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Topic: Pasta On April 1, 1957 the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed both t…

Source: The Annual Swiss Spaghetti Harvesting

i almost forgot my annual fun post for April Fools day!

  

These are Cenchrinae starch granules from the Haua Fteah archaeological tools compared to modern starch granules of Cenchrus biflorus.

Photo Credit:  Anita  Radini
Original Article:

University of Cambridge 

Eurekalert.org
A box of seemingly unremarkable stones sits in the corner of Dr Giulio Lucarini’s office at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research where it competes for space with piles of academic journals, microscopes and cartons of equipment used for excavations.
These palm-sized pebbles were used as grinding tools by people living in North Africa around 7,000 years ago. Tiny specks of plant matter recently found on their surfaces shine light on a fascinating period of human development and confirm theories that the transition between nomadic and settled lifestyles was gradual.

come from a collection held in the store of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) just a couple of minutes’ walk away. In the 1950s the well-known Cambridge archaeologist Sir Charles McBurney undertook an excavation of a cave called Haua Fteah located in northern Libya. He showed that its stratigraphy (layers of sediment) is evidence of continuous human habitation from at least 80,000 years ago right up to the present day. Finds from McBurney’s excavation were deposited at MAA.
In 2007, Professor Graeme Barker, also from Cambridge, started to re-excavate Haua Fteah with support from the ERC-funded TRANS-NAP Project. Until 2014, Barker and his team had the chance to spend more than one month each year excavating the site and surveying the surrounding Jebel Akhdar region, in order to investigate the relationships between cultural and environmental change in North Africa over the past 200,000 years.
Now an analysis of stone grinders from the Neolithic layers of Haua Fteah (dating from 8,000-5,500 years ago), carried out by Lucarini as his Marie Sklodowska-Curie Project ‘AGRINA’, in collaboration with Anita Radini (University of York) and Huw Barton (University of Leicester), yields new evidence about people living at a time seen as a turning point in human exploitation of the environment, paving the way for rapid expansion in population.
Around 11,000 years ago, during the early phase of the geological period known as Holocene, nomadic communities of Near Eastern regions made the transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a more settled farming existence as they began to exploit domesticated crops and animals developed locally. The research Lucarini is carrying out in Northern Libya and Western Egypt is increasingly revealing a contrasting scenario for the North African regions.
In a paper published today, Lucarini and colleagues explain that the surfaces of the grinders show plant use-wear and contain tiny residues of wild plants that date from a time when, in all likelihood, domesticated grains would have been available to them. These data are consistent with other evidence from the site, notably those from the analysis of the plant macro-remains carried out by Jacob Morales (University of the Basque Country), which confirmed the presence of wild plants alone in the site during the Neolithic. Together, this evidence suggests that domesticated varieties of grain were adopted late, spasmodically, and not before classical times, by people who lived in tune with their surroundings as they moved seasonally between naturally-available resources.
Lucarini is an expert in the study of stone tools and has a particular interest in the beginning of food production economies in North Africa. Using an integrated approach of low and high-power microscopy in the George Pitt-Rivers Lab at the McDonald Institute, and in the BioArCh Lab at the University of York, he and his colleagues were able to spot plant residues, too small to be visible to the naked eye, caught in the pitted surface of several of the stones from Haua Fteah. Some of the grinders themselves exhibit clear ‘use-wear’ with their surfaces carrying the characteristic polish of having been used for grinding over long periods.
“It was thrilling to discover that microscopic traces of the plants ground by these stones have survived for so long, especially now that we’re able to use powerful high-power microscopes to look at the distinctive shape of the starch granules that offer us valuable clues to the identities of the plant varieties they come from,” says Lucarini.
By comparing the characteristic shape and size of the starch found in the grinders’ crevices to those in a reference collection of wild and domestic plant varieties collected in different North African and Southern European countries, Lucarini and Radini were able to determine that the residues most probably came from one of the species belonging to the Cenchrinae grasses.
Various species of the genus Cenchrus are still gathered today by several African groups when other resources are scarce. Cenchrus is prickly and its seed is laborious to extract. But it is highly nutritious and, especially in times of severe food shortage, a highly valuable resource.
“Haua Fteah is only a kilometre from the Mediterranean and close to well-established coastal routes, giving communities there access to commodities such as domesticated grain, or at least the possibility to cultivate them. Yet it seems that people living in the Jebel Akhdar region may well have made a strategic and deliberate choice not to adopt the new farming practices available to them, despite the promise of higher yields but, instead, to integrate them into their existing practices,” says Lucarini.
“It’s interesting that today, even in relatively affluent European countries, the use of wild plants is becoming more commonplace, complementing the trend to use organically farmed food. Not only do wild plants contribute to a healthier diet, but they also more sustainable for the environment.”
Lucarini suggests that North African communities delayed their move to domesticated grains because it suited their highly mobile style of life. “Opting to exploit wild crops was a successful and low-risk strategy not to rely too heavily on a single resource, which might fail. It’s an example of the English idiom of not putting all your eggs in one basket. Rather than being ‘backward’ in their thinking, these nomadic people were highly sophisticated in their pragmatism and deep understanding of plants, animals and climatic conditions,” he says.
Evidence of the processing of wild plants at Haua Fteah challenges the notion that there was a sharp and final divide between nomadic lifestyles and more settled farming practices – and confirms recent theories that the adoption of domesticated species in North Africa was an addition to, rather than a replacement of, the exploitation of wild resources such as the native grasses that still grow wild at the site.
“Archaeologists talk about a ‘Neolithic package’ – made up of domestic plants and animals, tools and techniques – that transformed lifestyles. Our research suggests that what happened at Haua Fteah was that people opted for a mixed bag of old and new. The gathering of wild plants as well as the keeping of domestic sheep and goats chime with continued exploitation of other wild resources – such as land and sea snails – which were available on a seasonal basis with levels depending on shifts in climatic conditions,” says Lucarini.
“People had an intimate relationship with the environment they were so closely tuned to and, of course, entirely dependent on. This knowledge may have made them wary of abandoning strategies that enabled them to balance their use of resources – in a multi-spectrum exploitation of the environment.”
Haua Fteah continues to pose puzzles for archaeologists. The process of grinding requires two surfaces – a hand-held upper grinding tool and a base grinding surface. Excavation has yielded no lower grinders which made have been as simple as shallow dish-shaped declivities in local rock surfaces. “Only a fraction of the extensive site has been excavated so it may be that lower grinders do exist but they simply haven’t been found yet,” says Lucarini.
The uncertain political situation in Libya has resulted in the suspension of fieldwork in Haua Fteah, in particular the excavation of the Neolithic and classical layers of the cave. Lucarini hopes that a resolution to the current crisis will allow work to resume within the next few years. He says: “Haua Fteah, with its 100,000 years of history and continuous occupation by different peoples, is a symbol of how Libya can be hospitable and welcoming. We trust in this future for the country.”

  
The view of the Mediterranean sea from inside the cave.

Photo from:

Temehu.com 

Patricia Landa, an archaeological conservator, painstakingly cleans and untangles the khipus at her house in Lima.Credit William Neuman/The New York Times

Patricia Landa, an archaeological conservator, painstakingly cleans and untangles the khipus at her house in Lima.Credit William Neuman/The New York Times

Khipus before it has been cleaned and untangled. Credit William Neuman/The New York Times.

Khipus before it has been cleaned and untangled. Credit William Neuman/The New York Times.

Original Article:

nytimes.com

By WILLIAM NEUMANJAN. 2, 2016

LIMA, Peru — In a dry canyon strewn with the ruins of a long-dead city, archaeologists have made a discovery they hope will help unravel one of the most tenacious mysteries of ancient Peru: how to read the knotted string records, known as khipus, kept by the Incas.

At the site called Incahuasi, about 100 miles south of Lima, excavators have found, for the first time, several khipus in the place where they were used — in this case, a storage house for agricultural products where they appear to have been used as accounting books to record the amount of peanuts, chili peppers, beans, corn and other items that went in and out.

In some cases the khipus — the first ones were found at the site in 2013 — were buried under the remnants of centuries-old produce, which was preserved thanks to the extremely dry desert conditions.

That was a blockbuster discovery because archaeologists had previously found khipus only in graves, where they were often buried with the scribes who created and used the devices. Many others are in the possession of collectors or museums, stripped of information relating to their provenance.

Khipus are made of a series of cotton or wool strings hanging from a main cord. Each string may have several knots, with the type and location of the knot conveying meaning. The color of the strands used to make the string and the way the strands are twisted together may also be part of the khipus’ system of storing and relaying information.

Researchers have long had a basic understanding of the numerical system incorporated in the khipus, where knots represent numbers and the relation between knots and strings can represent mathematical operations, like addition and subtraction.

But researchers have been unable to identify the meaning of any possible nonnumerical signifiers in khipus, and as a result they cannot read any nonmathematical words or phrases.

Now the Incahuasi researchers hope that by studying the khipus and comparing them with others in a large database, they may find that the khipus discovered with the peanuts contain a color, knot or other signifier for “peanut.” The same goes for those found with chili peppers, beans and corn.

“We can look at how the chili pepper khipu differs from the peanut khipu and from the corn khipu in terms of their color and other characteristics and we can build up a kind of sign vocabulary of how they were signifying this or that thing in their world,” said Gary Urton, a leading expert on khipus who is studying the new trove with Alejandro Chu, the archaeologist who led the excavation.

“It’s not the great Rosetta Stone but it’s quite an important new body of data to work with,” he said, adding, “It’s tremendously exciting.”

For now, the 29 khipus from Incahuasi, which are about 500 years old, are kept in an unassuming brick house in a residential neighborhood in Lima, along with a scattering of artifacts from other excavations, including two mummies (of a child and a dog), some bags of human bones, dozens of fragile textiles rolled up between layers of paper, and numerous pots meticulously reassembled from shards.

The house belongs to Patricia Landa, an archaeological conservator, who also keeps a menagerie of cats and dogs, including three hairless Peruvian dogs of the kind once raised by the Incas for food.

It is Ms. Landa who takes the Incahuasi khipus, some of which were found neatly rolled up and others in snarled jumbles, and painstakingly cleans and untangles them and prepares them for researchers to decipher.

“You have a very special relationship with the material,” Ms. Landa, 59, said. “I talk to them. I say, ‘Excuse me for disturbing your rest but you’re helping us to understand your ancestors.’ ”

Incahuasi, which means “house of the Inca emperor,” was a city used in the late 15th and early 16th centuries as the base of operations for the Inca invasion of Peru’s southern coast, after which it became a thriving administrative center, according to Mr. Chu, the archaeologist. It sat in the arid hills above the green valley of the Cañete River.

“There was probably lots of movement, with llama caravans bringing in farm produce,” he said.

The storehouse where the khipus were found was probably used to keep food needed to maintain the large number of troops deployed in the invasion.

The Incas, who were highly organized and governed a vast area, would have used khipus to keep track of provisions, and copies of the string records were probably sent to an administrative center, such as Cusco, the Inca capital, where they could be read, checked and perhaps filed. The Incahuasi excavation has even turned up what are essentially duplicate sets of khipus tied together, which the researchers believe could have been made when the same products were counted twice — perhaps to guarantee accurate bookkeeping.

One khipu found at the site had its knots untied, suggesting that the information stored there had been “erased” by the accountants so that the khipu could be reused, Ms. Landa said.

The khipus found at Incahuasi appear to be all about counting beans, literally. But colonial-era documents suggest that khipus had many uses in both the pre-Hispanic and colonial period that went beyond accounting, including to keep calendrical information and to tell historical narratives.

Colonial records show that in some cases, such as land disputes, indigenous litigants would bring khipus to court and use them to explain or justify claims of land ownership, Mr. Chu said. He said that scribes would read the khipus and a court clerk would enter the information into the trial record.

Mr. Urton has created a database of all known khipus, about 870 of them, with detailed information on two-thirds of them, recording their configurations, colors, numerical values and other information.

Because the Incahuasi khipus appear to be relatively simple inventories of agricultural products, it may be easier to decipher them than the more complex khipus that record historical information, Mr. Chu said.

And a breakthrough in deciphering the Incahuasi khipus could be a first step in reading more complex versions.

“If we can find the connection between the khipu and the product that it was found with we can contribute to the deciphering of the khipus,” Mr. Chu said.

Mr. Urton said that the difference between the accounting khipus at Incahuasi and more elaborate khipus, “is the difference between, let’s say, your tax form and a novel.” But they may also have key similarities: “They both use the same language, they both use the same numbers when they use numbers, and it’s in the same writing system.”

The excavations at Incahuasi have stopped because of a lack of financing. Much of the vast storeroom complex has yet to be excavated, and Mr. Chu hopes there could be more khipus there.

“It was very exciting to find them,” Mr. Chu said. “We started to find the storerooms and we didn’t think we would find any khipus. Then we started to clear away the dirt and we saw the knots.”

 

 

Tasting Beer

Tasting Beer

125 year old beer

125 year old beer

Original Article:

cnn.com

By Amanda Jackson, CNN, January 2016

(CNN)A scuba diver, a researcher and a beer enthusiast walked into a lab and uncorked the mystery of an antique bottle of beer.

Jon Crouse, an amateur scuba diver and treasure hunter from Nova Scotia, found the bottle of beer at the bottom of Halifax Harbor in November. He kept the bottle, wondering what was inside it and if it was drinkable. The bottle seemed to be well-sealed, and it had a cork inscribed with “A. Keith & Son Brewery.”
On Wednesday, the mysterious, murky liquid was identified.

Crouse enlisted the help of Christopher Reynolds, co-owner of Stillwell Beer Bar in Halifax, and Andrew MacIntosh of Dalhousie University, who specializes in fermentation research. The team tested the bottle to make sure there was beer inside, and not seawater, before daring to take a swig.
“It tasted surprisingly good, and surprisingly like beer,” Reynolds told CNN affiliate CTV.
MacIntosh felt differently. He said he tried the beer “for the sake of science.”

“You wouldn’t want to drink any of it,” he said.

Researchers will continue to analyze the beer to determine what chemicals were used to make it.

“This will give us insight into how it was brewed in the 1800s,” said MacIntosh.

CNN’s Jennifer Moore contributed to this report.

 

151223053059-wine-of-jesus-liebermann-pkg-00011315-exlarge-169

 

Orignal Article:

cnn.com

By Oren Liebermann, CNN
December 23, 2015

 

Jerusalem (CNN)The Bible is full of references to wine: Noah gets drunk on it after the flood. Jesus turns water into wine. It is praised in Ecclesiastes and reviled in Proverbs. Yet nowhere in Scripture is the type of wine identified — until now.

A small but growing number of wineries in Israel and the West Bank are trying to recreate the wine of the Bible, combining ancient grape varietals with modern science to identify and produce the wine consumed thousands of years ago in the Holy Land.

“People are very enthusiastic about drinking a wine that King David had on his table, or for the same matter, Jesus or any other biblical figure,” says Eliyashiv Drori, who started a boutique winery near his home in a West Bank settlement. “They all grew here, they all lived here, and they all ate and drank wine here.”

Drori, a wine researcher at the Samaria Regional R & D Center at Ariel University, examines preserved grapeseeds found in archaeological digs to identify the types of grapes used to make wine.

He says there were different varieties of wine in biblical times: red and white, dry and sweet. But he says they likely didn’t make wine from specific grapes, such as modern-day cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

His research has identified 120 varieties of grapes unique to the region, of which about 20 are suitable for making wine.

“For me, reconnecting to that is actually reconnecting to our roots, to our history, to the way of life of our ancestors. That’s a big thing for me,” Drori says.

Ottoman rule, French grapes
Winemaking was strictly limited in the Holy Land for hundreds of years under the Ottoman Empire.

The grapes that survived were table grapes, but not all table grapes make good wine.

When Baron Edmond de Rothschild restarted Israel’s wine industry in the 1880s, he did so with grapes imported from France.

Today, Israel’s 300 or so wineries produce 36 million bottles of wine. Winemakers say imported grapes will only take the wine industry so far. Indigenous grapes bring new marketing potential to local winemakers.

Recanati Winery in northern Israel has started making wine from marawi grapes. The winery makes 1 million bottles of wine a year. So far, only 2,500 bottles are marawi, but the owners hope the new old wine takes off.
“This marawi is our own unique, indigenous species that’s been grown in Israel for hundreds of years. This is our chance to bring something new to the world and to show the world that we are innovative and we have tradition in this industry,” says Recanati winemaker Gil Shatsberg.

Recanati’s bottle has English, Hebrew, and Arabic on the label as a way of acknowledging the different people behind the wine. “Since the grape is Arabic origin and the grower is Palestinian, we gave respect for everybody,” says Recanati CEO Noam Yacoby.

Unique to the region
In the valley between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the cities that mark the beginning of Christ’s life and the end, Cremisan Winery was the first to make wine using only grapes indigenous to the region, starting in 2008.

It uses grapes such as dabouki, hamdani, jandali and baladi. These are not well-known types of wine, but Cremisan hopes that will change. In the highly competitive wine market, offering a unique product can make a major difference.

“To stay strong in the market, you need unique wines such as these,” says Ziad Bitar, sales manager for Cremisan. “We are talking about grapes that were here for thousands of years. We weren’t here, but we can imagine that they drank this type of wine.”

His winemaker, Fadi Batarseh, chimes in: “And we hope that Jesus is happy with our wine!”

 

 

Teff

Teff

injera bread

injera bread

 

Original Article:

cnn.com
From Earl Nurse, CNN, Dec 18, 2015

Gluten-free and rich in protein, fiber and minerals, Teff is starting to gain a foothold as a new “superfood”, along the likes of quinoa and spelt.

The grain has been grown in Ethiopia for thousands of years, but its export was banned by the government until this year. Now it is appearing on supermarket shelves worldwide.

It’s also the main ingredient of injera, the flat pancakes that are the centerpiece of Ethiopian food and the source of livelihood for around 6.5 million small farmers.

“When you look across Ethiopia, Teff is the most important commodity for Ethiopia, both on the production side as well as the consumption side,” says Khalid Bomba, the CEO of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency. “Teff is native to the country, but is also a huge part of our culture.”

The Ethiopian government ended the export of raw teff in 2006, as rising grain prices prompted fears of a food crisis. Processed teff — in the form of injera — was still exported, mainly to the Ethiopian diaspora in northern Europe, the Middle East and North America.

The export ban was partially lifted this year, after investments in mechanization and better farming techniques increased yields by 40%.

“The concern that the Ethiopian government had in the past about exporting was in making sure that there was sufficient amount of supply for the domestic market — for urban consumers, as well as the rural poor,” Bomba says. “[Rising yields] have given the government confidence that systematic exports of Teff can gain smallholder farmers in Ethiopia… increased income, without harming the domestic consumers.”

Lifting the ban could create a new and lucrative export industry for Ethiopia, as consumers in Europe and North America latch onto the nutritional properties of teff. Teff flour sells for around $6-10 per pound, and the gluten-free seeds are now in high demand at health food shops the world over.

Hailu Tessema, CEO of Mama Fresh, which exports injera to the US and Scandinavia, says that the demand is growing, and importers from countries across Europe and Africa have approached him looking to secure supplies.

“Every year, the demand increases by foreigners from 7-10%,” he says. “So that is good for us, we have got the business in our hands; we have a market.”

If you go to the CNN link there is a video as well. Check it out.

 Researchers at the Neolithic site of Mogou, West China, where eastern and western cereals met. Courtesy Martin Jones

Researchers at the Neolithic site of Mogou, West China, where eastern and western cereals met. Courtesy Martin Jones

millet

millet

Original Article:

popular archaeology

December 2015

UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE—New research shows a cereal familiar today as birdseed was carried across Eurasia by ancient shepherds and herders laying the foundation, in combination with the new crops they encountered, of ‘multi-crop’ agriculture and the rise of settled societies. Archaeologists say ‘forgotten’ millet has a role to play in modern crop diversity and today’s food security debate.

The domestication of the small-seeded cereal millet in North China around 10,000 years ago created the perfect crop to bridge the gap between nomadic hunter-gathering and organised agriculture in Neolithic Eurasia, and may offer solutions to modern food security, according to new research.

Now a forgotten crop in the West, this hardy grain – familiar in the west today as birdseed – was ideal for ancient shepherds and herders, who carried it right across Eurasia, where it was mixed with crops such as wheat and barley. This gave rise to ‘multi-cropping’, which in turn sowed the seeds of complex urban societies, say archaeologists.

A team from the UK, USA and China has traced the spread of the domesticated grain from North China and Inner Mongolia into Europe through a “hilly corridor” along the foothills of Eurasia. Millet favours uphill locations, doesn’t require much water, and has a short growing season: it can be harvested 45 days after planting, compared with 100 days for rice, allowing a very mobile form of cultivation.

Nomadic tribes were able to combine growing crops of millet with hunting and foraging as they travelled across the continent between 2500 and 1600 BC. Millet was eventually mixed with other crops in emerging populations to create ‘multi-crop’ diversity, which extended growing seasons and provided our ancient ancestors with food security.

The need to manage different crops in different locations, and the water resources required, depended upon elaborate social contracts and the rise of more settled, stratified communities and eventually complex ‘urban’ human societies.

Researchers say we need to learn from the earliest farmers when thinking about feeding today’s populations, and millet may have a role to play in protecting against modern crop failure and famine.

“Today millet is in decline and attracts relatively little scientific attention, but it was once among the most expansive cereals in geographical terms. We have been able to follow millet moving in deep history, from where it originated in China and spread across Europe and India,” said Professor Martin Jones from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, who is presenting the research findings today at the Shanghai Archaeological Forum.

“These findings have transformed our understanding of early agriculture and society. It has previously been assumed that early agriculture was focused in river valleys where there is plentiful access to water. However, millet remains show that the first agriculture was instead centred higher up on the foothills – allowing this first pathway for ‘exotic’ eastern grains to be carried west.”

The researchers carried out radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis on charred millet grains recovered from archaeological sites across China and Inner Mongolia, as well as genetic analysis of modern millet varieties, to reveal the process of domestication that occurred over thousands of years in northern China and produced the ancestor of all broomcorn millet worldwide.

“We can see that millet in northern China was one of the earliest centres of crop domestication, occurring over the same timescale as rice domestication in south China and barley and wheat in west China,” explained Jones.

“Domestication is hugely significant in the development of early agriculture – humans select plants with seeds that don’t fall off naturally and can be harvested, so over several thousand years this creates plants that are dependent on farmers to reproduce,” he said.

“This also means that the genetic make-up of these crops changes in response to changes in their environment – in the case of millet, we can see that certain genes were ‘switched off’ as they were taken by farmers far from their place of origin.”

As the network of farmers, shepherds and herders crystallised across the Eurasian corridor, they shared crops and cultivation techniques with other farmers, and this, Jones explains, is where the crucial idea of ‘multi-cropping’ emerged.

“The first pioneer farmers wanted to farm upstream in order to have more control over their water source and be less dependent on seasonal weather variations or potential neighbours upstream,” he said. “But when ‘exotic’ crops appear in addition to the staple crop of the region, then you start to get different crops growing in different areas and at different times of year. This is a huge advantage in terms of shoring up communities against possible crop failures and extending the growing season to produce more food or even surplus.

“However, it also introduces a more pressing need for cooperation, and the beginnings of a stratified society. With some people growing crops upstream and some farming downstream, you need a system of water management, and you can’t have water management and seasonal crop rotation without an elaborate social contract.”

Towards the end of the second and first millennia BC larger human settlements, underpinned by multi-crop agriculture, began to develop. The earliest examples of text, such as the Sumerian clay tablets from Mesopotamia, and oracle bones from China, allude to multi-crop agriculture and seasonal rotation.

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