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Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority archaeologist Abdulla Al Kaabi recording detail of the 7,000-year-old house on the island of Marawah, which reveals much about the lives and habits of Abu Dhabi’s earliest inhabitants. Photo courtesy Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority

 

Original Article:

By Shireena Al Nowais

the national.ae

ABU DHABI // Archaeologists have revealed the discovery of what they describe as one of the most remarkable and rare finds in the Gulf region – a 7,500-year-old, well-preserved three-room house.

The house was excavated on Marawah Island, just off the coast of Abu Dhabi, at what was once one of the region’s largest Stone Age settlements.

“These important discoveries signify Abu Dhabi’s advanced construction methods from the Neolithic [era] and the influential role it had in early long-distance maritime trade,” said ­Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.

“The expertise of our team of archaeologists allows us to build a narrative of the emirate’s ­development and history, piecing together an intriguing and intricate story of the earliest known inhabitants of the emirate of Abu Dhabi.”

Abdulla Al Kaabi, TCA coastal heritage archaeologist, said radiocarbon dating of the deposit revealed the age of the house.

“This style of architecture is unique for this period and has never been found before in the region,” he said.

Dr Mark Beech, head of coastal heritage and palaeontology at TCA, said it was “very unusual” to find a Stone Age house “so well preserved that you have a complete plan of the structure”.

“It’s a stunning find because there are no parallels to it anywhere else in the Gulf coast region,” he said.

“You can see the back yard and small walls projecting out, which is where the cooking was carried out, just like traditional Arabian houses. We knew it was a Stone Age site but did not expect it to be so well preserved.”

The walls of the home are up to 70 centimetres wide, which enabled the residents to have corbelled walls, meaning they could build a dome shape by placing the stones on top of each other.

The site was excavated at one of seven mounds on the island.

Archaeologists predict that a complete Stone Age village could be unearthed.

“There are seven major mounds and we picked the smallest to excavate, so they potentially may have more than one structure,” Dr Beech said.

TCA said that artefacts found on the island had helped archaeologists piece together what life was like for these villagers.

They herded sheep and goats, and used stone tools to hunt and butcher other animals, such as gazelle. Small beads made from shell and a small shark’s tooth were also found at the site and had been very carefully drilled, leading archaeologists to believe they were probably worn as adornments.

One of their most significant finds, during previous excavations, was a decorated ceramic jar from Iraq – the earliest evidence of sea trade during that period.

“The recent excavations have clarified a lot of questions we had about this period,” Dr Beech said. “It tells us about life in the Stone Age and that people had domestic animals, but they also relied a lot on marine life.

“It also shows that they had a varied diet and were involved in long-distance trade, as we see with the pottery. Life on these islands was actually quite good.

“You had food resources, water supply and trade, and, of course, the climate was better than the present time.”

Villagers lived in a completely different setting, with freshwater lakes and more vegetation.

While the island is a marine protected site and not open to the public, some items could be placed on display at public museums.

“Material will gradually go on display but we are still studying, doing investigations and preparing publications,” said Dr Beech.

“Sometimes it takes many years of work to document a site because we have to be very careful, drawing maps, documenting, studying.”

The Marawah excavations will continue for many years because “it’s a slow, painstaking process of digging, screening and putting everything through a 1 millimetre sieve and sorting it”, he said.

New excavations at Baynunah, about 130 kilometres south-west of Abu Dhabi, have also revealed a different side of ancient life in the emirate.

The desert surface of the site is “littered” with white fragments of bones of ancient wild camels – the remains of animals that were hunted and killed 6,500 years ago, TCA said.

The site has provided the earliest evidence in the Middle East for the mass killing of wild camels. Research is being conducted on the near-complete skeletons that will allow experts to discover more about the biology of wild camels, TCA said.

 

 

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 Turkey's western province of Balıkesir, (AA Photo)


Turkey’s western province of Balıkesir, (AA Photo)

 

AA photo

AA photo

Original Article:

dailysabah.com

 

Turkish archeologists in Dascylium ancient city in Turkey’s western province of Balıkesir have discovered a 2,600 year-old kitchen which belonged to the ancient Kingdom of Lydia in Anatolia.

During the excavations, kitchenware including containers, mortars (made up of basalt stone) and some fish bones and seeds were discovered in the area where the age-old kitchen was discovered.

The head of the excavation team Kaan İren, who is a lecturer in the Department of Archeology in Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University in Turkey, spoke to an Anadolu Agency correspondent and said that his team had been digging in three different points in the area.

İren explained that “the founding belong to the Bronze Age, we came across some human traces in the area.”

“It was discovered that our findings including architectural structures, tablets, cult stuff and stoneware belong to the Kingdom of Lydia and Phrygians and date back to eight century BC,” he said.

Six and a half-meter-long walls which were used to strengthen burial mound were also discovered during the excavation. İren explained that the rock tombs had been discovered in the second digging, and that they may be the first source to provide knowledge about rock tombs in ancient history.

“In another point in the area, we found two kitchens which date back the 600 and 540 BC. We found one these kitchens on the top of the other.”

“Below one was collapsed due to fire then the second one was built on it but this one also collapsed due to another fire.” İren said.

This is the first time a fully-equipped kitchen belonging to the Kingdom of Lydia has been discovered in Anatolia.

 

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The Sima del Elefante site. Image: University of York

Original article:

New research conducted by scientists at the University of York and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona reveals for the first time that Europe’s earliest humans did not use fire for cooking, but had a balanced diet of meat and plants – all eaten raw.

Studying dental plaque from a 1.2 million year old hominin (early human species), recovered by the Atapuerca Research Team in 2007 in Sima del Elefante in northern Spain, archaeologists extracted microfossils to find the earliest direct evidence of food eaten by early humans.

These microfossils included traces of raw animal tissue, uncooked starch granules indicating consumption of grasses, pollen grains from a species of pine, insect fragments and a possible fragment of a toothpick.

All detected fibres were uncharred, and there was also no evidence showing inhalation of microcharcoal – normally a clear indicator of proximity to fire.

Fiery debate

The timing of the earliest use of fire for cooking is hotly contested, with some researchers arguing habitual use started around 1.8 million years ago while others suggest it was as late as 300,000-400,000 years ago.

Possible evidence for fire has been found at some very early sites in Africa. However, the lack of evidence for fire at Sima del Elefante suggests that this knowledge was not carried with the earliest humans when they left Africa.

The earliest definitive evidence in Europe for use of fire is 800,000 years ago at the Spanish site of Cueva Negra, and at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, Israel, a short time later.

Taken together, this evidence suggests the development of fire technology occurred at some point between 800,000 and 1.2 million years ago, revealing a new timeline for when the earliest humans started to cook food.

Diet implications

Dr Karen Hardy, lead author and Honorary Research Associate at the University of York and ICREA Research Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, said: “Obtaining evidence for any aspect of hominin life at this extremely early date is very challenging. Here, we have been able to demonstrate that these earliest Europeans understood and exploited their forested environment to obtain a balanced diet 1.2 million years ago, by eating a range of different foods and combining starchy plant food with meat.

“This new timeline has significant implications in helping us to understand this period of human evolution – cooked food provides greater energy, and cooking may be linked to the rapid increases in brain size that occurred from 800,000 years ago onwards.

“It also correlates well with previous research hypothesising that the timing of cooking is linked to the development of salivary amylase, needed to process cooked starchy food. Starchy food was an essential element in facilitating brain development, and contrary to popular belief about the ‘Paleodiet’, the role of starchy food in the Palaeolithic diet was significant.”

Dr Anita Radini, PhD student at the University of York said: “These results are very exciting, as they highlight the potential of dental calculus to store dietary and environmental information from deep in the human evolutionary past. It is also interesting to see that pollen remains are preserved often in better conditions than in the soil of the same age. Overall this is a very positive step in the discipline, in terms of preservation of material in the calculus matrix.”

Diet and environment 1.2 million years ago revealed through analysis of dental calculus from Europe’s oldest hominin at Sima del Elefante, Spain is published in Naturwissenschaften. To read, visit: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00114-016-1420-x

 

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wheat-produce

 

Cereals were domesticated in Syria long before they appeared in Iraq or Iran.

Ancient plant remains suggest that the domestication of cereals, which led to the beginning of agriculture, appeared at different times in the Levant and in the eastern Fertile Crescent. Some countries, such as ancient-days Turkey, Iran and Iraq, saw Neolithic populations exploiting legumes, fruits and nuts long before they cultivated cereals.

Past studies have highlighted two main hypotheses to describe and explain the beginnings of plant domestication. In the 1990s, the belief was that domesticated plants had first appeared in Turkey, and that this was a rapid process that spread to the neighbouring regions in a short space of time.

In contrast, the recent dominant theory is that cereal domestication was a protracted process that developed all over the Middle East from 11,600 to 10,700 years ago. However, it remained unclear whether domestication happened at the same time in the different countries or if there was regional diversity.

In the new research, published in PNAS, researchers have tried to answer this question. They have shown that the cultivation of cereals during the Neolithic was only common in the southern-central Levant – such as in southern Syria. It took more time to arrive in other regions of the eastern Fertile Crescent – such as Iraq, Iran and southern Turkey.

Legumes rather cereals

The researchers started working at the archaeological Neolithic site of Tell Qarassa North in southern Syria. There, plant remains suggest that by 10,700 years ago cereals such as barley were being cultivated in important proportions. The study presents it as one of the earliest sites in the Middle East with evidence of morphologically domesticated wheat and barley.

But when the scientists from the University of the Basque Country and the University of Copenhagen looked at the evidence from sites located in the eastern Fertile Crescent, they found no evidence of similar practices at this time.

Their analysis suggests that domesticated-type cereals only appeared around 400 to 1,000 years later in Iraq, Iran and southern Turkey. Legumes, fruits and nuts likely dominated people’s diets until then.

“It was surprising to discover that despite being considered very important, and despite their dominant role in our agriculture, domesticated cereals might not have been so important in Neolithic times, in many regions” study author and archaeobotanist Amaia Arranz Otaegui told IBTimes UK.

“On most of the archaeological sites, researchers usually focus on cereal remains despite the archaeological often being quite poor. I would like to shift this focus and have us look at the record for other plants, because that may help us better understand ancient cultures and better characterise their agriculture”.

The study thus emphasises the need to re-assess the importance that scientists attribute to cereals such as wheat and barley and to investigate past exploitation of other plants such as lentils, beans and peas because they were potentially crucial to the diets of people living in the eastern Fertile Crescent more than 10,000 years ago.

The site of Tell Qarassa North where researchers found evidence of cereal domestication.Juan José Ibañez

The site of Tell Qarassa North where researchers found evidence of cereal domestication.Juan José Ibañez

 

Original Article:

ibtimes.co.uk

By Léa Surugue December 5

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Grape seeds,DHA Photo

Grape seeds,DHA Photo

 

Original Article:

dailysabah.com

October 9, 2016

 

Grape seeds dating back 5,000 years were the latest discovery of an archaeological research that has been carried out near an 8,500-year-old mound located in the western Izmir province.

The seeds were uncovered in Yassıtepe Mound located in Bornova district, which is very close to the nearby 8,500-year-old Yeşilova Mound, the oldest settlement near Turkey’s third largest city Izmir.

The seeds are presumed to be that of the renowned Bornova Muscat grape. The head of the excavation team, Assoc. Prof. Zafer Derin said that the seeds, which were found in carbonized form at the bottoms of pottery, could be the oldest grape remains in the Izmir area. Derin added that the seeds could help reveal important details regarding life in Western Anatolia during antiquity.

Anatolia is regarded as one first the regions were grapes are being cultivated in history, with western provinces of Izmir, Aydın and Manisa being the most prominent centers of grape production in Turkey.

In the excavation carried out by the Ege University with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Izmir and Bornova municipalities, more than 300 pieces belonging to the Neolithic and early Bronze ages were unearthed to be examined.

The unearthed objects were displayed in an exhibition at Bornova Municipality’s visitor center at the Yeşilova Mound.

 

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Original Article:

hurriyetdailynews.com

MANİSA – Doğan News Agency

 

Archaeologists working in the western province of Manisa have discovered a 2,200-year-old dinner set believed to have been buried as part of a ritual in the ancient city of Aigai.

The dinner set was buried in a hollow in the bedrock as part of a ritual after being used on a special occasion. According to scholars’ hypotheses, beliefs required the dinner set to never be used again, thereby requiring its burial.

The dinner set, which has been sent to the Museum of Manisa for display, includes pieces such as cooking pots (khytra and lopas), cups (skyphos) and pitchers (lagynos) for drinking, as well as clay figures depicting gods and goddesses.

The set was found in the Aigai Town Parliament building, which was built around 150 B.C. and was thought to have been used during sermons dedicated to architecture.

Work in Aigai, located in Manisa’s Yunusemre district, was resumed on July 14 this year with the support of the Culture and Tourism Ministry under the direction of the archaeology departments at Ege University and Celal Bayar University.

Excavations on the site, which are currently being conducted on only a small area due to a lack of sponsorship, will continue until September.

July/29/2016

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Right: Photograph during excavation exhibiting excellent dry preservation of plant remains Left: A well-preserved, desiccated barley grain found at Yoram Cave Credit: Uri Davidovich

Right: Photograph during excavation exhibiting excellent dry preservation of plant remains Left: A well-preserved, desiccated barley grain found at Yoram Cave Credit: Uri Davidovich

 

Original Article:

popular-archaeology.com

 

BAR-ILAN UNIVERSITY—An international team of researchers has succeeded for the first time in sequencing the genome of Chalcolithic barley grains. This is the oldest plant genome to be reconstructed to date. The 6,000-year-old seeds were retrieved from Yoram Cave in the southern cliff of Masada fortress in the Judean Desert in Israel, close to the Dead Sea. Genetically, the prehistoric barley is very similar to present-day barley grown in the Southern Levant, supporting the existing hypothesis of barley domestication having occurred in the Upper Jordan Valley.

Members of the research team are from the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben, Germany; Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel; Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel; the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany; and the University of Haifa, Israel; The James Hutton Institute, UK; University of California, Santa Cruz, USA; University of Minnesota St. Paul, USA; University of Tübingen, Germany.

The analyzed grains, together with tens of thousands of other plant remains, were retrieved during a systematic archaeological excavation headed by Uri Davidovich, from the Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Nimrod Marom, from Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Israel. The archaeobotanical analysis was led by Ehud Weiss, of Bar-Ilan University. The cave is very difficult to access and was used only for a short time by humans, some 6,000 years ago, probably as ephemeral refuge.

Oldest plant genome reconstructed to date

Most examination of archaeobotanical findings has been limited to the comparison of ancient and present-day specimens based on their morphology. Up to now, only prehistoric corn has been genetically reconstructed. In this research, the team succeeded in sequencing the complete genome of the 6,000-year-old barley grains. The results are now published in the online version of the journal Nature Genetics.

“These archaeological remains provided a unique opportunity for us to finally sequence a Chalcolithic plant genome. The genetic material has been well-preserved for several millennia due to the extreme dryness of the region,” explains Ehud Weiss, of Bar-Ilan University. In order to determine the age of the ancient seeds, the researchers split the grains and subjected half of them to radiocarbon dating while the other half was used to extract the ancient DNA. “For us, ancient DNA works like a time capsule that allows us to travel back in history and look into the domestication of crop plants at distinct time points in the past,” explains Johannes Krause, Director of the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena. The genome of Chalcolithic barley grains is the oldest plant genome to be reconstructed to date.

Domestication of barley completed very early

Wheat and barley were already grown 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, a sickle-shaped region stretching from present-day Iraq and Iran through Turkey and Syria into Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. Up to this day, the wild forms of these two crops persist in the region and are among the major model species studied at the Institute of Evolution in the University of Haifa. “It was from there that grain farming originated and later spread to Europe, Asia and North Africa,” explains Tzion Fahima, of the University of Haifa.

“Our analyses show that the seeds cultivated 6,000 years ago greatly differ genetically from the wild forms we find today in the region. However, they show considerable genetic overlap with present-day domesticated lines from the region,” explains Nils Stein, who directed the comparison of the ancient genome with modern genomes at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Gatersleben, with the support of Robbie Waugh and colleagues at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee, Scotland, and Gary Muehlbauer, University of Minnesota, USA. “This demonstrates that the domestication of barley in the Fertile Crescent was already well advanced very early.”

The comparison of the ancient seeds with wild forms from the region and with so-called ‘landraces’ (i.e., local barley lines grown by farmers in the Near East) enabled to geographically suggest, according to Tzion Fahima and his colleagues at the University of Haifa and Israel’s Tel-Hai College, “the origin of the domestication of barley within the Upper Jordan Valley – a hypothesis that is also supported by two archaeological sites in the surrounding area where the hitherto earliest remains of barley cultivation have been found.

Immigrants “trust” in extant landraces

Also the genetic overlap with present-day domesticated lines from the region is revealing to the researchers. “This similarity is an amazing finding considering to what extent the climate, but also the local flora and fauna, as well as the agricultural methods, have changed over this long period of time,” says Martin Mascher, from the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, the lead author of the study. The researchers therefore assume that conquerors and immigrants coming to the region did not bring their own crop seeds from their former homelands, but continued cultivating the locally adapted extant landraces.

New insights into the origins of our crop plants

Combining archaeology, archaeobotany, genetics and computational genomics in an interdisciplinary study has produced novel insights into the origins of our crop plants. “This is just the beginning of a new and exciting line of research,” predicts Verena Schuenemann, from Tuebingen University, the second lead author of the study. “DNA-analysis of archaeological remains of prehistoric plants will provide us with novel insights into the origin, domestication and spread of crop plants.”

Source: Bar-Ilan University news release.

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