilla

 

 

Original article:

Archaeology.org

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

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