Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’

 

This date ten years ago…

via Ancient Figs

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

via New World Cereal-Maze

Ten years ago Today I started this blog. I never imagined such a fantastic response to what I thought would be just a few people checking it out. My thanks to you all. I will be republishing those first years posts for those of you who haven’t read them yet

JLP

Read Full Post »

Made from wheat and barley, researchers believe the dough rings were likely ritual objects, not breakfast cereal

Cheerios literally popped into existence in 1941 when a physicist at General Mills developed a “puffing gun” that created CheeriOats, as the cereal was first called. But long before the oaty little O’s came into existence, Bronze-age Austrians were producing something similar around 900 B.C. by hand, though researchers aren’t quite sure if those barley and wheat dough rings were for nomming, weaving or praising the gods.

The early O’s come from a site in Austria called Stillfried an der March, an ancient hill fort first excavated in 1978 that was found to contain about 100 grain storage pits. Inside one of the pits, archaeologists found three tiny charred remains of the grain-rings, each a little more than an inch in diameter, along with a dozen larger but similarly ring-shaped loom weights.

It wasn’t until recently that archaeologists took a closer look at the charred organic rings, using radiocarbon dating and scanning electron microscope imaging. It turned out that the tiny doughnuts were made from finely ground wheat and barley mixed with water to form a paste. The rings either weren’t baked or were baked at extremely low temperatures just to dry them out. The research appears in the journal PLOS One.

So what, exactly, are the dough rings for? Andreas Heiss, lead author of the study from the Austrian Archaeological Institute, tells Aristos Georgiu at Newsweek they do resemble some modern baked goods, including the tiny bagel-like tarallini eaten in southern Italy and sushki, tiny little bread rings popular in Eastern Europe and Russia. However, those products are baked (not to mention more appetizing than the wheat-paste rings).

The researchers note that producing the little pieces of cereal would have been time consuming, which puts them at odds with most of the other grain processing techniques used at the site. They probably weren’t used as loom weights, either, due to their slightness and relatively brittle design; loom weights are also more easily crafted from clay.

Instead, the working theory is that the cereal bits had a ritual function. “Although the rings were food items, the overall unusual find assemblage suggests that there must have been some further symbolic meaning to them—the assemblage had been deliberately deposited,” Heiss tells Georgiu. “Furthermore, the similarity in shape between the functional clay rings and the dough rings suggests that maybe the latter had been imitations of the clay loom weights.”

Sabrina Imbler at Atlas Obscura reports that loom weights were often placed in Bronze Age graves for the deceased to take with them into the afterlife. In fact, according to the study, not all of the grain storage pits at Stillfried held just grain. One contained seven bodies. It’s possible the ancient Cheerios were placed in a grave, or at least intended for a grave, perhaps to provide a symbolic snack on the way to the underworld.

In the paper, the researchers say it’s hard to imagine any practical purpose the dough rings may have had. And it’s difficult to know exactly when and why they were burned. Bread products were part of many sacrificial offerings from the ancient world, so they could have been part of a ritual. It’s also possible they were inside a house that accidentally burned down.

Heiss and his team say the upshot of their study isn’t that ancient people made inedible cereal millennia ago. It’s that remains of organic products, like cereals or baked goods, may go unnoticed by archaeologists. Going forward, they suggest that researchers sample charred areas, especially when they are found in odd contexts, to see if there are signs of ancient grains or grain processing. “Prehistoric bakers produced so much more than just bread,” Heiss says in a press release.

In fact, just a few tiny bits of grain can alter what we know about entire cultures. For instance, Stone Age people in southern Finland were believed to subsist almost exclusively on seals. But a study from April revealing the discovery of a few grains of barley and wheat, along with apple seeds, hazelnut shells, and tubers show they engaged in small-scale farming 5,000 years ago. It also suggests they were in contact with other ancient groups spreading across Europe, maybe even ones that produced edible cereal.

Read Full Post »

Maximilian Blackley
Adding the liquid yeast sample to flour made from ancient grains

Maximilian Blackley
The final product had a “cake-like” crumb, Mr Blakeley says

 

By Alix Kroeger BBC News

BBC.com

I have to say this is an exciting article for bread and ancient food lovers. My only wish is that they used Emmer grain, which is what the ancient Egyptian’s would have used, instead of Einkorn. JLP

 

The yeast microbes had been asleep for more than 5,000 years, buried deep in the pores of Egyptian ceramics, by the time Seamus Blackley came along and used them to bake a loaf of bread.

An amateur Egyptologist and one of the inventors of the Xbox game console, he’s also a keen hobby baker who routinely posts pictures of his breadmaking projects on social media.

He has, he admits, made his fair share of “horrible, rock-like loaves”. But this experiment was in a different league altogether.

The first step was to extract the yeast without destroying the vessels where it was held. With the help of archaeologist Dr Serena Love, Mr Blackley gained access to the collections of Egyptian beer- and bread-making vessels held in two museums in the US city of Boston.

And he enlisted the help of microbiologist Richard Bowman, a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa, to extract and identify the strains of yeast.

Mr Bowman injected nutrients into the ceramics, feeding the dormant yeasts and extracting the resulting liquid. Most of the samples were sent off for laboratory analysis, but Mr Blackley kept one back.

Using water, ancient grains and sterilised containers, he cultivated the starter for a week.

In order to get as close as possible to what the Egyptians would have recognised as bread, Mr Blackley fed the yeasts with grain he’d milled himself from barley and einkorn, an early form of wheat domesticated about 10,000 years ago.

“While this culture was sleeping, modern wheat was invented,” Mr Blackley explains. The oldest of the pyramids at Giza was built about 4,500 years ago – by that time, these yeast strains were already about 700 years old.

“It smelled very different from modern starters,” he says. “The bubbles were smaller: less pungent, but more active.”

But as any sourdough baker will tell you, yeasts are in the air and only need a suitable host or starter to multiply. So how to make sure that this really was Egyptian yeast, and not some modern interloper?

Previous experiments had used yeast samples scraped off the surfaces of pots, but these could easily be contaminated. An Israeli experiment had succeeded in extracting yeast from inside, but only by using methods destructive of the vessels themselves.

To rule out contamination, the yeast samples were sent off for genome sequencing. Some modern yeast strains have already been sequenced, making it possible to identify markers of modernity.

Mr Bowman admits he was surprised to get results so quickly from the first sampling, but the ability of yeast to lie dormant is well-known.

“The culture can go to sleep and be brought back,” he told the BBC. “Yeasts are very robust creatures.”

The ancient grains are more difficult to bake with, because they contain very little gluten, but Mr Blackley says the yeast “loved” them: “They created a nice structure and a cake-like crumb – very soft.”

The bread had a caramel aroma – sweeter than a modern sourdough. Mr Blackley scored the risen dough with a hieroglyph representing a loaf of bread.

This loaf was baked in a conventional kitchen oven, but as archaeologist Dr Love explains, the ancient Egyptians actually baked in heated ceramic pots.

In the next stage of the project, she and Mr Blakeley will work with ceramicists to recreate ancient Egyptian-style pots and start baking in them.

The impromptu research team already have permission from one more museum to extract yeast samples and have approached two other collections.

The idea is to collect yeast samples from the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms, which are each separated by 500 to 700 years, and bake with all of them.

Mr Bowman will sequence the genomes to track the genetic drift across the centuries.

“This is exactly the kind of stuff that archaeology is intended to do,” Dr Love enthuses. However, she adds: “This is grounded in science. This will be published in an academic journal.”

So are there any plans to develop the ancient yeasts for a wider audience?

“I was telling my fiancee about this – she went all quiet, but she works in marketing and she was trying to figure out a way to market this,” Mr Bowman says. “We’d like to do something to sell it – perhaps collect ancient recipes.”

For his part, Mr Blackley – who has studied hieroglyphs in sufficient depth to be able to translate them – robustly defends ancient Egypt from calumnies upon its cooking methods.

“This was a great civilisation and gastronomic tradition. The Pharaoh was the emperor of all the known earth. Now we can recreate their methods and share bread with them.”

 

Read Full Post »

Pottery with traces of food and drink

Newscientist.com

By Colin Barras

Was it the lure of beer that encouraged prehistoric humans to begin farming? Archaeological evidence from China suggests it might have been as the region’s first farmers had worked out how to turn millet and other cereals into alcoholic drinks in two distinct ways, hinting at how important alcohol was at the time.

Li Liu at Stanford University and her colleagues analysed the residues left on 8000- to 7000-year-old pottery sherds unearthed at two early farming sites in north China. At both sites, some of the residues contained cereal starch granules with signs of physical damage similar to that caused by fermentation.

A key stumbling block when brewing beer from cereals is to break down the starches into fermentable sugars. Significantly, say Liu and her colleagues, the ancient brewers at the two sites appear to have used different techniques to do this.

At the site of Lingkou, tiny mineral particles from plants – phytoliths – in the residues suggest the brewers simply let the grains sprout, which frees up the sugars. But at the site of Guantaoyuan, 300 kilometres to the west, the mix of phytoliths and fungi suggests an alternative approach. Here, the archaeologists say the brewers triggered the breakdown of starches by using a ‘fermentation starter’ known as , which is made from grains that have been allowed to mould. is still used today to produce cereal wines and spirits.

Collectively, says Liu, the evidence suggests the history of these two distinct fermentation techniques stretches back to the early days of farming in East Asia.

“That would be very exciting,” says Patrick McGovern at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The origins of are hotly disputed, he says. Traditionally, its roots are traced back to the Shang Dynasty in China, which began about 3700 years ago. But even in that period its questionable when use started, he says.

Honey beer

However, McGovern would like to see stronger evidence that the brewers at Guantaoyuan really were using . In 2004, he and his colleagues described even earlier evidence of fermented drinks in the region, at a 9000-year-old site in central China. The brewers there used honey and fruit as well as rice. It’s an important distinction, says McGovern. Not only are honey and fruit rich in fermentable sugars, they also naturally carry the yeasts that perform fermentation – which cereals do not. If they used honey and fruit as well as cereals, early brewers at Guantaoyuan would not have needed to use to get fermentation started.

But there is agreement that the new study emphasises the important of alcoholic drinks in early farming cultures. Liu suspects the spread of domesticated rice might have been encouraged in part because of its use in such drinks. “Alcohol would be used in feasting which helps some individuals to gain high social status and to form alliances,” she says.

McGovern thinks alcoholic drinks might even have helped encourage humans to adopt farming. The large quantities of grain produced by farming could be stored and turned into beer or bread all year round. Beer might have been seen as the more desirable product. “Bread doesn’t have the mind-altering effect of alcohol, which I think is so important for social and religious reasons,” he says.

Journal reference: PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1902668116

 

Read Full Post »

Telesurenglish.net

Australia’s Budj Bim cultural landscape could become the country’s first Aboriginal cultural value to make it on United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) World Heritage List, after being nominated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites Tuesday.

Budj Bim is a 6,000-year-old aquaculture system located in southwest Victoria that was developed by the Gunditjmara people.

“There are around 200 registered and recorded stone house sites, so people were living a sedentary life,” Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation project manager, Elder Denis Rose, explained.

The Gunditjmara people constructed what is thought to be one of the world’s oldest aquaculture systems, configured into channels and weirs using volcanic rocks to manipulate the water flow of rivers and trap migrating eels for food.

“Budj Bim holds a vast network of wetlands that was constructed by first nation people, it contains evidence of a system used to farm and smoke eels and fish,” Chief Operating Officer of Parks Victoria, Simon Talbot stated. “It was permanent settlement, with huts and house remains that have been protected by Gunditjmara people.”

According to UNESCO, the evidence of construction and farming at Budj Bim “challenges the common perception and assumption of Australia’s First Peoples as having all been hunter-gatherers living in resource-constrained environments.”

 

The Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation has developed a plan for sustainable tourism.

“There’s the economic benefit to the region,” Elder Rose said. “Millions of people travel the Great Ocean Road each year, and if we could attract even a fraction of that to Budj Bim, it would be beneficial to tourism.”

The International Council on Monuments and Sites monitors the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places globally.

“We fought battles to get land back and we had access to very little land 20 to 30 years ago and such little control,” Rose said.

“Today, we have management responsibility of about 10,000 hectares including the Budj Bim national park, and that pride and sense of achievement we have is so important. It’s also nice to look back and really appreciate how our ancestors looked after country so well.”

The nomination of Budj Bim will be formally reviewed by the world heritage committee in July.

“Budj Bim is one of Australia’s most important cultural sites and now it’s a step away from World Heritage Status. We’re supporting the Gunditjmara people in their self-determination as they lead the development of this landscape to share it sustainably with the world,” Victoria’s Aboriginal affairs minister, Gavin Jennings, noted.

Budj Bim Landscape are recognized and protected by the Victorian Government under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and by the Commonwealth Government under the National Heritage List, and was added to Australia’s Tentative World Heritage List in 2017.

Australia has 19 world heritage sites, including Sydney Opera House, Kakadu national park and the Great Barrier Reef.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Israeli researchers raised a glass Wednesday to celebrate a long-brewing project of making beer and mead using yeasts extracted from ancient clay vessels —some over 5,000 years old.

By ILAN BEN ZION

Apnews.com

 

Archaeologists and microbiologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority and four Israeli universities teamed up to study yeast colonies found in microscopic pores in pottery fragments. The shards were found at Egyptian, Philistine and Judean archaeological sites in Israel spanning from 3,000 BC to the 4th century BC.

The scientists are touting the brews made from “resurrected” yeasts as an important step in experimental archaeology, a field that seeks to reconstruct the past in order to better understand the flavor of the ancient world.

“What we discovered was that yeast can actually survive for a very, very long time without food,” said Hebrew University microbiologist Michael Klutstein. “Today we are able to salvage all these living organisms that live inside the nanopores and to revive them and study their properties.”

Beer was a staple of the daily diet for the people of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Early Egyptian texts refer to a variety of different brews, including “iron beer,” ″friend’s beer,” and “beer of the protector.”

The yeast samples came from nearly two dozen ceramic vessels found in excavations around the country, including a salvage dig in central Tel Aviv, a Persian-era palace in southern Jerusalem and ’En Besor, a 5,000-year-old Egyptian brewery near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. The project was spearheaded by Hebrew University microbiologist Ronen Hazan and antiquities authority archaeologist Yitzhak Paz.

Other researchers of ancient beers, such as University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Patrick McGovern, have concocted drinks based on ancient recipes and residue analysis of ceramics. But the Israeli scientists say this is the first time fermented drinks have been made from revived ancient yeasts.

Aren Maeir, a Bar Ilan University archaeologist, excavates at Tel es-Safi, the biblical city of Gath, where ancient Philistine beer pots yielded yeasts used to brew a beer offered to journalists. He likened the revival of long-dormant yeast to the resurrection of ancient beasts fictionalized in “Jurassic Park,” but only to a point.

“In Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs eat the scientists,” he said. “Here, the scientists drink the dinosaurs.”

“It opens up a whole new field of the possibility that perhaps other microorganisms survived as well, and you can identify foods such as cheese, wine, pickles,” opening a portal into tasting cultures of the past, he said.

For this initial experiment, the team paired up with a Jerusalem craft brewer to make a basic modern-style ale using yeast extracted from the pots. The ale had a thick white head, with a caramel color and a distinctly funky nose. The mead, made using yeast extracted from a vessel found in the ruins of a palace near Jerusalem that contained honey wine roughly 2,400 years ago, was champagne bubbly and dry, with a hint of green apple.

The beer incorporates modern ingredients, like hops, that were not available in the ancient Middle East — but it’s the revived yeast that provides much of the flavor.

“We tried to recreate some of the old flavors that people in this area were consuming hundreds and thousands of years ago,” said Shmuel Naky, a craft brewer from the Jerusalem Beer Center, who helped produce the beer and mead. Yeasts, he said, “have a very crucial impact on flavor.”

Naky described the beer as “spicy, and somewhat fruity, and it’s very complex in flavor,” all attributes produced by the ancient yeast.

Genome sequencing of the yeast colonies extracted from the pots showed that the ancient strain of yeast was different from the yeast used in beer-making today, but similar to those still used to make traditional Zimbabwean beer and Ethiopian tej, a type of honey wine.

The researchers said their next aim is to pair the resurrected yeasts with ancient beer recipes to better reproduce drinks from antiquity.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: