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On this day ten years ago…

via Ancient humans left evidence from the party that ended 4,000 years ago


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University of Victoria students Walker Tottman and Aren Rosholt helped excavate long-ago feast with legal implications today. Arrow points to the discovered geoduck clam shell, at least 500 years old. Photo: Iain McKechnie.

By Denise Titian



Archeologists just proved the Nuu-chah-nulth ate geoducks 500 years ago. That’s big.

One day between five and ten centuries ago, people living on what is now known as Keith Island finished eating a geoduck clam and placed its shell neatly alongside others.

The implications of that moment — brought to light this month by archeologists — loom large for Indigenous nations pursuing the right to harvest and sell geoduck clams on their territories in British Columbia.

Keith Island, part of the Broken Group Islands off the west coast of Vancouver Island, is the territory of the Tseshaht First Nation, one of 14 nations that make up the Nuu-chah-nulth people of western Vancouver Island.

University of Victoria archaeologist and assistant professor Iain McKechnie said several shell fragments and a large, intact geoduck clam shell was found more than a metre deep in a pit on Keith Island on July 13.

The find proves that Tseshaht, before the arrival of Europeans, had access to and consumed geoduck clams, among other species. This discovery could support other coastal First Nations’ fisheries rights claims when it comes to shellfish.

Geoduck is a species of gigantic saltwater clams with a retail price of up to $30 a pound on the Asian market, where they’re highly sought-after due to their supposed aphrodisiacal attributes. The Chinese market for geoducks from Canada got a boost when China placed a tariff on U.S. producers in retaliation for tariffs imposed on Chinese goods by the Trump administration.

In 2009 the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that Nuu-chah-nulth-aht have a constitutional right to fish and sell fish from their territory, but geoducks were excluded from the ruling. The court argued that the species have only been harvested since the invention of modern equipment and there was no evidence that First Nations collected them.

The Keith Island find says otherwise.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time I’ve seen geoduck archaeological remains — we are confident that this is not a horse clam,” stated McKechnie.

McKechnie went on to say that this is the first find of this type in Nuu-chah-nulth territory and even on the coast of British Columbia.

“I am not aware of others,” he said.

Tseshaht Councillor Luke George said that members of his nation heard the news about the geoduck find and were pleased.

“It is exciting to have proof that helps our case when it comes to our rights to harvest shellfish; this solidifies something for Tseshaht, and for that, we are grateful,” he said.

The geoduck shells and other materials unearthed at Keith Island this summer will be sent to the University of Victoria for analysis.

Over the past three summers, archaeology students unearthed thousands of artifacts on Keith Island, including a full set of bones from a woolly dog that is now extinct. The geoduck shells were found nearby, in a place that had been used continuously by Tseshaht for hundreds of years.

Archaeologist teams work at the site for two weeks each summer. This year is the third at Keith Island. The work is made possible through a partnership among the UVic Archaeology Field School, Parks Canada and Tseshaht First Nation .

McKechnie said the shells were located in a deposit that is at least 500 years old but could date back as much as 1,000 years.

It was in a feature with other clams,” he said, adding that it appeared that the collection of shells may have been part of an ancient clam bake.

The shells appeared to be arranged purposefully and many intact shells were found with both sides of the shell aligned.

In addition, the shells in that layer of earth had evidence of oily residue inside the shells along with charred organic materials, like vegetation.

What this shows is that past generations of Tseshaht harvested these and more than 40 other species of shellfish, and brought them home for processing at this site, said McKechnie, whose work is part of the Hakai Institute’s marine science programs funded by the Tula Foundation.

“This (dig site) contains a record of the people living here; it gives us information about the people living here, where they were going for food, what they are eating and how they harvested their food,” he said.

Denis St. Claire, an archaeologist since 1970, is the Tseshaht representative on the project and its co-director. He pointed to a long ridge that runs parallel to the beach, saying that it was a mulch pile made up of bones and shells that would have been outside the longhouses that were once there.

A few feet away lies a toppled tree, its roots studded with seashells hundreds of years old — shells that nurtured the tree until it fell.

There were pits on each side of the ridge, each about two metres square and just under two metres deep. The UVic archaeologists uncovered several generations of cooking hearths in one pit and even a shadowy impression left from a wooden house post.

The island was inhabited up until the 1950s so the top layers of soil contain items that came after contact, like metal nails and wood stove parts.

“This island contains both a past and current history,” said St. Claire.

With files from The Tyee.

A version of this story first appeared in the Ha-Shilth-Sa, Canada’s oldest First Nations newspaper, published by the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council.  [Tyee]

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On this day ten years ago…

via Europe milk drinking began 7,500 years ago

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On this date ten years ago…

via Evidence for Use of Fire Found at Peking Man Site

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On this date ten years ago…

via Tagine, Recipe or CookWare


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Not really an ancient food post…but interesting. JLP

By tommy hunter

Great lakes ledger.com

Bonobos have been spotted doing something interesting in the Congo basin. They are scouring the swamp in search of aquatic herbs that are packed with iodine, a nutrient that is very important for advancing the growth of higher cognitive abilities. That could help scientists understand the nutritional needs and practices of ancient humans. The Bonobo consumption of food rich in iodine is the first-ever recorded by a species other than humans.

“Our results have implications for our understanding of the immigration of prehistoric human populations into the Congo basin,” Dr. Gottfried Hohmann, the lead author of the study comments.

“Bonobos as a species can be expected to have similar iodine requirements to humans, so our study offers—for the first time—a possible answer on how pre-industrial human migrants may have survived in the Congo basin without artificial supplementation of iodine,” the researcher added.

Scientists working on the study have been observing the behavior of separate bonobo communities in the Congo region. The consumption of iodine-rich plants by specific individuals was factored into their observations, something that surprised researchers, due to the will of the primates to actively seek out the particular plants. It was also believed that the region did not have any iodine-rich food sources.

According to Dr. Hohmann, evolutionary theories suggest that early humans have been able to evolve by living in coastal areas. There they could find favorable foods that augmented cerebral functions. Their study suggests that early humans may have triggered their cerebral development by eating some of the same food the Bonobos are consuming now.

Bonobos are not the only species to consume the plants. After this observation, it was reported that some gorillas and chimpanzees also seek out iodine-rich aquatic greens. That proves to be an exciting development, as different primate species are seeking out and finding these essential plants in areas that were believed to be scarce in iodine.

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British-led study finds that all inhabitants of the town of Portus had a similar diet rich in meat and North African wine

Roman port of Portus


Ancient Rome may have not have had much to offer its subjects by way of equality but when it came to the diet of its dockers at least it seems they dined something like emperors.

A British-led archaeological study of remains found in Portus, the maritime port which served Rome, has found that its labouring inhabitants benefited from the flow of goods through the town by having a diet entirely similar to that of its wealthy ruling citizens – at least until the “barbarians” arrived.

Exotic goods

The study, based on an analysis of food and human remains at locations around the manmade port to the west of Rome, found that dockers or “saccarii” benefited from their work unloading the flow of exotic goods – including bears and crocodiles – to the heart of the ancient empire with a diet rich in animal protein, imported wheat, olive oil and wine from North Africa.

Comparison with remains found at locations where rich and middle class inhabitants lived during the second to the fifth centuries AD found the same sort of diet, suggesting that Portus was unusual in the Roman world in that rich and poor ate similarly well.

Dr Tamsin O’Connell, the archaeologist at Cambridge University who led the study, said: “It is interesting that although there are differences in social status between these burial populations, they both have access to similar food resources. This contradicts what we see elsewhere in the Roman world at this time. But, later on, something changes.”


The researchers compared diet samples with those dated after 455AD, when Rome was attacked by the Vandals, the Germanic tribe who expanded south into modern Italy, and subsequent conflicts with invaders which signalled the fall of the Roman empire.

The results suggested that the aftereffects of the disruption by the Vandals coincided with a marked drop in the standard of the dockers’ diets with meat replaced by bean stew.

Dr O’Connell said: “We see a shift to something more akin to a ‘peasant diet’, made up of mainly plant proteins in something like potages and stews. They’re doing the same kind of manual labour and hard work , but were sustained by beans and lentils.”


The researchers suggest this thinner gruel may have arisen from political shifts in Rome following the arrival of the Vandals and the subsequent breakdown of the empire. They also appear to coincide with physical changes in Portus itself, including the silting up of part of the harbour as trade begins to diminish.

Dr O’Connell said: “In the case of Portus, we see that when Rome was rich, everybody – from the local elite to the dockworkers – was doing fine nutritionally. Then this political rupture happens and wheat and other foodstuffs have to come from elsewhere. When Rome is on the decline, the manual labourers at least are not doing as well as previously.”


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