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The term “vintage” may now have a whole new meaning for wine lovers—a treasure trove of 170-year-old champagne has been unearthed from the bottom of the sea. In 2010, a group of divers in the Baltic Sea happened upon the remains of a sunken trade schooner just off the coast of Finland. Scattered amongst the wreckage 160 feet below the surface, they discovered a treasure sent from Dionysus himself—168 bottles of French bubbly that had aged in near perfect conditions for decades.

Although the local government ultimately claimed the bottles, a team of scientists led by Philippe Jeandet, a professor of food biochemistry at the University of Reims, was able to obtain a small sample of the preserved beverage for testing—and tasting. Their chemical and sensory analysis, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides a unique lens into the past, offering information about conventional winemaking practices in the 19th century as well as the likely destination of the lost trade ship.

Despite the fact that the labels had long since worn off, branded images on the interior surface of the corks allowed the team to identify the original vintners. Several champagne houses were represented, including Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, a well-known brand founded in 1772 that still exists today. To conduct their chemical analysis, the team compared the older “Baltic wine” with modern Veuve Clicquot. Their results show that the Baltic versions contained lower alcohol content and higher sugar levels than their modern-day counterpart.

Many of these chemical differences can be explained by “steps in the production process that were less controlled than they are today,” says Jeandet. Specifically, the researchers believe that the lower alcohol levels are a consequence of a colder average climate, which would inhibit grape maturation and overall levels of alcohol from sugar, as well as use of a less efficient yeast product. Also, while individual grapes did not produce particularly high sugar yields, 19th-century winemakers were known to add a considerable amount of sugar to artificially sweeten their champagnes. Addition of sugar syrup at the end of the production process would have diluted the wine, also possibly accounting for the lower alcohol content.

“Today most champagnes contain low levels of sugar that are added at the end of the process,” says Jeandet. “The Baltic wine we analyzed contained at least 140 grams of sugar per liter, as compared to about 6 to 8 grams per liter used today.”

The aged wine also had enhanced levels of iron, copper, sodium and chlorine. The researchers hypothesize that the increased concentration of iron and copper, accompanied by several wood compounds, suggests the use of metal- and wood-containing vessels during the manufacturing process. This contrasts with the steel vessels that are predominately used today. Furthermore, in the 1800s “copper sulfate was often used for the control of disease in the vineyard, as opposed to fungicide containing organic compounds used today,” says Jeandet. This also accounts for the high levels of copper compounds observed.

Meanwhile, the heightened levels of sodium and chlorine in the Baltic wine can be attributed to salt, which was repeatedly added to help stabilize wine during the 19th-century manufacturing process. Today, these similar processes occur after the blending of the wine, leading to relatively lower sodium levels.

According to the authors, the sugar content also provides an important clue about the destination of the trade schooner. The location of the wreckage suggests that the ship may have been destined for a Russian market. However, historical records of regional preferences in wine sweetness provide conflicting evidence. The Russians demanded extremely high sugar levels of around 300 grams per liter. Russians had such a sweet tooth that “it was common to have sugar on every table close to the wine glass—for they added sugar not only to red wine, but also to champagne,” says Jeandet. This spurred the creation of an entirely separate brand of extra-sweet bubbly called Champagne à la Russe.

The Germans and French, meanwhile, demanded more moderate sugar levels of approximately 150 grams per liter, while British and American connoisseurs preferred even lower levels of around 20 to 60 grams per liter. Based on the measured sugar content of the Baltic wine, the authors think this particular shipment was probably destined for the Germanic Confederation, whose constituents preferred more moderately sweetened champagne.

So what about the question that virtually everyone is asking: “What does this stuff taste like?”

By a stroke of luck, most of the bottles had been preserved in ideal conditions—at a depth characterized by minimal light and temperatures ranging between 35 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit. The researchers observed very low levels of acetic acid in the wine, a primary red flag for spoilage. So as part of the testing, the team had a panel of wine experts take a taste. The compiled responses were then compared to the chemical findings.

Initially, the experts described the Baltic wines with words such as “animal notes,” “wet hair” and “cheesy.” However, after the wine was swirled a bit in the glass, providing some much needed oxygen, it took on a whole new character. Once it had a chance to breathe, the champagne was described as “grilled, spicy, smoky, and leathery” accompanied by fruity and floral notes, according to the paper.

Although he was not given a bottle to keep for himself, Jeandet was able to obtain a small personal sample of 100 microliters to try. “It was incredible. I have never tasted such a wine in my life,” says Jeandet. “The aroma stayed in my mouth for three or four hours after tasting it.” Wine connoisseurs seem to agree, as several of these bottles have been auctioned off for up to 100,000 euros each, according to Jeandet. Other bottles have been sent to museums or historical institutions. Further work may prove useful to enologists who are now investigating the potential for deep-sea aging as a technique to enhance or augment the taste of various wines.

By Adan Hoffman, April 20, 2015

Original Article:

Smithsonianmag.com

Ancient Bottle of Bubbley

Ancient Bottle of Bubbley

Ancientfoods:

Honey has such a long history in this area. Check out my other posts on honey and the mead I made in 2011.

Originally posted on British Museum blog:

Helen Anderson, Project Cataloguer of African Rock Art Image Project, British Museum

In Summer 2014 the green roof of the newly opened World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre (WCEC) at the British Museum became home to a colony of bees. The bees were introduced as part of an initiative by an organisation called Inmidtown – to boost the diminishing population of bees and train Museum staff in the craft of beekeeping. I, along with a number of keen volunteers, have taken up the exciting challenge to look after our bees on the roof on a weekly basis until September.

Beekeepers from the Urban Bee Project on the roof of the WCEC building (Photographs: Michael Row, British Museum) Above and below: Beekeepers from the Urban Bee Project on the roof of the WCEC building. (Photographs: Michael Row, British Museum)

12-05-2015 16.30.06

My own fascination with bees goes back to my childhood in Norfolk. I vividly remember watching their comings and goings on an oversized lavender bush in our garden; an attraction which didn’t…

View original 1,194 more words

Clam garden in the Broughton Archipelago. Image: Simon Fraser University

Casting a large interdisciplinary research net has helped Simon Fraser University archaeologist Dana Lepofsky and 10 collaborators dig deeper into their findings about ancient clam gardens in the Pacific Northwest to formulate new perspectives.

Lepofsky’s research team has discovered that Northwest Coast Indigenous people didn’t make their living just by gathering the natural ocean’s bounty. Rather, from Alaska to Washington, they were farmers who cultivated productive clam gardens to ensure abundant and sustainable clam harvests.

Dating the stone terraces

SFU archaeologist Dana Lepofsky participates in the ecological survey of clams in clam garden. Image: Simon Fraser University

SFU archaeologist Dana Lepofsky participates in the ecological survey of clams in clam garden. Image: Simon Fraser University

In its new paper published by American Antiquity, Lepofsky’s team describes how it isolated novel ways to date the stone terraces that created clam beaches. These beaches are certainly more than 1,000 years old and likely many thousands of years older. The researchers identified many places where people built gardens on bedrock — creating ideal clam habitats where there were none before. This, the researchers concluded, clearly challenges the notion that First Nations were living in wild, untended environments.

We think that many Indigenous peoples worldwide had some kind of sophisticated marine management, but the Pacific Northwest is likely one of the few places in the world where this can be documented,” says Lepofsky. “This is because our foreshores are more intact than elsewhere and we can work closely with Indigenous knowledge holders.”

Clam Garden Network

The researchers, who worked with First Nations linguistic data, oral traditions and memories, geomorphological surveys, archaeological techniques and ecological experiments, belong to the Clam Garden Network. It’s a coastal group interested in ancient clam management.

Understanding ancient marine management is relevant to many current issues,” says Lepofsky.

Her team is comparing clam garden productivity to that of modern aquaculture and assessing whether the shell-rich beaches of clam gardens help buffer against increasing ocean acidification. The team will also build experimental clam gardens, applying many of the traditional cultivation techniques learned from First Nations collaborators as a means of increasing food production and food security today.


Three year study

This latest study is on the heels of one done a year ago by Lepofsky and her collaborators. The original three-year study published in PLOS ONE (Open Access) found that these ancient gardens produced quadruple the number of butter clams and twice the number of littleneck clams as unmodified clam beaches. It was the first study to provide empirical evidence of the productivity of ancient Pacific Northwest clam gardens and their capacity to increase food production.

Original article:

Past horizons


New York University—According to a team of researchers, northern Europeans in the Neolithic period initially rejected the practice of farming, which was otherwise spreading throughout the continent. Their findings offer a new wrinkle in the history of a major economic revolution that moved civilizations away from foraging and hunting as a means for survival.

“This discovery goes beyond farming,” explains Solange Rigaud, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHUS) in New York City. “It also reveals two different cultural trajectories that took place in Europe thousands of years ago, with southern and central regions advancing in many ways and northern regions maintaining their traditions.”

CIRHUS is a collaborative arrangement between France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and New York University.

The study, whose other authors include Francesco d’Errico, a professor at CNRS and Norway’s University of Bergen, and Marian Vanhaeren, a professor at CNRS, appears in the journal PLOS ONE.

In order to study these developments, the researchers focused on the adoption or rejection of ornaments—certain types of beads or bracelets worn by different populations. This approach is suitable for understanding the spread of specific practices—previous scholarship has shown a link between the embrace of survival methods and the adoption of particular ornaments. However, the PLOS ONE study marks the first time researchers have used ornaments to trace the adoption of farming in this part of the world during the Early Neolithic period (8,000-5,000 BCE).

It has been long established that the first farmers came to Europe 8,000 years ago, beginning in Greece and marking the start of a major economic revolution on the continent: the move from foraging to farming over the next 3,000 years. However, the pathways of the spread of farming during this period are less clear.

To explore this process, the researchers examined more than 200 bead-types found at more than 400 European sites over a 3,000-year period. Previous research has linked farming and foraging populations with the creation and adornment of discrete types of beads, bracelets, and pendants. In the PLOS ONE study, the researchers traced the adoption of ornaments linked to farming populations in order to elucidate the patterns of transition from foraging and hunting to farming.

Their results show the spread of ornaments linked to farmers—human-shaped beads and bracelets composed of perforated shells—stretching from eastern Greece and the Black Sea shore to France’s Brittany region and from the Mediterranean Sea northward to Spain. By contrast, the researchers did not find these types of ornaments in the Baltic region of northern Europe. Rather, this area held on to decorative wear typically used by hunting and foraging populations—perforated shells rather than beads or bracelets found in farming communities.

“It’s clear hunters and foragers in the Baltic area resisted the adoption of ornaments worn by farmers during this period,” explains Rigaud. “We’ve therefore concluded that this cultural boundary reflected a block in the advancement of farming—at least during the Neolithic period.”

——–

The research was supported, in part, by the French Ministry of National Education, Research, and Technology, the Fyssen Foundation, and the Maria Sklodowska-Curie COFUND Action.

Source: This is an adaptation of a New York University press release entitled Don’t farm on me: Northern Europeans to Neolithic interlopers.

  
Original article:

Popular archaeology
 


Plants cultivated in Cuba 1500 years earlier than previously thought.


The use of cultigens and wild plants by pre-contact populations has long been accepted by scholars to have been well established in all regions of the circum-Caribbean and Greater Antilles except for Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean—until now.

An international team of researchers examined a population traditionally understood by Cuban archaeologists as “fisher–gatherers”, who left remains at a shell-matrix site known as Canímar Abajo, in the province of Matanzas, Cuba. Partnering with a team of Cuban and other Canadian researchers, University of Winnipeg (UWinnipeg) professors Dr. Mirjana Roksandic and Dr. Bill Buhay, along with lead study author Chinique de Armas, examined the population’s subsistence practices by using a combination of starch evidence from dental calculus, aided by human bone collagen carbon and nitrogen isotope based probability analyses. Their results showed that the population used cultivated plants in the Caribbean well before the commonly accepted advancement of agricultural groups in the region (around 500 CE). They dated some of the remains to at least 990 – 800 BCE, indicating that the practice was much older than previously assumed. Specifically, they found that this population consumed and processed common bean, sweet potato and a highly toxic plant called zamia that required special treatment prior to consumption.

The bone collagen isotope data was derived at Buhay’s Isotope Laboratory (UWIL) at UWinnipeg. Starch grains were extracted from dental calculus at the University of Toronto (Mississauga) in collaboration with Dr. Sheehan Bestel and independently verified by a leading specialist from Puerto Rico, Dr. Jaime Pagan Jimenez.

The site of Canímar Abajo has been excavated over the last 10 years by Professor Rodríguez Suarez (also a coauthor of the research paper) of the University of Havana, who first started examining the possibility that the early indigenous Cubans used domesticated plants in their diet. 

“This unequivocal evidence of domestic plant consumption will serve to dispel the notion that indigenous Cubans from that time period (2nd millennium BC) were fisher-gatherers with no knowledge of agriculture and cultivated plants” said Suarez.

According to the team linguist Dr. Ivan Roksandic, “these people have often been called Ciboney”, a name erroneously translated as “cave people.” The notion of highly mobile cave dwellers stems from colonial attitudes towards indigenous groups in the Caribbean, and the new inferred diet information revealed in this study “adds substantially to our understanding of their inherent environmental competence” he adds.

“Canímar Abajo is just beginning to produce surprises that challenge the archaeological paradigm for the region” according to another team member, Professor David Smith of the University of Toronto (Mississauga). Mirjana Roksandic adds that, “this is just the beginning of a very fruitful collaboration which is posed to extend this combined methodology of physical (dental calculus starch grains) and chemical (bone collagen isotopes) analysis to other sites in Cuba and the Caribbean”.


 

Map of Cuba showing the province of Matanzas (in red), where the site of Canimar Abajo is located. Wikimedia Commons

Their findings* were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Original article:

Popular archaeology

WINNIPEG, MB – UWinnipeg professors Dr. Mirjana Roksandic (anthropology) and Dr. Bill Buhay (geography) partnered with a team of Cuban and Canadian researchers to demonstrate the use of cultivated plants in the Caribbean well before the commonly accepted advancement of agricultural groups in the region at around AD 500. The team, led by Roksandic, dated some of the remains to 1000 BC, indicating that the practice was much older than previously assumed. Their findings were published today in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

 

Using an unprecedented method which combined inferred past diet information gleaned from dental calculus (teeth plaque) starch grains and bone collagen isotope data, the lead author Chinique de Armas, whose PhD was supervised by Roksandic and Buhay, demonstrates that the indigenous people of Canímar Abajo (Matanzas province, Cuba) consumed and processed common bean, sweet potato and a highly toxic plant zamia that needs special treatment prior to consumption.

The bone collagen isotope data was derived at Buhay’s Isotope Laboratory (UWIL) at UWinnipeg. Starch grains were extracted from dental calculus at the University of Toronto (Mississauga) in collaboration with Dr. Sheehan Bestel and independently verified by a leading specialist from Puerto Rico, Dr. Jaime Pagan Jimenez.

The site of Canimar Abajo has been excavated over the last 10 years by Professor Rodríguez Suarez of the University of Havana, who first started examining the possibility that the early indigenous Cubans used domesticated plants in their diet, and who is also a coauthor on the paper.

“This unequivocal evidence of domestic plant consumption will serve to dispel the notion that indigenous Cubans from that time period (2nd millennium BC) were fisher-gatherers with no knowledge of agriculture and cultivated plants” says Suarez.

According to the team linguist Dr. Ivan Roksandic, “these people have often been called Ciboney”, a name erroneously translated as “cave people.” The notion of highly mobile cave dwellers stems from colonial attitudes towards indigenous groups in the Caribbean, and the new inferred diet information revealed in this study “adds substantially to our understanding of their inherent environmental competence” adds Ivan Roksandic.

“Canimar Abajo is just beginning to produce surprises that challenge the archaeological paradigm for the region” according to another team member, Professor David Smith of the University of Toronto (Mississauga). Mirjana Roksandic adds that, “this is just the beginning of a very fruitful collaboration which is poised to extend this combined methodology of physical (dental calculus starch grains) and chemical (bone collagen isotopes) analysis to other sites in Cuba and the Caribbean.”

The Journal of Archaeological Science is aimed at archaeologists and scientists with particular interests in advancing the development and application of scientific techniques and methodologies to all areas of archaeology. This established monthly journal publishes original research papers and major review articles, of wide archaeological significance. 

 
Original Article:

News Centre Winnipeg

 

you will pardon the long wait for my post, I’m getting used to a new operating system! This desert is a favorite of mine, hard to imagine crops growing here, but at one time they did.

Chilean team members excavating ancient terraces(1)

 

High in the Atacama Desert, around 10,000 feet, anyone with a computer and Google Earth can look at the fields around Turi, Chile and see small neatly laid out fields, terraced and lined with rocks. No crops are growing there now, but it looks as though the farmers laid down their stone hoes and just walked away.

University of New Mexico Associate Professor of Anthropology Frances Hayashida says that is more or less what they did more than 500 years ago. The climate is so dry the fields and the elaborate irrigation systems are almost perfectly preserved.

“These are systems that were developed about 1,000 A.D. when people figured out how to divert water from springs which are recharged by snowmelt from the Andes,” says Hayashida. There wasn’t much water even then. Anthropologists haven’t yet tried to calculate exactly how much farmers had to work with, but farming was always marginal here.

It was conquest, first by the Incas, then by the Spanish that changed lifestyles of the indigenous people and made copper mining into a local industry. The Incas conquered this land in the early 1400’s.

“We think they brought in workers to work in the mines. They put in an extensive road system to be able to move ore and personnel back and forth,” says Hayashida. “But then they need to be able to feed everybody, right? So what happens to farming and water and farmers when they were conquered by the Inca and pulled into this bigger economy? That’s what our research is about.”

Hayashida is working with an international consortium of researchers from Chile, Spain and the United States. They have shared grant money from the Spanish Ministry of Culture, National Geographic, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the National Science Foundation and its Chilean equivalent CONICYT so they can work together to understand how the forces of history and climate changed life in this very remote desert community.

Collaboration is a challenge since the researchers work on different continents and have conflicting work schedules. In April, they will have a rare chance to get together in Santa Fe where they will be hosted by the School for Advanced Research. “We can sit around a table and everyone can present their research and where they are at this point. Then we can start planning what we want to do next and what publications we want to get out.” The visit will be brief. Several members of the group will go on to present their latest findings at the Society of American Archeology meeting in San Francisco.

Hayashida says they are interested in understanding exactly what the farmers were growing. They are examining the stone hoes for fragments of plants and searching for plant remains in the local garbage heaps and packrat middens to identify what they grew and understand whether the local varieties of maize, quinoa, and potatoes were different from varieties grown in the region today.

They’ve found many grinding stones at the site. Chilean archeologists who have worked here since the 80’s think the stones might have something to do with producing maize beer.

“One of the things that the Inca did in their plazas throughout the length and breadth of the empire was have big feasts, for ritual purposes, but also to show how generous they were to the conquered people,” says Hayashida. “This is something you would normally do with your neighbors, if they were working for you. You provide food and drink. So they just took this practice and did it on an imperial scale.”

The archeologists led by the Spanish team members are working with students from Chile and the U.S. to map the sites with drones. There is no vegetation and the canals that the farmers used are so coated with calcium carbonate that it is easy to follow the mineral trail of the water.

Hayashida says it’s clear the farmers used every bit of land and every bit of water they could access just to make a living, and fields seem to be designed to carefully conserve water. There are still a few farmers here, and the archeologists are talking to them to understand how they are able to grow anything in this desert.

Most of the water in this part of the Atacama Desert now is used in the copper mines and to support the local population that is gathered in the nearby city of Calama. Hayashida says this is a fascinating project for her. “It’s just a spectacular landscape, with this spectacular archeology that is related to questions that I am interested in, which have to do with water management and agriculture.” She has spent years working in the coastal regions of Peru, researching the influence of the Incas and other societies on agricultural production on a much larger scale.

The archeologists are likely to return to the fields later this year. There is still a lot of work to be done on the ground.

Students interested in joining some of the field schools that faculty members of the UNM Anthropology Department conduct throughout the year can find out more at the department website.

By Karen Wentworth

March 25, 2015

Original Article:

University Of New Mexico

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