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Images of bog butter

The journal.ie

LONG BEFORE MODERN refrigeration Irish people discovered that storing butter in the bog keeps it fresher for longer. Much longer. A new study has now revealed that the ingenious practice dates back nearly 4,000 years, 1,500 years longer than previously thought.

The bog’s preservative powers are so strong that butter can still be edible after centuries in the ground. This is thanks to the cool, low oxygen and high-acid environment.

When the food finally deteriorates it takes on a hard, yellowish-white, wax-like texture and a cheesy smell. Chunks of these ancient foodstuffs are still often unearthed by turf cutters.

The new study has found that people were storing butter in Irish bogs in the Early Bronze age and there may have been a booming dairy industry at the time.

The practice lasted a staggering 3,500 years, from 1700 BC to, as recently as, the 17th century.

“The widespread occurrence of these enigmatic butter deposits fits with our increasing knowledge of the central importance of dairying in prehistoric northern Europe,” Professor Richard Evershed from the University of Bristol explained.

Four of the five Bronze Age bog butters studied by the researchers came from Offaly, they were found at Ballindown, Drinagh, Esker More and Knockdrin. The fifth was recovered from Clonava in Westmeath.

The earliest dated sample, from Knockdrin, dates from between 1745–1635 BC. It was found associated with bark, which was possibly a wrapping or container.

“Clearly, it is unlikely there was a single reason for the deposition of bog butter over four millennia,” Dr Jessica Smyth from the UCD School of Archaeology said.

“In certain periods they may have been votive deposits, while at other points in time it may have been more about storage and even protection of valuable resources.”

The National Museum of Ireland works with Bord Na Móna to record and retrieve bog butters that are found by chance.

The archaeology branch of the museum, which is on Dublin’s Kildare Street, has a collection of the butters on display to the public.

The findings of the new study are published in the journal Scientific Reports today.

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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.

 

 

By Bruce Bower

Sciencenews.org

In Europe, Stone Age hominids began adding small, fast animals to their menus much earlier than previously thought, scientists say.

Now-extinct members of the human genus, Homo, hunted rabbits and, to a lesser extent, hares in southern France and probably other Mediterranean parts of Europe by around 400,000 years ago, researchers report online March 6 in Science Advances. Hunters also bagged larger creatures such as wild goats and deer. The new finding may highlight the flexibility and innovativeness of these ancient relatives of humans.

That dietary shift to smaller animals away from eating primarily large game emerged long before a previously recognized change in ancient humans’ eating habits, concludes a team led by paleoanthropologist Eugène Morin of Trent University in Peterborough, Canada. In the later transition, Stone Age people dramatically broadened what they ate, including a wide variety of small animals, starting around 36,000 years ago.

Morin’s group studied 21 sets of animal fossils and stone tools previously excavated at eight sites in southern France. All but one collection included large numbers of fossil leporids, the family of rabbits and hares. Cuts made by stone tools, likely during butchery, appeared on leporid remains from 17 fossil sets. At the oldest site, Terra Amata, about half of 205 identified animal bones from a 400,000-year-old sediment layer belonged to leporids. Other small-game sites studied by the researchers dated to as recently as around 60,000 years ago.

Ancient Homo groups mainly hunted rabbits that probably existed in large numbers in Mediterranean areas ranging from Spain to Italy, Morin’s team suspects. Colony-dwelling rabbits were probably easier to hunt than hares, which are solitary animals. After 40,000 years ago, the investigators suspect that humans hunted hares regularly, possibly tracking the elusive creatures down with the aid of dogs by 11,500 years ago (SN: 2/16/19, p. 13).

 

 

Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of the earliest large-scale celebrations in Britain – with people and animals traveling hundreds of miles for prehistoric feasting rituals. The study, led by Dr. Richard Madgwick of Cardiff University, is the most comprehensive to date and examined the bones of 131 pigs, the prime feasting animals, from four Late Neolithic complexes. Serving the world-famous monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, the four sites hosted the very first pan-British events.

Source: Prehistoric Britons rack up food miles for feasts near Stonehenge

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.

 

 

 

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

Cosmos magazine.com

Neanderthals were top level carnivores, even after the arrival of modern humans, chemical analysis indicates.

The finding, based on measures of nitrogen and carbon isotopes in two samples of Neanderthal collagen gathered from two sites in France, confirm a carnivorous diet.

It also does not support previously published suggestions that Neanderthals dined on putrid carrion left behind by other carnivores, or freshwater fish.

The latest research, led by Klervia Jaouen from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, tested carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios on single amino acids from collagen samples from Neanderthals recovered from sites at Les Cottés and Grotte du Renne. They conducted similar tests on faunal remains recovered from the same area.

The Neanderthal collagen, the scientists report in the journal PNAS, showed “exceptionally high [nitrogen] isotope ratios in their bulk bone or tooth collagen”.

The results, Jaouen and colleagues report, were wholly consistent with “mammal meat consumption”. There was no need to invoke other food sources, such as fish or mushrooms, nor food processes, such as cooking or fermentation arising from rot, to explain the readings.

The scientists acknowledge that their results do not preclude the occasional consumption of other food types and sources. However, they say, the isotope values of the Neanderthals strongly supports the contention that their main protein sources was “due to the consumption of different herbivores from different environments”.

 

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