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Jpost.com

A method for identifying salmon remains using mineral markers developed at the University of Haifa sheds light on the Late Stone Age in the Arctic Circle, according to a new study published in the academic journal Scientific Reports.

While archaeological researchers have assumed that salmon would have been crucial to the early diet of the ancient Arctic’s inhabitants, there has been little proof until now.

“The new method we have developed will enable researchers to better understand life in the ancient Arctic and the way in which seamstresses are able to move to permanent communities,” said Prof. Ruth Gross, who led the study, in a statement.

While evidence has been previously found that indicated inhabitants of the ancient Arctic Circle would catch fish, and particularly salmon, few fish bones were ever discovered in archaeological research, according to Dr. Don Butler of the Department of Marine Civilizations at the Leon Charney School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa. Butler is a postdoctoral researcher who co-authored the study.

Gross added that the importance of salmon today in Scandinavia, together with the paucity of bones, has made the subject significant for local researchers and archaeologists.

Gross and Butler worked with Dr. Sato Koivisto of the University of Helsinki, who provided the Israeli team with the Mid-Holocene period salmon bones found in excavations in Finland over the years. The mineral marker that Gross and Butler discovered matched that of the fish.

The researchers then turned to one of the oldest settlements on the Iijoki River in northern Finland, where they sampled ash from a fire found in a 5,600-year-old cabin. Laboratory results showed that the salmon’s signature mineral marker could be found within the ash.

This, combined with the team’s sieving efforts and mineralogical analyses of these sediments, along with zooarchaeological identification of recovered bone fragments, confirmed that salmon was part of the diet of people living in the village. The findings provided new evidence for early estuary or riverine fisheries in northern Finland’s Lapland region.

The method developed at the University of Haifa will enable archaeologists in the future who are working in the ancient Arctic periods to collect evidence of salmon consumption, and perhaps other relationships salmon may have had with Arctic river ecosystems.

 

 

 

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A study led by SFU archaeology professor Dana Lepofsky and Hakai Institute researcher Nicole Smith reveals that clam gardens, ancient Indigenous food security systems located along B.C.’s coast, date back at least 3,500 years — almost 2,000 years older than previously thought. These human-built beach terraces continue to create habitat for clams and other sea creatures to flourish in the area.

Source: Northwest Coast clam gardens nearly 2,000 years older than previously thought — study

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A nearly edible Huntley & Palmers fruitcake has been discovered in a hut on Antarctica’s Cape Adare. It is thought to have been left behind in 1911 by members of a British expedition.

My aunt used to make fruitcake when I lived with her as a teenager. I wonder what she would think of this and the thought that her fruit cake could out live her.

jlp

Source: Super Fruitcake

The discovery of a 106-year-old fruitcake on Antarctica’s Cape Adare may help redeem the delicacy’s much-maligned reputation. The centenarian cake was found by a team from the Antarctic Heritage Trust in the continent’s oldest building, a hut erected in 1899, and is thought to have been left there in 1911 by members of the Northern Party, part of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova expedition. The tin holding the Huntley & Palmers fruitcake was somewhat rusty, but the cake itself was in fine shape—likely due to the cold, dry conditions. “It felt and looked like a new fruitcake,” says Lizzie Meek, the trust’s program manager. “It was only if you got quite close to it that you could smell that slightly off smell of butter that’s gone wrong.”

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Archeologists have found 3,000-year-old quinoa seeds at a site in Brantford, Ont., raising questions about the extent of trade among Indigenous peoples at the time. (Submitted by Gary Crawford)

CBC.ca

By Jasmine Kabatay · CBC

3,000-year-old seeds seemingly ‘processed for delivery’

A mass of quinoa seeds excavated from an archeological dig at a Brantford, Ont., construction site has been identified as being 3,000 years old, raising questions about the extent of trade among Indigenous peoples at the time.

The 140,000 seeds, which originate from the Kentucky-Tennessee area, seem as if they were “processed for delivery,” said Prof. Gary Crawford of department of anthropology at the University of Toronto.

The findings were published in the December 2018 issue of American Antiquity.

This is just one of these unbelievably fortuitous discoveries,” said Crawford.

“It just shows us that sometimes what seems to be a relatively insignificant site can have something incredibly important on it.”

Crawford says no one has reported this type of quinoa in Ontario before, and the discovery leads to more questions than answers, especially when it comes to trade.

He says the discovery shows that crops were part of trade at the time, and suggests that people in what is now Ontario were connected to others farther south.

He says it’s possible the seeds were grown here, but there’s no evidence.

“Of course the lack of evidence doesn’t mean they weren’t growing it. But for now I think the safe interpretation is this stuff was being imported,” said Crawford.

The seeds were found in 2010, after the site was assessed to see if there were any relevant archeological items in the area. Crawford says there was nothing unusual about the initial findings, as most of the items came from the area.

It wasn’t until the team examined sediment from a pit beside the site that they discovered something much bigger.

“It’s the first time I’ve been close to being shocked in 45 years of research, and I would say more delighted and surprised than shocked, but it was one of those ‘O-M-G’ moments that one gets when they’re doing research,” said Crawford.

Indigenous Canadians and Native Americans are and were sophisticated people, as sophisticated as anyone else in the world, and they were involved in fascinating kinds of things,” said Crawford.

Paula Whitlow, museum director at Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, says it isn’t really understood how Indigenous people traded back then. But it is understood there was an “extensive trade network.”

Whitlow notes that the largely peaceful Indigenous people who occupied the area at the time had an extensive trade network and even a city, Onondaga, that covered some 15 acres.

The next step with the seeds, Crawford says, is to look at “relatives” of this type of quinoa in the Ontario area.

“I think we need to work together with botanists to sort out whether the wild species that grows in Ontario is actually a feral version of this crop and whether weed distributions we see in the province today actually can be traced way back to Indigenous Canadian activity in the province,” said Crawford.

 

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Excavation and screening on Smokehouse Island on the Babine River. (Farid Rahemtulla)

 

original article:

cbc.ca

Archaeological findings out of northern B.C. have confirmed the oral history of the Lake Babine First Nation, dating back at least 1,300 years.

Some of the more significant findings include a large village and remnants of fishing weirs that were used for more than 1,000 years.

In 2010, the Lake Babine First Nation, located about 220 kilometres west of Prince George, approached researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia to help them with archeology in their region.

They wanted archeological evidence to confirm their people’s oral history which was once passed down through generations, but had been fragmented during colonization.

“It’s an area that has never been explored archeologically … that really is kind of a black hole,” project director and archeologist Farid Rahemtulla told Daybreak North, adding that most parts of B.C. have been studied more closely.

“This is really kind of all brand new and pretty exciting for the archeology and Indigenous communities in general.”

Focused on studying villages and fishing weirs

Researchers focused on finding remains of villages and fishing weirs around Lake Babine, a 150-kilometre long lake north of Burns Lake.

“They told us that these villages were quite large,” said Rahemtulla, and that people would gather for a few months in the summer and fall to harvest salmon and preserve the fish for the winter.

Oral history surrounding Lake Babine says a number of villages existed on its shores prior to European settlers moving into the area and that salmon was the primary resource. The discovery of the millennium-old weirs supports that version of events.

“The Babine watershed actually is home to quite a large number of the Skeena sockeye that come in from Prince Rupert,” Rahemtulla said.

“This allowed the Babine people to take quite a number of those fish through these complex wood fish weirs that they constructed.”

Having examined the weirs closely, Rahemtulla said they were technologically advanced. Researchers are currently working to find out how they were built and used.

One village called Nass Glee, near Fort Babine on the northern reach of the lake, is so large that archaeologists have yet to find its boundaries. Because of its size, Rahemtulla said the only way it could have been sustained would have been by fish caught using the wooden weirs.

Researchers are planning to head back to the region in the summer to focus on a man-made island engineered 1,000 years ago using stone tools.

“As far as I know it might be the only one in the world,” Rahemtulla said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oyster shell middens

Hakaimagazine.com

by Evan Lubofsky

Indigenous peoples in the Chesapeake harvested oysters sustainably for thousands of years—until the introduction of new techniques by Europeans decimated the stocks.

As long as 3,200 years ago, Indigenous peoples living along the banks of the Chesapeake Bay harvested oysters in vast quantities. They extracted the meat and piled the shells into mounds known as middens. Archaeologists have long studied these shell mounds—some of which are meters deep—for a window into the lifestyles of these peoples: what they ate, how they hunted, and the tools they used. Now, clues unearthed in these mounds also suggest they likely knew a thing or two about how to sustainably harvest oysters.

“Despite the significant role oysters played in the Native American diet back then, they weren’t overexploited,” says archaeologist Alex Jansen, leader of a recent study analyzing the middens.

“Even though it is possible that these early societies may not have been practicing sustainable harvesting intentionally, it appears they were able to balance management with fishery needs,” Jansen adds. “That’s something we need to get back to.”

Since the early 1900s, overfishing in the Chesapeake Bay has led to steep declines in oyster stocks. Around 1990, oyster harvests across the bay were less than one percent of historical levels. Harvesting techniques introduced by European colonists during the 18th and 19th centuries, such as dredging and tonging, were responsible for much of this enormous toll. These destructive techniques rip living oysters from the reef, often before they’re fully grown, reducing the size and damaging the structure of the reef.

Given that oysters play an important role in filtering algae, plankton, and other particles from the water, the depletion of the bay’s oysters caused the water quality to suffer. The destruction of wave-buffering oyster reefs also reduced the protection they offered to the shoreline.

Examining shell middens near Chesapeake Bay showed Jansen that the Indigenous peoples’ harvesting practices were much less destructive, which is what allowed them to exploit oysters for thousands of years.

Jansen also found tools such as ceramics, projectile points, and stones used for heating water at the study site. But based on his analysis, these tools were not used for oyster harvesting, which, he says, was mostly done by hand. He also noted the large sizes of the oyster shells, which suggests the oysters were given time to grow and reproduce before being snagged.

Throughout the thousands of years captured in the shell middens, “the oysters were largely consistent in shape and size,” Jansen says. He says the oysters were likely harvested from the water close to shore, rather than from deeper waters where reefs form. “By leaving the reefs alone and intact, Native American harvesters were able to give the oysters a chance to reproduce and restock the bay.”

Today, after years of restoration efforts, oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay are showing signs of a rebound. Carmera Thomas, a program manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says that over the past few decades, millions of baby oysters attached to recycled oyster shells have been placed on sanctuary reefs throughout the bay, contributing to the restoration of oyster reefs on target tributaries. In 2017, a bill proposed by state officials and watermen in Maryland to open more than two million square kilometers of oyster sanctuary to harvest did not pass.

Despite the momentum, Thomas says pressure on wild oyster populations will continue unless we learn lessons from the past and put some ancient practices into play.

“If we as a population were more diligent about restoring what is taken out of the bay, using less invasive tools, and not harvesting as much … it would put less stress on the population,” Thomas says.

Jansen agrees. Even though we no longer have the same technological limitations as our ancestors, that doesn’t mean we can’t heed the lessons of the past and leverage simpler approaches. Only this time, the act of conservation would undoubtedly be intentional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Carbon-dating techniques have now identified this ancient maize cob at about 950 to 1,000 years old. (Greg Powers)

Orginal Article:

Charles C. Mann

Smithsonianmag.com

 

It took millennia, but America’s founding farmers developed

the grain that would fuel civilizations—and still does

Sometimes it’s the little things that count.

Movie archaeologists are often pictured triumphantly extracting precious objects from the earth, instantly solving long-standing mysteries. Think of Indiana Jones’ Cross of Coronado, Staff of Ra and Ark of the Covenant. Real archaeologists mostly find small, almost valueless objects—and won’t know for years, or decades, what mystery they are resolving. Consider this ancient ear of maize, which Walter Hough pulled out of a New Mexico cave more than a century ago.

Hough worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (the repository of this artifact) from 1886 to 1935. A kindly man with a static-cling memory who hunted arrowheads as a boy in West Virginia, he spent most of his career on the unsung but vital task of cataloging the museum’s collections. But he also took field trips into the Southwest, and in September 1905 he spent 12 days in what he called an “interesting cave.” It was in a bluff 150 feet above the Tularosa River, in New Mexico, about 30 miles east of the Arizona border. Because the climate there is extremely dry, virtually nothing in the cave had decayed. Formerly used by early colonists as a donkey corral, the cave was full of “rubbish and the droppings of animals, to a depth of 8 feet,” Hough wrote. Just walking around kicked up a choking cloud of dust that forced researchers to wear goggles and cover their faces.

Despite the terrible conditions, the researchers made an impressive haul: dried turkey cadavers, mammal bones, broken crockery, a brush made from grass, incense pipes, stones for grinding, cigarettes made from reeds, yucca-leaf sandals—and about a dozen maize cobs, some with kernels intact. (Archaeologists typically call the grain “maize,” rather than “corn,” because multicolored indigenous maize, usually eaten after drying and grinding, is strikingly unlike the large, sweet yellow-kernel cobs conjured up by the word “corn.”) Hough was working before archaeologists had the tools to accurately date artifacts, or even, pre-GPS, to note their exact location. He simply recorded the locale of his finds and carried them back to Washington, D.C.

It would be four and a half decades before Paul Sidney Martin, an archaeologist at Chicago’s Field Museum, examined Hough’s reports and followed in his footsteps. Most archaeologists specializing in the Southwest believed that its earliest inhabitants were the Anasazi (as the ancestral Pueblo were then known), who built cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde, 225 miles north of Tularosa Cave. But a few experts argued that the Tularosa area had housed a different culture, called the Mogollon, after a nearby mountain range. To resolve what was becoming a bitter controversy, Martin and his co-workers went to Tularosa Cave in June 1950—the first researchers there since Hough. In two summers, they unearthed tens of thousands of artifacts. And they made a convincing case that the pottery they found—especially starkly beautiful black-and-white remnants—looked nothing like Anasazi handiwork.

Among the Tularosa objects were, astonishingly, 33,000 ears of ancient maize. Fortuitously, Martin had access to a brand-new technology: radiocarbon dating, just invented at the University of Chicago. It can determine the age of plant remains and other organic materials. Indeed, the Tularosa cobs were among the first archaeological finds ever carbon-dated. Martin reported that some of the cobs were as old as 2,500 years. That suggested the cave had been inhabited before the Anasazi—key evidence, along with the unusual cave artifacts, for a separate Mogollon culture.

From about A.D. 200 to the arrival of the Spaniards, the Mogollon had occupied most of what is now Sonora and Chihuahua in Mexico as well as parts of southern Arizona and New Mexico. Their ancestors began as foragers, then switched to agriculture, including the cultivation of maize, which helped fuel the flowering of Mogollon culture. The Mogollon, in turn, played a large role in introducing maize to societies north of the Rio Grande, a pivotal event as important to North America as the arrival of rice was to China or wheat to the Middle East.

Hough and Martin didn’t have the scientific tools to analyze the genetic makeup of their maize specimens and trace precise origins or lineage. Perhaps hoping that future researchers would pore over his finds as he had pored over Hough’s, Martin and his coworkers sealed thousands of ancient cobs in plastic bags that are stored today at the Field Museum—the world’s greatest collection of Mogollon artifacts and remains.

Lately researchers using DNA probes and other technologies have been detailing the roughly 9,000-year process by which Native Americans transformed teosinte, the smallish semitropical grass with no ears or cobs, into maize, a productive, elaborate plant that can thrive in a cool temperate climate. In a 2003 analysis of cobs from Tularosa and locations in Mexico, researchers found that the earliest samples, some 6,300 years old, were apparently bred by people focused on boosting the crop yield by increasing the size of cobs and kernels. Later, in Mogollon times, growers were selecting for starch and grain qualities useful in making tortillas and tamales.

The transformation of a weedy grass into one of the world’s most important foodstuffs—think of the enormous stalks of corn rippling across Midwestern fields—is far more complex than anything we can do today in a lab, even with all our genetic prowess. How the continent’s first farmers accomplished that feat is a mystery. Drab debris found in a cave may hold the clues.

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