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Original article:

heritagedaily.com
Devon farmers who made their home in the same remote location for 1,200 years had a taste for exotic imported food and drink, archaeologists have found.

There was a thriving settlement in Ipplepen, South Devon, for hundreds of years longer than previously thought, excavations have shown.
It was originally thought that people only lived on the site during the Roman period, but radiocarbon analysis now shows the settlement was founded in the middle of the pre-Roman Iron Age – the 4th century BC. It was only finally abandoned in the 8th century AD, possibly because of the foundation of Ipplepen village nearby.
The radiocarbon analysis was of burials and charcoal found by University of Exeter archaeologists in 2015-16. They have been excavating different parts of the area during the past few years and have been digging again this month.
The team is again working with the local community to discover more about the site. They are joined by ten members of the local community who are helping them to excavate the area thanks to generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
In previous years the excavations have revealed where people lived, and where they buried their dead, but excavations this year have given clues as to how they were making a living. The remains of a granary suggests it may have been used to store grain produced though farming the surrounding fields, while debris from iron working shows that there was also industrial production.
Roman pottery, some if it imported from France and the Mediterranean, shows this was a community with a taste for exotic food and drink.
Professor Stephen Rippon of the University of Exeter said: “When we started excavating we thought that the site was only used during the Roman period, but the appliance of science has shown that it was occupied for well over a thousand years. Our excavations have given us further insight into how people made a living too.
“It is wonderful that the local community are able to share in the excitement of what we are finding and Heritage Lottery Funding for their training has made this possible.”
The public can visit the site on Sunday 25 June when there will be guided tours and the opportunity to see the latest finds. There will also be the chance to learn about Roman coins with leading coin expert Dr Sam Moorhead from the British Museum, and stalls run by Devon County Council’s Historic Environment team and Torquay Museum. There will also be activities for children, including the chance to meet a Roman thanks to re-enactment group the Isca Romans. There will also be Egyptian food available and the Ipplepen Carnival Club will be running a refreshment marquee.
Devon archaeologist Danielle Wootton, who is working at the site, said “Last year, we welcomed 1,200 visitors in just six hours and it was great to see the public so interested in this important archaeological site on their doorstep. We look forward to welcoming everyone again this year.”
Dr Chris Smart of the University of Exeter said: “We are so excited to be able to show everyone the hidden past of Ipplepen. The generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund will enable us to help the community to record some of the most important archaeological and historic sites within the region and this will be of huge benefit to future generations.”
The Ipplepen Archaeological Project team have also undertaken a series of workshops in local schools. Before the excavation began this year, Danielle Wootton and Chris Smart visited several schools including Ipplepen Primary School, Abbotskerswell Primary School, and Sands Secondary School in Ashburton, to talk about the history of the site and what has been found there. Groups from all the schools are now visiting the site to work with archaeologists, students and volunteers. This has so far included building a roundhouse wall, designing a Roman coin, and learning to identify different types of pottery.
University of Exeter

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sorghum

Original Article:

heritagedaily.com

 

Archaeologists examining plant impressions within broken pottery have discovered the earliest evidence for domesticated sorghum in Africa.

The evidence comes from an archaeological site (known as KG23) in eastern Sudan, dating from 3500 to 3000 BC, and is associated with an ancient archaeological culture known as the Butana Group.
Sorghum is a native African grass that was utilized for thousands of years by prehistoric peoples, and emerged as one of the world’s five most important cereal crops, along with rice, wheat, barley, and maize.
For a half century scholars have hypothesized that native African groups were domesticating sorghum outside the winter rainfall zone of the ancient Egyptian Nile Valley (where wheat and barley cereals were predominant) in the semi-arid tropics of Africa, but no archaeological evidence existed.
This new discovery in eastern Sudan reveals that during the 4th millennium BC, peoples of the Butana Group were intensively cultivating wild stands of sorghum until they began to change the plant genetically into domesticated morphotypes.
Along with the recent discovery of domesticated pearl millet in eastern Mali around 2500 BC, this latest discovery in eastern Sudan pushes back the process for domesticating summer rainfall cereals another thousand years in the Sahel, with sorghum, providing new evidence for the earliest known native African cultigen.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS JOURNALS

NJust how important food and the means to obtain it is clearly evident from the article below. Also note the importance the fish hooks are not only as a possible ” status” element in that culture but also as a way to “feed ” one self in the after life. JLP

Original Article:

heritagedaily.com

Archaeologists from the Australian National University has discovered five fish hooks dating from the Pleistocene era, approximately 12,000 years ago on Indonesia’s Alor Island. photo by Professor Sue Oconnor

five fish hooks dating from the Pleistocene era, approximately 12,000 years ago on Indonesia’s Alor Island.
The hooks, comprising of a shaped hook and four circular rotating hooks fashioned from sea-snail shell were part of a ritual burial, which included several carefully placed grave goods under the chin and around the jaws of a female.
Professor Sue O’Connor from ANU said “the discovery turns on its head the theory that most fishing activities on these islands were carried out by men.
“These are the oldest known fish-hooks associated with mortuary practices from anywhere in the world and perhaps indicate that fishing equipment was viewed as essential for transition to the afterlife in this area,” Professor O’Connor said.
“The discovery shows that in both life and death, the Pleistocene inhabitants of the Alor Island region were intrinsically connected to the sea, and the association of the fish-hooks with a burial denotes the cosmological status of fishing in this island environment.”
The earliest other burial with fish-hooks used as a funerary item date from 9,000 from the Mesolithic era in Siberia’s Ershi cemetery.
Fish hooks have been discovered previously from Japan and Europe dating as far back as 22,000, but these were not related to burial practices.
Professor O’Connor said the appearance of the Alor rotating fish-hooks so early on a disconnected island suggests that several fishing communities developed the same technology separately, rather than learning from each other through contact.
“The Alor hooks bear an uncanny resemblance to rotating hooks used in Japan, Australia, Arabia, California, Chile, Mexico and Oceania,” she said.
“We argue that the same sort of artefact was developed independently because it was the most fitting form to suit the ecology, rather than through cultural diffusion.”

Note: A reader brought this article to my attention, and although ” the oldest wine” belongs to my previous post this is an incredible find. 

I just discovered I posted an article about this discovery last October, but this gives more detail.

JLP

 

A view of Monte Kronio today. Gianni Polizzi, 2018, CC BY-ND

 

the conversation.com

By Davide Tanasi

Monte Kronio rises 1,300 feet above the geothermally active landscape of southwestern Sicily. Hidden in its bowels is a labyrinthine system of caves, filled with hot sulfuric vapors. At lower levels, these caves average 99 degrees Fahrenheit and 100 percent humidity. Human sweat cannot evaporate and heat stroke can result in less than 20 minutes of exposure to these underground conditions.
Nonetheless, people have been visiting the caves of Monte Kronio since as far back as 8,000 years ago. They’ve left behind vessels from the Copper Age (early sixth to early third millennium B.C.) as well as various sizes of ceramic storage jars, jugs and basins. In the deepest cavities of the mountain these artifacts sometimes lie with human skeletons.

Archaeologists debate what unknown religious practices these artifacts might be evidence of. Did worshipers sacrifice their lives bringing offerings to placate a mysterious deity who puffed gasses inside Monte Kronio? Or did these people bury high-ranking individuals in that special place, close to what was probably considered a source of magical power?
One of the most puzzling of questions around this prehistoric site has been what those vessels contained. What substance was so precious it might mollify a deity or properly accompany dead chiefs and warriors on their trip to the underworld?
Using tiny samples, scraped from these ancient artifacts, my recent analysis came up with a surprising answer: wine. And that discovery has big implications for the story archaeologists tell about the people who lived in this time and place.

Analyzing scraping samples:

In November 2012, a team of expert geographers and speleologists ventured once again into the dangerous underground complex of Monte Kronio. They escorted archaeologists from the Superintendence of Agrigento down more than 300 feet to document artifacts and to take samples. The scientists scraped the inner walls of five ceramic vessels, removing about 100 mg (0.0035 ounces) of powder from each.
I led an international team of scholars, which hoped analyzing this dark brown residue could shed some light on what these Copper Age containers from Monte Kronio originally carried. Our plan was to use cutting-edge chemical techniques to characterize the organic residue.
We decided to use three different approaches. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) would be able to tell us the physical and chemical properties of the atoms and molecules present. We turned to scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDX) and the attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR FT-IR) for the elemental analysis – the chemical characterization of the samples.

These analysis methods are destructive: The sample gets used up when we run the tests. Since we had just that precious 100 mg of powder from each vessel, we needed to be extremely careful as we prepared the samples. If we messed up the analysis, we couldn’t just run it all over again.

We found that four of the five Copper Age large storage jars contained an organic residue. Two contained animal fats and another held plant residues, thanks to what we inferred was a semi-liquid kind of stew partially absorbed by the walls of the jars. But the fourth jar held the greatest surprise: pure grape wine from 5,000 years ago.
Presence of wine implies much more
Initially I did not fully grasp the import of such a discovery. It was only when I vetted the scientific literature on alcoholic beverages in prehistory that I realized the Monte Kronio samples represented the oldest wine known so far for Europe and the Mediterranean region. An incredible surprise, considering that the Southern Anatolia and Transcaucasian region were traditionally believed to be the cradle of grape domestication and early viticulture. At the end of 2017, research similar to ours using Neolithic ceramic samples from Georgia pushed back the discovery of trace of pure grape wine even further, to 6,000-5,800 B.C.
This idea of the “oldest wine” conveyed in news headlines captured the public’s attention when we first published our results.
But what the media failed to convey are the tremendous historical implications that such a discovery has for how archaeologists understand Copper Age Sicilian cultures.

From an economic standpoint, the evidence of wine implies that people at this time and place were cultivating grapevines. Viticulture requires specific terrains, climates and irrigation systems. Archaeologists hadn’t, up to this point, included all these agricultural strategies in their theories about settlement patterns in these Copper Age Sicilian communities. It looks like researchers need to more deeply consider ways these people might have transformed the landscapes where they lived.
The discovery of wine from this time period has an even bigger impact on what archaeologists thought we knew about commerce and the trade of goods across the whole Mediterranean at this time. For instance, Sicily completely lacks metal ores. But the discovery of little copper artifacts – things like daggers, chisels and pins had been found at several sites – shows that Sicilians somehow developed metallurgy by the Copper Age.
The traditional explanation has been that Sicily engaged in an embryonic commercial relationship with people in the Aegean, especially with the northwestern regions of the Peloponnese. But that doesn’t really make a lot of sense because the Sicilian communities didn’t have much of anything to offer in exchange for the metals. The lure of wine, though, might have been what brought the Aegeans to Sicily, especially if other settlements hadn’t come this far in viticulture yet.
Ultimately, the discovery of wine remnants near gaseous crevices deep inside Monte Kronio adds more support to the hypothesis that the mountain was a sort of prehistoric sanctuary where purification or oracular practices were carried out, taking advantage of the cleansing and intoxicating features of sulfur.
Wine has been known as a magical substance since its appearances in Homeric tales. As red as blood, it had the unique power to bring euphoria and an altered state of consciousness and perception. Mixed with the incredible physical stress due to the hot and humid environment, it’s easy to imagine the descent into the darkness of Monte Kronio as a transcendent journey toward the gods. The trek likely ended with death for the weak, maybe with the conviction of immortality for the survivors.
And all of this was written in the grains of 100 milligrams of 6,000-year-old powder.

 

 

 

 

 

Original Article:

heritagedaily.com

Excavations in the Republic of Georgia by the Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (GRAPE), a joint undertaking between the University of Toronto (U of T) and the Georgian National Museum, have uncovered evidence of the earliest winemaking anywhere in the world.

THIS IS A DRONE PHOTOGRAPH OF EXCAVATIONS AT GADACHRILI GORA SITE IN REPUBILC OF GEORGIA.
Photo by Stephen Batiuk

 

Excavations in the Republic of Georgia by the Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (GRAPE), a joint undertaking between the University of Toronto (U of T) and the Georgian National Museum, have uncovered evidence of the earliest winemaking anywhere in the world.
The discovery dates the origin of the practice to the Neolithic period around 6000 BC, pushing it back 600-1,000 years from the previously accepted date.
The earliest previously known chemical evidence of wine dated to 5400-5000 BC and was from an area in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Researchers now say the practice began hundreds of years earlier in the South Caucasus region on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
Excavations have focused on two Early Ceramic Neolithic sites (6000-4500 BC) called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, approximately 50 kilometres south of the modern capital of Tbilisi. Pottery fragments of ceramic jars recovered from the sites were collected and subsequently analyzed by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania to ascertain the nature of the residue preserved inside for several millennia.
The newest methods of chemical extraction confirmed tartaric acid, the fingerprint compound for grape and wine as well as three associated organic acids – malic, succinic and citric – in the residue recovered from eight large jars. The findings are reported in a research study this week in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine,” said Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Archaeology Centre at U of T, and co-author of the study published in PNAS.
“The domesticated version of the fruit has more than 10,000 varieties of table and wine grapes worldwide,” said Batiuk. “Georgia is home to over 500 varieties for wine alone, suggesting that grapes have been domesticated and cross-breeding in the region for a very long time.”
GRAPE represents the Canadian component of a larger international, interdisciplinary project involving researchers from the United States, Denmark, France, Italy and Israel. The sites excavated by the U of T and Georgian National Museum team are remnants of two villages that date back to the Neolithic period, which began around 15,200 BC in parts of the Middle East and ended between 4500 and 2000 BC in other parts of the world.
The Neolithic period is characterized by a package of activities that include the beginning of farming, the domestication of animals, the development of crafts such as pottery and weaving, and the making of polished stone tools.
“Pottery, which was ideal for processing, serving and storing fermented beverages, was invented in this period together with many advances in art, technology and cuisine,” said Batiuk. “This methodology for identifying wine residues in pottery was initially developed and first tested on a vessel from the site of Godin Tepe in central western Iran, excavated more than 40 years ago by a team from the Royal Ontario Museum led by fellow U of T researcher T. Cuyler Young. So in many ways, this discovery brings my co-director Andrew Graham and I full circle back to the work of our professor Cuyler, who also provided some of the fundamental theories of the origins of agriculture in the Near East.
“In essence, what we are examining is how the Neolithic package of agricultural activity, tool-making and crafts that developed further south in modern Iraq, Syria and Turkey adapted as it was introduced into different regions with different climate and plant life,” Batiuk said. “The horticultural potential of the south Caucasus was bound to lead to the domestication of many new and different species, and innovative ‘secondary’ products were bound to emerge.”
The researchers say the combined archaeological, chemical, botanical, climatic and radiocarbon data provided by the analysis demonstrate that the Eurasian grapevine Vitis vinifera was abundant around the sites. It grew under ideal environmental conditions in early Neolithic times, similar to premium wine-producing regions in Italy and southern France today.
“Our research suggests that one of the primary adaptations of the Neolithic way of life as it spread to Caucasia was viniculture,” says Batiuk. “The domestication of the grape apparently led eventually led to the emergence of a wine culture in the region.”
Batiuk describes an ancient society in which the drinking and offering of wine penetrates and permeates nearly every aspect of life from medical practice to special celebrations, from birth to death, to everyday meals at which toasting is common.
“As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopeias, cuisines, economics, and society throughout the ancient Near East,” he said.
Batiuk cites ancient viniculture as a prime example of human ingenuity in developing horticulture, and creative uses for its byproducts.
“The infinite range of flavors and aromas of today’s 8,000-10,000 grape varieties are the end result of the domesticated Eurasian grapevine being transplanted and crossed with wild grapevines elsewhere over and over again,” he said. “The Eurasian gravepine that now accounts for 99.9 per cent of wine made in the world today, has its roots in Caucasia.”

 

Discovery reveals plant-based menu of prehistoric man

 

Original Article:

popular- archaeology.com

780,000 year old remains of edible fruits and seeds discovered in the northern Jordan Valley. Credit: Yaakov Langsam

 

THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM—A tiny grape pip (scale 1mm), left on the ground some 780,000 years ago, is one of more than 9,000 remains of edible plants discovered in an old Stone Age site in Israel on the shoreline of Lake Hula in the northern Jordan valley, dating back to the Acheulian culture from 1.75-0.25 million years ago. The floral collection provides rich testimony of the plant-based diet of our prehistoric ancestors.

While around the world remains of Paleolithic plants are scarce, this unique macro-botanical assemblage has allowed researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University to study the vegetal diet of humans from early-mid-Pleistocene, which is central to understanding the evolution, adaptation and exploitation of the environment by hominins.
The findings were recovered during archeological excavations at the waterlogged site of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, where the earliest evidence of human-controlled fire in western Asia was discovered in recent years.
Prof. Naama Goren-Inbar of the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who conducted the excavations with colleagues, have long studied findings of hominid occupations in the Levantine Corridor, through which several hominin waves dispersed out of Africa.
In a research paper that will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on December 5, titled “The plant component of an Acheulian diet: a case study from Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, Israel”, Prof. Goren-Inbar reveals the discovery of the ancient macrobotanical remains, which for the first time indicate to the rich variety of plant assortments and subsistence opportunities that were available to the early humans on the transition from an African-based to a Eurasian diet.
“In recent years we were met with a golden opportunity to reveal numerous remains of fruits, nuts and seeds from trees, shrubs and the lake, alongside the remains of animals and man-made stone tools in one locality,” Prof. Goren-Inbar said.
Of the remains found on site, Prof. Goren-Inbar and Dr. Yoel Melamed of the Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar Ilan University have identified 55 species of edible plants, including seeds, fruits, nuts, leaves, stems, roots and tubers.

The findings, many of them minor in size, have been preserved for hundreds of thousands of years thanks to the damp conditions in the vicinity of the site, said Dr. Melamed. The basalts under and in the site were dated by Ar/Ar and the dates were further confirmed by results of paleomagnetic analyses.
“This region is known for the wealth of plants, but what surprised us were the sources of plant food coming from the lake. We found more than 10 species that existed here in prehistoric times but no longer today, such as two types of water nuts, from which seven were edible,” explained Dr. Melamed.

The site was submerged under the Jordan River and the Hula Lake in conditions of humidity and lack of oxygen, aided by the fast covering of layers of sediments, in which archaeologists also found stone tools and animal fossils.
Gesher Benot Ya’aqov is also the place where Prof. Goren-Inbar found the earliest evidence of the use of fire in Eurasia (LINK). “The use of fire is very important because a lot of the plants are toxic or inedible. Using fire, like roasting nuts and roots for example, allows the use of various parts of the plant and increases the diversity of the plant component of the Acheulian diet, alongside aquatic and terrestrial fauna,” said Prof. Goren-Inbar.
The use of fire and the availability of a diverse range of flora highlight the ability of prehistoric man to adjust to a new environment, to exploit the environment for his own benefit and to colonize beyond Africa.
Article Source: Hebrew University press release.

 

IMAGE: AN ANCIENT IRRIGATION SYSTEM ALONG THE TIAN SHAN MOUNTAINS OF CHINA ALLOWED THE CULTIVATION OF CROPS IN ONE OF THE WORLD’S DRIEST CLIMATES. view more
CREDIT: IMAGE COURTESY OF YUQI LI, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS.

 

Using satellite imaging and drone reconnaissance, archaeologists from Washington University in St. Louis have discovered an ancient irrigation system that allowed a farming community in northwestern China to raise livestock and cultivate crops in one of the world’s driest desert climates.

Source: Did ancient irrigation technology travel Silk Road?

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