Feeds:
Posts
Comments

IMG_1235

Image credit: marfis75 via flickr | http://bit.ly/1z8rHVh
Rights information: http://bit.ly/1dWcOPS

C. and you have been fortunate enough to be invited to a party at the home of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a great social coup. Piso, after all, was Julius Caesar’s father-in-law and a consul of Rome.

What’s for dinner?

You need to prepare for pig. Archaeologists studying the eating habits of ancient Etruscans and Romans have found that pork was the staple of Italian cuisine before and during the Roman Empire. Both the poor and the rich ate pig as the meat of choice, although the rich, like Piso, got better cuts, ate meat more often and likely in larger quantities.

They had pork chops and a form of bacon. They even served sausages and prosciutto; in other words, a meal not unlike what you’d find in Rome today — or in South Philadelphia.

Researchers discussed this ancient Mediterranean diet at a meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in New Orleans in January.

Dinner parties were the way the Roman aristocracy showed off their wealth and prestige, according to Michael MacKinnon, professor of archaeology at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Status in the upper class was declared with the presentation of the meal, the rare spices, the dinnerware, he explained.

“The wealthier you are the more you want to invest in display and advertising to your guests. Flash was perhaps more important than substance,” said MacKinnon. “Whole animals showed great wealth.”

Besides the meat, there would be vegetables that looked little different from what we eat, said Angela Trentacoste of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Except for grain, which was imported in huge quantities from places like North Africa, everything was locally grown.

MacKinnon and Trentacoste are zooarchaeologists, scientists who study the remains of animals found in archaeological sites. They rummaged through ancient garbage dumps or middens, and occasionally even ancient latrines looking for the bones of animals and fish people ate. People would sometimes dump the garbage in the latrine instead of walk to the neighborhood dump, MacKinnon said. They can deduce a great deal from the bones about what life was like.

They also can often piece together a typical diet based on recovered porcelain shards.

They can look at bones in a dump and can tell what the animal was, sometimes how it was slaughtered, where it came from, and how the food supply worked.

For instance, if one site had nothing but feet bones, “It tells us that things were marketed and better cuts went elsewhere,” he said.

Zooarchaeologists also have literary evidence of what was eaten from writers such as Juvenal and the poet Martial, often in satirical plays where writers mocked the ostentatious indulgence.

Trentacoste specializes in the Etruscan civilization that preceded Rome in Italy. Much of her digging was in the tombs of rich Etruscans who often were buried with food and utensils. On some sites, she found 20,000 animal bones amid the rubbish.

As the hegemony of Rome grew so did the city and what was a largely rural Etruscan society became a more urban Roman one, she said. That changed the food supply. Most food, as now, came from farms outside the city.

But, the city dwellers still raised pigs. They take up little room, can be easily bred and transported, Trentacoste said, and are easy to raise.

They also had chickens roaming the yards that looked much like the chickens of today, MacKinnon said, and they were close to the same size. Modern farmers use breeding and nutrition to make the chickens grow faster, but eventually Roman chickens would catch up. Cattle take up too much room but rich Romans had beef occasionally, and sometimes goat.

The lower classes ate to stay alive.

Some historians believed the lower class was mostly vegetarian but that is not true, MacKinnon and Trentacoste said. The generally ate the same things the upper class did, but not the same cuts (think mutton versus lamp chops) and probably not in the same quantities. The rich reclined as they ate.

Lower class Romans did not have fancy flatware, instead they used crude utensils.

Low-fat food was not in vogue because the fat would protect meat from spoilage in a world without refrigerators.

Because only the upper class had kitchens at home, other Romans bought food from street vendors, something like the lunch wagons of today. Mostly, MacKinnon said, they would put the food in large pots and make stews or a porridge. They might also boil the meat.

Only the wealthy were able to broil or barbecue.

Despite legend, most Romans or Etruscans did not often eat exotic animals regularly, although upper class diners might enjoy songbirds swallowed whole and one midden in Rome contained the bones of a slaughtered camel. Trentacoste said songbirds are still eaten in some parts of Italy. Pizza had yet not been invented.

One legend is true, MacKinnon said: Vomitoriums. There might be so much food at Piso’s table, and everyone would want to indulge. To make room, they would excuse themselves from the table and purge.

By: Joel N. Shurkin, Contributor
February 3, 2015

Original article:
insidescience

IMG_1232
Featured image: Proto-cuneiform recording the allocation of beer, probably from southern Iraq, Late Prehistoric period, about 3100-3000 BC (Flickr photo) –

IMG_1234
Archaeologist Patrick McGovern

Article:
An archaeologist working with a brewery is recreating ancient beers from around the world, including Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Denmark, Honduras and China. Alcohol archaeologist Patrick McGovern thinks he may even be able to recreate a drink from Egypt that is 16,000 years old.

McGovern, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, has been working with Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. The professor is using modern technology to detect traces of ingredients. In addition, Dogfish Head Brewery has produced beer using African, South American and Finnish recipes from centuries ago. For a list of the brews, see dogfish.com

Others have been attempting to brew and make wine. In 2013, Great Lakes Brewery in Ohio, with the help of archaeologists in Chicago, tried to brew a Sumerian beer whose recipe dated back 5,000 years.

Beginning in 2012, Great Lakes tried to replicate the Sumerian beer using only a wooden spoon and clay vessels modeled after artifacts excavated in Iraq. They successfully malted barley on the roof of the brew house and also used a bricklike “beer bread” for the active yeast. Current results have yielded a beer full of bacteria, warm and slightly sour.

Beer seems to have been an important part of Sumerian culture: the word beer appears in many contexts relating to religion, medicine and myth. In fact, the oldest documentary evidence of beer comes from a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet depicting people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl, and the oldest surviving beer recipe can be found in a 3,900-year-old ancient Sumerian poem honoring Ninkasi, the goddess of brewing, fertility and the harvest. The poem describes how bappir, Sumerian bread, is mixed with “aromatics” to ferment in a big vat.

The production of beer in Mesopotamia is a controversial topic in archaeological circles. Some believe that beer was discovered by accident and that a piece of bread or grain could have become wet and a short time later, it began to ferment into an inebriating pulp. However, others believe that the technique of brewing beer was an early technological achievement and may have even predated the Sumerians in the lowlands of the Mesopotamian alluvial plane.

Now McGovern is extracting alcoholic beverage ingredients from residue on ancient pottery at archaeological sites worldwide and studying references in documents. He has been resurrecting beers and beverages that had been forgotten.

“He detected traces of various ingredients left by the drinks – including barley, honey, herbs and spices – using a number of methods including liquid chromatography, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry,” says an article the DailyMail.co.uk.

Dogfish Head brewed was what they called Midas Touch. The recipe is from molecular evidence from residues in what scholars think is King Midas’ Turkish tomb from 700 B.C. Midas Touch beer is made with barley malt, white muscat grapes, honey and saffron.

“A variety of alcoholic residues have been found inside important tombs around the world – suggesting that they were drinks used during celebrations or rituals and perhaps even to wish good luck to the dead in the afterlife,” the Daily Mail article states.

It’s not just beer that archaeologists are trying to recreate. Ancient-Origins.net reported in 2013 that Italian archaeologists planted a vineyard near Catania in Sicily with the aim of making wine using techniques from classical Rome described in ancient texts. The team expected its first vintage within four years.

In order to replicate conditions used in Roman times, modern chemicals will not be used on the crop and the vines will be planted using wooden Roman tools and fastened with canes and broom.

Instead of fermenting in barrels, the wine will be placed in large terracotta pots – traditionally big enough to hold a man – which are buried to the neck in the ground, lined inside with beeswax to make them impermeable and left open during fermentation before being sealed shut with clay or resin.

The research team will make two types of wine – the type once used for the nobles, which was sweetened with honey and water, and the type made for slaves, which was more vinegary.

The history of wine spans thousands of years and is closely intertwined with the history of agriculture, cuisine, civilization and humanity itself. Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest known wine production occurred in what is now the country of Georgia around 7000 BCE, with other notable sites in Greater Iran and Greece, dated at 4500 BCE.

It appears McGovern was one of the earlier researchers to use modern technology in the ancient beverage field. He has been working with Dogfish Head Brewery since 2001 to recreate ancient beers.

But there is a reference at thekeep.org about a 1996 attempt by Newcastle Breweries in Melbourne to brew an ancient Egyptian beer.

“The Herald-Sun reported that ‘Tutankhamon Ale’ will be based on sediment from jars found in a brewery housed in the Sun Temple of Nefertiti, and the team involved has gathered enough of the correct raw materials to produce just 1000 bottles of the ale,” Caroline Seawright wrote at thekeep.org. That beer was 5 to 6 percent alcohol and was sold at Harrods for £50 (about $100) a bottle. The profit was to go toward further research into Egyptian beer making.”

By Mark Miller, February 1, 2015

ancient-origins.net

As dairy farmers anxiously await the lifting of EU milk quotas in April this year, new research from the University of Bristol, UK has revealed the antiquity of dairy farming in a region famous for its dairy exports: Ireland.

Research published today in the Journal of Environmental Archaeology shows that dairying on the island goes back approximately 6,000 years, revealed through traces of ancient dairy fats found in pots dating to around 4,000 to 2,500 BC.

Dr Jessica Smyth of Bristol’s School of Chemistry analysed nearly 500 pots from the Neolithic, the period when people switched from hunting and gathering to farming. In Britain and Ireland, this change occurred around 4,000 BC, more than 1,000 years later than on the Continent. The Bristol team use a combination of fat or lipid ‘fingerprinting’ and compound-specific carbon isotope techniques to identify the origin of fats preserved in the walls of prehistoric cooking pots.

Dr Smyth, who led the study, said: “We know from previous research that dairying was an important part of many early farming economies, but what was a big surprise was the prevalence of dairy residues in Irish pots. It looks to have been a very important food source.”

Ninety per cent of the residues tested for fat origin were found to be dairy fats, with ten per cent found to be meat fats (beef or mutton) or a mixture of milk and meat.

Dr Smyth added: “People can obviously cook meat in other ways than boiling it in pots, and there is plenty of evidence for cereal processing at this time, but the Irish dairy signal remains very striking, particularly when you compare it with the continental European data sets. Ireland really does seem to go mad for milk in the Neolithic.”

Milk is still a traditional and valuable food in Europe today, produced by over 30 million dairy cows and representing 14 per cent of the value of European agricultural production [2011 figures]. Six thousand years ago, dairying in Ireland looked very different.

Dr Smyth said: “We know that settlements were small in the Irish Neolithic, usually one or two houses, so it’s likely that early farming groups had just one or two animals supporting the household with their products, which were perhaps part of a wider community herd.”

Such results are even more significant given the fact that domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep and goats had to be physically shipped to Ireland as part of the process, as these animals were not native to the island.

“These are a very determined group of pioneer farmers. They are setting up everything from scratch, and taking a significant gamble with their livelihoods and those of their dependants,” Dr Smyth said.

It would appear that the Irish love of dairy products is very ancient, and the suitability of the island for dairy farming was recognised early in prehistory.

ITR-PCL-00045299

Original article:
eurekalert.org

IMG_1227

NEW ORLEANS — More than 2,000 years before the invention of beer pong, the ancient Greeks had a game called kottabos to pass the time at their drinking parties.

At Greek symposia, elite men, young and old, reclined on cushioned couches that lined the walls of the andron, the men’s quarters of a household. They had lively conversations and recited poetry. They were entertained by dancers, flute girls and courtesans. They got drunk on wine, and in the name of competition, they hurled their dregs at a target in the center of the room to win prizes like eggs, pastries and sexual favors. Slaves cleaned up the mess.

“Trying to describe this ancient Greek drinking game, kottabos, to my students was always a little bit difficult because we do have these illustrations of it, but they only show one part of the game — where individuals are about to flick some dregs at a target,” said Heather Sharpe, an associate professor of art history at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

I thought it would be really great if we could actually try to do it ourselves,” said Sharpe.

So, with a 3D-printed drinking cup, some diluted grape juice and a handful of willing students, Sharpe did just that. She found out that it wasn’t impossible to get the hang of kottabos, but the game did require a skilled overhand toss. She presented her findings this past weekend (Jan. 8 to 11) here at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Raise your glass

Ancient texts and works of art indicate that there were two ways to play kottabos. In one variation, the goal was to knock down a disc that was carefully balanced atop a tall metal stand in the middle of the room. In the other variation, there was no metal stand; rather, the goal was to sink small dishes floating in a larger bowl of water. In both versions, participants attempted to hit their target with the leftover wine at the bottom of their kylix, the ancient equivalent of a Solo cup.

The red-and-black kylixes had two looped handles and a shallow but wide body — a shape that perhaps was not the most practical for drinking but lent itself to playful decoration.

Big eyes were sometimes painted on the underside on kylixes so that the drinker would look like he was wearing a mask when he took a hefty sip. And the relatively flat, circular inside of the cup, called the tondo, often carried droll or risqué pictures that would be slowly revealed as the wine disappeared. The tondo of one kylix at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston bears the image of a man wiping his bottom. Another drinking cup at the same museum shows a man penetrating a woman from behind with the caption “Hold still.”

Other paintings on kylixes were quite self-referential, with scenes of revelers playing kottabos. Based on those ancient illustrations, Sharpe had assumed that to play the game, you would swirl the dregs in the kylix and flick them at the target, almost as if you were doing a forehand throw with a Frisbee. But her experiment showed that that was not the most winning technique.

enacting a symposium

Sharpe collaborated with Andrew Snyder, a ceramics professor at West Chester University. He initially made three replica kylixes out of clay, but Sharpe was worried about breaking them during the game. Snyder had just acquired a 3D printer (a MakerBot Replicator 2), so they made a lighter, more durable, plastic kylix at a slightly smaller scale.

The team made mock-up kottabos targets to play both variations of the game. For their andron, Sharpe and her colleagues used one of the art department’s drawing rooms (which had a linoleum floor for easy cleanup), and they grabbed a couple padded benches to serve as their couches. Instead of wine, they used watered-down grape juice.

To achieve the best results in kottabos, the participants had to loop a finger through one handle of the kylix and toss the juice overhand, as if they were pitching a baseball. Sharpe said that playing the game proved to be challenging, but she was amazed that some of her students started to hit the target within 10 to 15 minutes.

“It took a fair amount of control to actually direct the wine dregs, and interestingly enough, some of the women were the first to get it,” Sharpe told Live Science. “In some respects, they relied a little bit more on finesse, whereas some of the guys were trying to throw it too hard.”

Elite Greek women wouldn’t have taken part in symposia, but there are some indications that the courtesans, called hetairai, would have played kottabos with the men.

“Another thing we quickly realized is, it must have gotten pretty messy,” Sharpe said. “By the end of our experiment we had diluted grape juice all over the floor. In a typical symposium setting, in an andron, you would have had couches arranged on almost all four sides of the room, and if you missed the target, you were likely to splatter your fellow symposiast across the way. You’d imagine that, by the end of the symposium, you’d be drenched in wine, and your fellow symposiasts would be drenched in wine, too.”

Sharpe would eventually like to attempt to play kottabos with real wine, to fully understand how the game would devolve as the participants got tipsy.

“It would be fun to actually experiment with wine drinking,” Sharpe said. “Of course, this was a university event, so we couldn’t exactly do it on campus. But really, to get the full experiment, it would be interesting to try it after having a kylix of wine, or after having two kylixes of wine.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 2:30 p.m. ET on Thursday to correct Heather Sharpe’s title. She is an associate professor, not an assistant professor.

*There is a video with the article as well. Follow the link to see

By Megan Gannon, News Editor
Jan 14, 2015
Original article:
livescience

IMG_1226

After it was first domesticated from the wild teosinte grass in southern Mexico, maize, or corn, took both a high road and a coastal low road as it moved into what is now the U.S. Southwest, reports an international research team that includes a UC Davis plant scientist and maize expert.

The study, based on DNA analysis of corn cobs dating back over 4,000 years, provides the most comprehensive tracking to date of the origin and evolution of maize in the Southwest and settles a long debate over whether maize moved via an upland or coastal route into the U.S.

Study findings, which also show how climatic and cultural impacts influenced the genetic makeup of maize, will be reported Jan. 8 in the journal Nature Plants.

The study compared DNA from archaeological samples from the U.S. Southwest to that from traditional maize varieties in Mexico, looking for genetic similarities that would reveal its geographic origin.

“When considered together, the results suggest that the maize of the U.S. Southwest had a complex origin, first entering the U.S. via a highland route about 4,100 years ago and later via a lowland coastal route about 2,000 years ago,” said Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra, an associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences.

The study further provided clues to how and when maize adapted to a number of novel pressures, ranging from the extreme aridity of the Southwest climate to different dietary preferences of the local people.

Excavations of multiple stratigraphic layers of Tularosa cave in New Mexico allowed researchers to compare genetic data from samples from different time periods.

“These unique data allowed us to follow the changes occurring in individual genes through time,” said lead author Rute Fonseca of the University of Copenhagen. Researchers used these data to identify genes showing evidence of adaptation to drought and genes responsible for changes in starch and sugar composition leading to the development of sweet corn, desired for cultivation by indigenous people and later Europeans.

###

The international team of authors also included Bruce D. Smith of the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution and M. Thomas P. Gilbert, University of Copenhagen. The study was funded primarily by the Danish Council for Independent Research and a Marie Sk?owdowska-Curie fellowship from the European Commission.

About UC Davis:

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

Original article:
January 8, 2015

eurekalert.com

IMG_1488

Donkey milk was hailed by the ancients as an elixir of long life, a cure-all for a variety of ailments, and a powerful tonic capable of rejuvenating the skin. Cleopatra, Queen of Ancient Egypt, reportedly bathed in donkey milk every day to preserve her beauty and youthful looks, while ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote of its incredible medicinal properties. Now it seems that interest in donkey milk is experiencing a renewed interest after Pope Francis reported thriving on it as a baby, and remarkable results are being reported in people with psoriasis, eczema, and asthma.

Donkey milk preserves beauty and youth? Legend has it that Cleopatra (60 – 39 BC), the last active Pharaoh of Egypt, insisted on a daily bath in the milk of a donkey (ass) to preserve the beauty and youth of her skin and that 700 asses were need to provide the quantity needed. It was believed that donkey milk renders the skin more delicate, preserves its whiteness, and erases facial wrinkles. According to ancient historian Pliny the Elder, Poppaea Sabina (30 – 65 AD), the wife of Roman Emperor Nero, was also an advocate of ass milk and would have whole troops of donkeys accompany her on journeys so that she too could bathe in the milk. Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Bonaparte (1780–1825 AD), was also reported to have used ass milk for her skin’s health care.

Greek physician Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC) was the first to write of the medicinal virtues of donkey milk, and prescribed it as a cure a diverse range of ailments, including liver problems, infectious diseases, fevers, nose bleeds, poisoning, joint pains, and wounds.

Roman historian Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) also wrote extensively about its health benefits. In his encyclopedic work Naturalis Historia, volume 28, dealing with remedies derived from animals, Pliny added fatigue, eye stains, weakened teeth, face wrinkles, ulcerations, asthma and certain gynecological troubles to the list of afflictions it could treat:

Asses’ milk, in cases where gypsum, white-lead, sulphur, or quick-silver, have been taken internally. This last is good too for constipation attendant upon fever, and is remarkably useful as a gargle for ulcerations of the throat. It is taken, also, internally, by patients suffering from atrophy, for the purpose of recruiting their exhausted strength; as also in cases of fever unattended with head-ache. The ancients held it as one of their grand secrets, to administer to children, before taking food, a semisextarius of asses’ milk.

Over the centuries, donkey’s milk continued to be recognized for its medicinal properties. In the 1800s, donkeys were used at a hospital for assisted children in Paris to aid in the recovery of children with congenital or contagious diseases. The Popular Science Monthly, Volume 22, writes:

The infants were at first fed with goat’s milk, but it was soon found that ass’s milk was better for them; and they are now all fed with milk which they draw directly from the teat of the animal. One, two, and sometimes three children are presented to the ass at the same time, being held at the teat in the arms of the nurse, and the operation is performed with wonderful ease. Numbers speak most eloquently of the success of the method. During six months, eighty-six children afflicted with congenital and contagious diseases were fed at the nursery. The first six were fed, by stress of particular circumstances, with cow’s milk from the bottle; only one of them recovered. Forty-two were nursed at the teat of the goat; eight recovered, thirty-four died. Thirty-eight were nursed at the teat of the ass; twenty-eight recovered, ten died. In the face of such results there can be hardly any hesitation in declaring that in hospitals, at least, the best method of feeding new-born children, who cannot, for any reason, be confided to a nurse, is to put them to suck directly from the teat of an ass.

Donkey milk is the closest known milk to human breast milk with high lactose ratios and low fat content. It is also rich in vitamins, contains anti-bacterial agents, reported to be 200 times more active than in cow’s milk, and anti-allergens, which are believed to be responsible for alleviating psoriasis, eczema, asthma, and bronchitis, according to a new report in the MailOnline. “Like humans, donkeys have a single stomach,” writes the MailOnline. “Yet we mostly drink the milk of multi-stomached animals such as cows and goats, which use a lot of bacteria to digest their food through a complicated fermentation process.”

Donkey milk is still used throughout the world for its many health benefits. Source: BigStockPhoto With all these benefits, one may wonder why it is not more readily available. The answer lies in its production. A female donkey produces an average of 0.3 litres of milk a day (maximum 1 litre) for only half of the year, while cows are forced to deliver 30 times as much throughout the year. Furthermore, a donkey “won’t produce milk unless it’s stimulated by the presence of its foal, and milking has to be done manually,” writes the MailOnline. As a result, the milk sells for an extremely high price, €24 (approx. $30) a litre in Cyprus, and in other European countries the price is even double. Nevertheless, donkey milk remains fairly popular in South America, where it can be readily found at street markets.

AP reports that fresh donkey milk is sold on the streets of Chile. “Ricardo Alegria is a different sort of milk man,” writes AP. “For a quarter century or more, he and his brother Marco have led donkeys through the streets of Chile’s capital, milking them on the spot for customers.” Ricardo Alegria said the milk taken as a “vitamin jolt” for babies with stomach problems, but that adults often drink it too. While many may be put off by the price of this precious milk, a donkey seller from Golden Donkeys Farm in the village of Skarinou, Cyprus, told MailOnline that 60ml a day is “all you need to protect your body”.

IMG_1489

Original article:
worldtruth.tv

Clay shards discovered in Lower Galilee may mark oldest evidence for use of oil in entire Middle East.

Olive oil was used in the Land of Israel as early as 8,000 years ago, archaeologists working at an antiquities site in the Lower Galilee said Wednesday, heralding the earliest evidence for use of the staple in the country and possibly the entire Middle East.

The findings by an Israeli team were published recently in the Israel Journal of Plant Sciences and announced Wednesday.

Tests of potsherds, some dating back to 5,800 BCE, found in 2011-2013 during a salvage excavation ahead of the widening of Road 79, showed traces of olive oil remarkably similar to modern versions, researchers said.

Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov of the Israel Antiquities Authority methodically sampled pottery vessels found in the excavation at Ein Zippori in the Lower Galilee in order to ascertain what was stored in them and how they were used by the site’s ancient inhabitants.

“Although it is impossible to say for sure, this might be an olive species that was domesticated and joined grain and legumes – the other kinds of field crops that we know were grown then. Those crops are known from at least 2,000 years prior to the settlement at Ein Zippori. With the adoption of olive oil the basic Mediterranean diet was complete. From ancient times to the present, the Mediterranean economy has been based on high quality olive oil, grain and must, the three crops frequently mentioned in the Bible,” they said in a statement.

Their tests, conducted with Dvory Namdar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Earth Sciences, revealed that the pottery dating to the Early Chalcolithic period contained olive oil.

A comparison of the results of the extraction from the archaeological sherds with those of modern, one-year-old oil, showed a strong resemblance between the two, indicating a particularly high level of preservation of the ancient material, which had survived close to its original composition for almost 8,000 years.

Of the 20 pottery vessels sampled, two were found to be particularly ancient, dating to approximately 5,800 BCE.

The researchers said the findings went hand in hand with recent finds at Kfar Samir, a 7,700-year-old site now underwater off the coast of Haifa, where the oldest evidence of olive oil production was discovered.

“Now at Zippori, evidence has been found for the first time of the use of olive oil. Together with the Kfar Samir discovery, this is the earliest evidence of olive oil production in the country, and possibly the entire Levant (the Mediterranean basin),” the researchers said in a statement.

The discovery is apparently timed for the start of the holiday of Hanukkah, which Jewish tradition holds marks the second-century BCE re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of a one-day supply of olive oil used to light a ceremonial menorah lasting for eight days.

Milevski said the find, dating from 5,000 years before the Hanukkah story, did not supply a definite clue as to whether the oil was used for consumption, lighting, or both. “We found two large vessels and another small one; all were probably only used to store the oil. What it was used for we can only guess.”

Small clay candles, flat bowls filled with oil in which a wick was placed and lit, “date from later periods,” he added.

The society using the oil was pre-Jewish and practiced a religion revolving around the worship of fertility. “We have no writing during that period so we know little about them. We do not know what language they spoke but we assume it was an early Semitic language, from which Babylonian and Akkadian evolved and later also Hebrew and Arabic,” Milevski said.

Milevski said that on the same site the archaeologists found stone palettes with engravings of schematic female figures with animals around them. “In the same site we also found bones from the limbs of large animals engraved with images of eyes, trees and triangles symbolizing the female sex,” he said.

2015/01/img_1224.jpg
One of the clay pots reconstructed from sherds found at the site near En Zippori at the Lower Galilee. (Courtesy Israel Antiquities ).

2015/01/img_1225.jpg
A clay pot from the Early Chalcolithic period as found on site at Ein Zippori (Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

Original article:
timesofisrael

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 656 other followers

%d bloggers like this: