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On this date ten years ago…

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This date ten years ago…

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Ancient fridg

 

Hurriyetdailynews.com

 

 

 

A farmer in eastern Turkey uncovered a pre-modern food storage device on July 24 while plowing his field.

The device, dating back to the late 1700s, was taken under protection by the Archeology and Ethnography Museum of Elazığ province, according to local officials.

“It is a natural refrigerator produced under contemporary conditions to preserve food for people centuries ago,” Baskil District Mayor İhsan Akmurat said.

The interior of the 1.4 meter-tall (4.6 feet) container is plastered with concrete mortar, and the exterior made of red clay to hold sustain humidity keep food fresh in the compartment.

Akmurat noted that the discovery shows the region was once an important residential area.

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Maximilian Blackley
Adding the liquid yeast sample to flour made from ancient grains

Maximilian Blackley
The final product had a “cake-like” crumb, Mr Blakeley says

 

By Alix Kroeger BBC News

BBC.com

I have to say this is an exciting article for bread and ancient food lovers. My only wish is that they used Emmer grain, which is what the ancient Egyptian’s would have used, instead of Einkorn. JLP

 

The yeast microbes had been asleep for more than 5,000 years, buried deep in the pores of Egyptian ceramics, by the time Seamus Blackley came along and used them to bake a loaf of bread.

An amateur Egyptologist and one of the inventors of the Xbox game console, he’s also a keen hobby baker who routinely posts pictures of his breadmaking projects on social media.

He has, he admits, made his fair share of “horrible, rock-like loaves”. But this experiment was in a different league altogether.

The first step was to extract the yeast without destroying the vessels where it was held. With the help of archaeologist Dr Serena Love, Mr Blackley gained access to the collections of Egyptian beer- and bread-making vessels held in two museums in the US city of Boston.

And he enlisted the help of microbiologist Richard Bowman, a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa, to extract and identify the strains of yeast.

Mr Bowman injected nutrients into the ceramics, feeding the dormant yeasts and extracting the resulting liquid. Most of the samples were sent off for laboratory analysis, but Mr Blackley kept one back.

Using water, ancient grains and sterilised containers, he cultivated the starter for a week.

In order to get as close as possible to what the Egyptians would have recognised as bread, Mr Blackley fed the yeasts with grain he’d milled himself from barley and einkorn, an early form of wheat domesticated about 10,000 years ago.

“While this culture was sleeping, modern wheat was invented,” Mr Blackley explains. The oldest of the pyramids at Giza was built about 4,500 years ago – by that time, these yeast strains were already about 700 years old.

“It smelled very different from modern starters,” he says. “The bubbles were smaller: less pungent, but more active.”

But as any sourdough baker will tell you, yeasts are in the air and only need a suitable host or starter to multiply. So how to make sure that this really was Egyptian yeast, and not some modern interloper?

Previous experiments had used yeast samples scraped off the surfaces of pots, but these could easily be contaminated. An Israeli experiment had succeeded in extracting yeast from inside, but only by using methods destructive of the vessels themselves.

To rule out contamination, the yeast samples were sent off for genome sequencing. Some modern yeast strains have already been sequenced, making it possible to identify markers of modernity.

Mr Bowman admits he was surprised to get results so quickly from the first sampling, but the ability of yeast to lie dormant is well-known.

“The culture can go to sleep and be brought back,” he told the BBC. “Yeasts are very robust creatures.”

The ancient grains are more difficult to bake with, because they contain very little gluten, but Mr Blackley says the yeast “loved” them: “They created a nice structure and a cake-like crumb – very soft.”

The bread had a caramel aroma – sweeter than a modern sourdough. Mr Blackley scored the risen dough with a hieroglyph representing a loaf of bread.

This loaf was baked in a conventional kitchen oven, but as archaeologist Dr Love explains, the ancient Egyptians actually baked in heated ceramic pots.

In the next stage of the project, she and Mr Blakeley will work with ceramicists to recreate ancient Egyptian-style pots and start baking in them.

The impromptu research team already have permission from one more museum to extract yeast samples and have approached two other collections.

The idea is to collect yeast samples from the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms, which are each separated by 500 to 700 years, and bake with all of them.

Mr Bowman will sequence the genomes to track the genetic drift across the centuries.

“This is exactly the kind of stuff that archaeology is intended to do,” Dr Love enthuses. However, she adds: “This is grounded in science. This will be published in an academic journal.”

So are there any plans to develop the ancient yeasts for a wider audience?

“I was telling my fiancee about this – she went all quiet, but she works in marketing and she was trying to figure out a way to market this,” Mr Bowman says. “We’d like to do something to sell it – perhaps collect ancient recipes.”

For his part, Mr Blackley – who has studied hieroglyphs in sufficient depth to be able to translate them – robustly defends ancient Egypt from calumnies upon its cooking methods.

“This was a great civilisation and gastronomic tradition. The Pharaoh was the emperor of all the known earth. Now we can recreate their methods and share bread with them.”

 

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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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