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Scientists have scrutinized the contents of four bottles of beer found in a Baltic Sea shipwreck from the 1840s, an amber ale that perhaps was brewed in Belgium and was on its way to ports in Russia or Scandinavia.

The new analysis found that bacteria inside the beer bottles survived 170 years until it was discovered by divers in 2010, according to Brian Gibson, senior scientist at the VTT Technical Research Centre in Espoo, Finland.

“These bacteria were still alive,” Gibson said. The analysis “gave us some insight into the way that beers were brewed. We have a reasonably good idea about what kind of hops were used, different ones than today. These hops would have been harsher, these days they are quite mild. The one surprising thing is the beers were quite mild. The original alcohol level was 4.5 percent, nothing extreme.”

Gibson and colleagues at the University of Munich published their chemical and microbiological analysis recently in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

While some breweries have recreated ancient beer recipes from colonial, medieval or even Egyptian eras, Gibson believes this is the oldest intact bottle of beer. Over time, seawater seeped through the cork and made the contents about 30 percent saltwater. As a result, the big tasting by beer experts in Finland was a bit of a bust.

“The beer was quite degraded, it had a sell by date and it appeared to be well past that,” he said. “For the analysis, it was difficult to pick out the original flavors. We invited some of the most experienced beer tasters in Finland. The flavors were from bacterial contamination and not the original flavors of the beer.”

The scientists turned to chemical analysis of the remaining sugars and

“We looked at esters, which give beer a fruity or flowery taste. Most of the compounds that we would expect were there. In terms of the fruitiness, probably similar to modern beers. High level of 2-phenyl ethanol which gives a rose or floral aroma.”

Compared to modern craft brews, Gibson said it was like an amber or lambic ale, modern styles that are brewed with wild hops, floral and have sour notes.

Sam Calagione, founder and president of Dogfish Head brewery in Milton, Del., had been brewing historic beers since 1998, using recipes from archaeological digs that are passed on by scientists.

Dogfish’s “Midas Touch,” which is brewed from evidence found in a 2,700-year-old tomb in Turkey, is comprised of barley, saffron and white muscat grapes.

“The whole idea of looking backward for creative inspiration and culinary adventure is really catching on,” Calagione said. “All (the scientists) can give us is a laundry list of ingredients. It is up to us to come up with a creative recipe. What the alcohol content is, whether it’s filtered or carbonated. We have a lot of creative input in bringing these creative beers back to life.”

Stallhagen Brewery in the Aaland Islands of Finland recently re-created the Baltic Sea brew, called “1843.”

By Eric Niiler

Original article:

News.discovery.com



The site is submerged.



Wheat was present in Britain 8,000 thousand years ago, according to new archaeological evidence.

Fragments of wheat DNA recovered from an ancient peat bog suggests the grain was traded or exchanged long before it was grown by the first British farmers.

The research, published in Science, suggests there was a sophisticated network of cultural links across Europe.

The grain was found at what is now a submerged cliff off the Isle of Wight. 

Farming of plants and animals first appeared in the Near East, with the technology spreading along two main routes into Europe.

The accepted of arrival on the British mainland is around 6,000 years ago, as ancient hunter gatherers began to grow crops such as wheat and barley.

The DNA of the wheat – known as einkorn – was collected from sediment that was once a peat bog next to a river. 

Scientists think traders arrived in Britain with the wheat, perhaps via land bridges that connected the south east coast of Britain to the European mainland, where they encountered a less advanced hunter gatherer society.

The wheat may have been made into flour to supplement the diet, but a search for pollen and other clues revealed no signs that the crop was grown in Britain until much later.

Cultural connection

Dr Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick, who led the research, said 8,000 years ago the people of mainland Britain were leading a hunter-gatherer existence, while at the same time farming was gradually spreading across Europe. 

“Common throughout neolithic Southern Europe, einkorn is not found elsewhere in Britain until 2,000 years after the samples found at Bouldnor Cliff,” he said.

“For the einkorn to have reached this site there needs to have been contact between mesolithic [the culture between paleolithic and neolithic] Britons and neolithic farmers far across Europe. 

“The land bridges provide a plausible facilitation of this contact. As such, far from being insular, mesolithic Britain was culturally and possibly physically connected to Europe.”

The research shows that scientists can analyse genetic material preserved within the sediments of the landscapes stretching between Britain and Europe in prehistoric times. 

Co-researcher Prof Vincent Gaffney, of the University of Bradford, said the find marked a new chapter in British and European history. 

“It now seems likely that the hunter-gather societies of Britain, far from being isolated were part of extensive social networks that traded or exchanged exotic foodstuffs across much of Europe,” he said.

Tangible link

And Garry Momber of the Maritime Archaeology Trust, which collected the samples from the site, said work in the Solent had opened up an understanding of the UK’s formative years in a way that he never dreamed possible. 

“The material remains left behind by the people that occupied Britain as it was finally becoming an island 8,000 years ago, show that these were sophisticated people with technologies thousands of years more advanced than previously recognised. 

“The DNA evidence corroborates the archaeological evidence and demonstrates a tangible link with the continent that appears to have become severed when Britain became an island.”


By Helen Briggs

Original article:

BBC.com



The ancient Paracas culture of Peru is known for its ornate textiles. This culture has been well documented by archaeologists yet neglected by bioarchaeologists. A team of researchers, including Arizona State University bioarchaeologist Kelly Knudson, is working to correct this deficit.

ASU researcher uses new tools to explore ancient life

Posted: February 12, 2015

textile from the Wari Kayan Necropolis
The ancient Paracas culture of Peru is known for its ornate textiles. This culture has been well documented by archaeologists yet neglected by bioarchaeologists. A team of researchers, including Arizona State University bioarchaeologist Kelly Knudson, is working to correct this deficit.

Mummies excavated nearly a century ago are yielding new information about past lifeways through work conducted in Arizona State University’s Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory.

Using new techniques in bioarchaeology and biogeochemistry, a team of bioarchaeologists and archaeologists have been able to study the diets of 14 individuals dating back almost 2,000 years.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The mummies were unearthed from one of the most famous sites in Peru: the Paracas Necropolis of Wari Kayan, two densely populated collections of burials off the southern coast. The region has a rich archaeological history that includes intricate textiles and enormous geoglyphs, yet it has been relatively overlooked for bioarchaeological research.

With support from the National Science Foundation, ASU associate professor Kelly Knudson and her colleagues are attempting to rectify that.

In addition to Knudson, the team was made up by Ann H. Peters, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and Elsa Tomasto Cagigao, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.

The researchers used hair samples – between two and 10 sequential samples for each mummy, in addition to two hair artifacts – to investigate the diets of Paracas’ ancient people. They focused on carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of keratin to determine what these individuals ate in the final stages of their lives.

Diet not only provides insight into health, but can also indicate where people lived and traveled, as well as offer clues about their daily lives by pointing to whether their foods were sourced from farming, fishing, hunting or gathering.

During the last months of their lives, the Paracas individuals appear to have eaten primarily marine products and C4 and C3 plants, such as maize and beans. Also, they were either geographically stable or, if they traveled between the inland highlands and coastal regions, continued to consume marine products.

“What is exciting to me about this research is that we are using new scientific techniques to learn more about mummies that were excavated almost 100 years ago. It is a great application of new science to older museum collections,” says Knudson, who is in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Knudson, who is affiliated with the school’s Center for Bioarchaeological Research, explained why it is so important to learn about the lived experiences of people who existed long ago.

“By using small samples of hair from these mummies, we can learn what they ate in the months and weeks before they died, which is a very intimate look at the past,” Knudson said.

When first discovered in 1927 by Peruvian archaeologist Julio Tello, each mummy was bound in a seated position; found with burial items, like baskets or weapons; and wrapped in a cone-shaped bundle of textiles, including finely embroidered garments.

Since the sampled individuals were mostly male, Knudson and her colleagues suggest that future research may involve more females and youths. The researchers also plan to further examine artifacts and mortuary evidence to build context for their isotopic data.

More information on the Necropolis of Wari Kayan can be found at the Paracas Archaeology Research site.

By: Rebecca Howe,

Original article:

Asunews.asu




Charred 1500 year old Grape seeds

First of its kind discovery of 1,500 year-old grape seeds may answer the question: Why was the wine of the Negev so renowned in the Byzantine Empire.


For the first time, grape seeds from the Byzantine era have been found. These grapes were used to produce “the Wine of the Negev” — one of the finest and most renowned wines in the whole of the Byzantine Empire. The charred seeds, over 1,500 years-old, were found at the Halutza excavation site in the Negev during a joint dig by the University of Haifa and the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The vines growing in the Negev today are European varieties, whereas the Negev vine was lost to the world. Our next job is to recreate the ancient wine, and perhaps in that way we will be able to reproduce its taste and understand what made the Negev wine so fine,” said Prof. Guy Bar-Oz of the University of Haifa, director of the excavation. 
The archeologists know of “the Wine of the Negev” or “Gaza Wine” — named for the port it was sent from to all corners of the empire — from historical sources from the Byzantine period. This wine was considered to be of very high quality and was very expensive, but unfortunately, it did not survive to our day, so we do not know what it was that made it so fine. In earlier excavations in the Negev, archeologists found the terraces where the vines were cultivated, the wineries where wine was produced, and the jugs in which the wine was stored and exported, but the grape seeds themselves were not found. 
All this, as we said, until the current excavation at the Halutza National Park, which is part of a bio-archaeological study examining the causes of the rise and fall of the Byzantines in the Negev. The study is directed by Prof. Guy Bar-Oz and Dr. Lior Weisbrod of the Zinman Institute at the University of Haifa, in collaboration with Dr. Tali Erickson-Gini from the Israeli Antiquities Authority. 
Like elsewhere in the Negev, the stone buildings at Halutza— which in its heyday was the most important Byzantine city in the Negev — did not survive due to stone theft over the ages. But, as often happens in archaeological excavations, the archeologists actually found their rare finding in the refuse dump. According to Prof. Bar-Oz, the city’s refuse dumps, or middens, were preserved almost completely intact and now mark the boundaries of the ancient city. They are so conspicuous they can be detected on satellite images, such as those of Google Earth. Pottery and coins discovered in the refuse indicated that they accumulated mainly during the sixth to seventh centuries AD, a time when the city was at the peak of its economic success. With the urban collapse of Halutza in the mid-seventh century, for reasons not yet completely known, organized waste disposal was stopped and it appears that both the city itself and the middens surrounding it were abandoned. 

In the ancient piles of refuse, the researchers found a particularly high concentration of fragments of pottery vessels used for storage, cooking and serving, which included a significant number of Gaza jugs used for storing the ancient Negev wine. The archeologists also found a wealth of biological remains, including animal bones: bones of Red Sea fish and shellfish from the Mediterranean that were imported to the site, which  indicated the vast wealth of the Byzantine city residents. 

The highlight, however, were the hundreds of tiny charred grape seeds. According to the archeologists, this is the first time “Negev” grape seeds have been found, something that will provide first-of-its-kind direct evidence of the wine cultivated in the western Negev in ancient times. Exposing the tiny seeds in the piles of refuse was not easy: For the first time strict and fine excavation methods were used during the dig that included fine sifting and flotation of botanical remains, which float after the soil settles. These methods made it possible to extract the botanical finding from the Byzantine material. “After washing the dirt and gently sifting the findings all that remained was to separate the botanical findings, which included seeds, pits and plants remains, from small animal bones, which included the remains of rodents that were drawn to the refuse,” explained Prof. Bar-Oz. 

As mentioned above, the vines from which our ancestors produced the wine famous throughout the Byzantine Empire did not survive and researchers today do not know whether these were imported species from elsewhere — as is the case with the vines cultivated in the Negev today, which are originally French or Italian — or whether these were native varieties that had been lost to the world. The next stage of the study is to join forces with biologists to sequence the DNA of the seeds and in this way to discover their origin. “European varieties require copious amounts of water. Today it is less of a problem thanks to technology, but it is unlikely that that was the case 1,500 years ago. It is more interesting to think of local grape varieties that were better suited to the Negev. Maybe the secret to the Negev wine’s international prestige lay in the method by which the vines were cultivated in the Negev’s arid conditions,” the archeologists are asking. 

This discovery is exciting for local wine growers and for the archeologists, and they all hope to reveal the secret of the Negev vines in order to recreate the ancient wine, and by so doing, to finally understand why it was famous throughout the Byzantine Empire — in Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Spain. 

The Byzantine city of Halutza, or Elusa in Greek, was founded by the Nabataeans but reached its prime during the Byzantine period between the fourth and seventh centuries, AD. The city then grew to become the largest and most important of all the Byzantine cities in the Negev. Archaeological and historical evidence indicate

Note: the above article stopped here with “indicate”, if I find more I will post it; thanks.

Original article:

Israel Antiquities Authority




Plant particles found during the excavation of this Neolithic cemetery in Nubia (Sudan) turned out to be traces of domestic cereals when analysed in a lab. copyright: D. Usai/ S. Salvatori

A research team successfully identified ancient barley and wheat residues in grave goods and on teeth from two Neolithic cemeteries in Central Sudan and Nubia, showing that humans in Africa were already exploited domestic cereals 7,000 years ago and thus five hundred years earlier than previously known.

The results of the analyses were recently published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

Barley and wheat crops

Dr. Welmoed Out from Kiel University said, “With our results we can verify that people along the Nile did not only exploit gathered wild plants and animals but had crops of barley and wheat.”

These types of crops were first cultivated in the Middle East about 10,500 years ago and spread out from there to Central and South Asia as well as to Europe and North Africa – the latter faster than expected.

The diversity of the diet was much greater than previously assumed,” states Out and adds: “Moreover, the fact that grains were placed in the graves of the deceased implies that they had a special, symbolic meaning.”

The research team, coordinated by Welmoed Out and the environmental archaeologist Marco Madella from Barcelona, implemented, among other things, a special high-quality light microscope as well as radiocarbon analyses for age determination. Hereby, they were supported by the fact that mineral plant particles, so-called phytoliths, survive very long, even when other plant remains are no longer discernible. In addition, the millennia-old teeth, in particular adherent calculus, provide evidence on the diet of these prehistoric humans due to the starch granules and phytoliths contained therein.



One of the graves at the Neolithic cemetery in Nubia (Sudan), containing a skeleton and plant material deposited behind the skull (white area at the left picture margin). Copyright: D. Usai/ S. Salvatori

Original article:

Past horizons






Hunter-gatherers had almost no malocclusion and dental crowding, and the condition first became common among the world’s earliest farmers some 12,000 years ago in Southwest Asia, according to findings published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

By analysing the lower  and teeth crown dimensions of 292 archaeological skeletons from the Levant, Anatolia and Europe, from between 28,000-6,000 years ago, an international team of scientists have discovered a clear separation between European hunter-gatherers, Near Eastern/Anatolian semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and transitional farmers, and European farmers, based on the form and structure of their jawbones.

“Our analysis shows that the lower jaws of the world’s earliest farmers in the Levant, are not simply smaller versions of those of the predecessor hunter-gatherers, but that the lower jaw underwent a complex series of shape changes commensurate with the transition to agriculture,” says Professor Ron Pinhasi from the School of Archaeology and Earth Institute, University College Dublin, the lead author on the study.

“Our findings show that the  populations have an almost “perfect harmony” between their lower jaws and teeth,” he explains. “But this harmony begins to fade when you examine the lower jaws and teeth of the earliest farmers”.

In the case of hunter-gatherers, the scientists from University College Dublin, Israel Antiquity Authority, and the State University of New York, Buffalo, found a correlation between inter-individual jawbones and dental distances, suggesting an almost “perfect” state of equilibrium between the two. While in the case of semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and farming groups, they found no such correlation, suggesting that the harmony between the teeth and the jawbone was disrupted with the shift towards agricultural practices and sedentism in the region. This, the international team of scientists say, may be linked to the dietary changes among the different populations.

The diet of the  was based on “hard” foods like wild uncooked vegetables and meat, while the staple diet of the sedentary farmer is based on “soft” cooked or processed foods like cereals and legumes. With soft cooked foods there is less of a requirement for chewing which in turn lessens the size of the jaws but without a corresponding reduction in the dimensions of the , there is no adequate space in the jaws and this often results in malocclusion and dental crowding.

The link between chewing, diet, and related dental wear patterns is well known in the scientific literature. Today, malocclusion and dental crowding affects around one in five people in modern-world populations. The condition has been described as the “malady of civilization”

Original article:

Phys.org



The Batwa hunter-gatherers collect and roast wild yams in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.

The difference between humans and their closest relatives is partly a matter of taste. Yams, pumpkins, and squash are as bland as potatoes to our tongues today, but to a chimp and our ancestors, wild varieties were bitter and yucky. Now scientists have pinpointed some of the genetic changes that allowed our ancestors to diversify their palates, potentially allowing them to take better advantage of a wide range of foods—and conquer the world.

As humans adapted to new habitats, they had to become open to new culinary experiences. They ate more starchy tuberous roots, learned to cook their meat and bitter root vegetables, and eventually domesticated plants and animals. Those dietary revolutions helped make us human, giving our bodies the extra calories that enlarged our brains, while allowing our guts, jaws, and teeth to shrink as we ate softer, more easily digestible food.

To figure out how these changes evolved, anthropological geneticist George Perry of Pennsylvania State University, University Park, and his colleagues compared the genomes of modern humans and chimpanzees to the newly published genomes of a Neandertal and one of its close relatives, a mysterious human ancestor known as a Denisovan, known only from a few bones found in a Russian cave. All three groups of humans had lost two bitter taste genes, TAS2R62 and TAS2R64, that are still present in chimpanzees, the team reports this month in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Two million years ago, our early ancestors such as Australopithecus or early members of Homo likely found wild yams and other tubers bitter. But as humans began to cook, they could roast tuberous root vegetables long enough that they weren’t as bitter. (Today, hunter-gatherers still rely on roasted tubers as a major source of calories.) At the same time, hominins—members of the human family—lost those two particular bitter taste genes, so they were presumably able to eat a wider range of tuberous plants. Modern humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans all lost the ability to detect the bitter flavor in some wild plants and eventually modern humans bred varieties of squashes, gourds, and yams that are less bitter than the wild types.

The team also found some intriguing differences between modern humans, who arose in Africa in the past 200,000 years or so, and our archaic human relatives, such as Neandertals and Denisovans. Our lineage, for example, carries an average of six copies, and as many as 20 copies, of the salivary amylase gene, AMY1. The gene produces the enzyme amylase in our saliva, which has been thought to help digest sugars in starchy foods, although its role in human digestion is still unproven. By contrast, chimps, Neandertals, and Denisovans carry only one to two copies of the salivary amylase gene, which suggests they got fewer calories from starchy veggies than modern humans. This confirms an earlier finding that Neandertals didn’t have extra copies of the amylase gene and is “definitely a surprise,” says biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham of Harvard University, who was not a co-author on this paper.

Wrangham has proposed that a key human ancestor, H. erectus, relied on cooking starchy tuberous roots to get enough calories to expand its brain. But if so, that distant ancestor wasn’t using extra copies of the amylase gene to extract more calories from these plant foods. He and Harvard postdoctoral researcher Rachel Carmody suggest the amylase copies may have had other functions, such as helping prevent cavities.

And although researchers have proposed earlier that this adaptation took place with the invention of agriculture, Perry and his colleagues have found that hunter-gatherers also carry the extra copies of the salivary amylase gene. This suggests that this adaptation took place in modern humans, after the split with the ancestor they shared with Neandertals about 600,000 years ago but before plants were domesticated 10,000 years ago. “This doesn’t mean that earlier hominins weren’t eating more starch, but perhaps they weren’t getting all of the same benefits as modern humans,” Perry says.

One sign that cooking shaped our ancestors’ genomes as well as our guts is that humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans all have lost a masticatory myosin gene, MYH16, that helps build strong chewing muscles in the jaws of chimps. This may be one result of learning to cook, which softens food, Perry says. This fits with evidence that some early hominins were chefs—Neandertals in the Middle East cooked barley porridge, for example.

Now, Perry and his colleagues are trying to figure out when this gene was lost in the human lineage. The loss of the gene for muscular jaws in Neandertals, Denisovans, and moderns suggests that cooking arose in their common ancestor, H. erectus, he says.

Original article:

By Ann Gibbons 

News.sciencemag.org

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