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Prehistoric peasant farmers struggling to put more food on the table fueled the global spread of some of the world’s first and most important domesticated grain crops beginning as early as 7,000 years ago, according to an international study led by anthropologists at Washington University in St. Louis.

Source: Prehistoric food globalization spanned three millennia

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Archeologists have found 3,000-year-old quinoa seeds at a site in Brantford, Ont., raising questions about the extent of trade among Indigenous peoples at the time. (Submitted by Gary Crawford)

CBC.ca

By Jasmine Kabatay · CBC

3,000-year-old seeds seemingly ‘processed for delivery’

A mass of quinoa seeds excavated from an archeological dig at a Brantford, Ont., construction site has been identified as being 3,000 years old, raising questions about the extent of trade among Indigenous peoples at the time.

The 140,000 seeds, which originate from the Kentucky-Tennessee area, seem as if they were “processed for delivery,” said Prof. Gary Crawford of department of anthropology at the University of Toronto.

The findings were published in the December 2018 issue of American Antiquity.

This is just one of these unbelievably fortuitous discoveries,” said Crawford.

“It just shows us that sometimes what seems to be a relatively insignificant site can have something incredibly important on it.”

Crawford says no one has reported this type of quinoa in Ontario before, and the discovery leads to more questions than answers, especially when it comes to trade.

He says the discovery shows that crops were part of trade at the time, and suggests that people in what is now Ontario were connected to others farther south.

He says it’s possible the seeds were grown here, but there’s no evidence.

“Of course the lack of evidence doesn’t mean they weren’t growing it. But for now I think the safe interpretation is this stuff was being imported,” said Crawford.

The seeds were found in 2010, after the site was assessed to see if there were any relevant archeological items in the area. Crawford says there was nothing unusual about the initial findings, as most of the items came from the area.

It wasn’t until the team examined sediment from a pit beside the site that they discovered something much bigger.

“It’s the first time I’ve been close to being shocked in 45 years of research, and I would say more delighted and surprised than shocked, but it was one of those ‘O-M-G’ moments that one gets when they’re doing research,” said Crawford.

Indigenous Canadians and Native Americans are and were sophisticated people, as sophisticated as anyone else in the world, and they were involved in fascinating kinds of things,” said Crawford.

Paula Whitlow, museum director at Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, says it isn’t really understood how Indigenous people traded back then. But it is understood there was an “extensive trade network.”

Whitlow notes that the largely peaceful Indigenous people who occupied the area at the time had an extensive trade network and even a city, Onondaga, that covered some 15 acres.

The next step with the seeds, Crawford says, is to look at “relatives” of this type of quinoa in the Ontario area.

“I think we need to work together with botanists to sort out whether the wild species that grows in Ontario is actually a feral version of this crop and whether weed distributions we see in the province today actually can be traced way back to Indigenous Canadian activity in the province,” said Crawford.

 

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A Takarkori rock shelter. University of Huddersfield

 

Original article:

Popular-archaeology.com

 

UNIVERSITY OF HUDDERSFIELD—By analyzing a prehistoric site in the Libyan desert, a team of researchers from the universities of Huddersfield, Rome and Modena & Reggio Emilia has been able to establish that people in Saharan Africa were cultivating and storing wild cereals 10,000 years ago. In addition to revelations about early agricultural practices, there could be a lesson for the future, if global warming leads to a necessity for alternative crops.

The importance of the find came together through a well-established official collaboration between the University of Huddersfield and the University of Modena & Reggio Emilia.

The team has been investigating findings from an ancient rock shelter at a site named Takarkori in south-western Libya. It is desert now, but earlier in the Holocene age[our present age], some 10,000 years ago, it was part of the “green Sahara” and wild cereals grew there. More than 200,000 seeds – in small circular concentrations – were discovered at Takarkori, which showed that hunter-gatherers developed an early form of agriculture by harvesting and storing crops.

But an alternative possibility was that ants, which are capable of moving seeds, had been responsible for the concentrations. Dr Stefano Vanin, the University of Huddersfield’s Reader in Forensic Biology and a leading entomologist in the forensic and archaeological fields, analyzed a large number of samples, now stored at the University of Modena & Reggio Emilia. His observations enabled him to demonstrate that insects were not responsible and this supports the hypothesis of human activity in collection and storage of the seeds.

The investigation at Takarkori provides the first-known evidence of storage and cultivation of cereal seeds in Africa. The site has yielded other key discoveries, including the vestiges of a basket, woven from roots, that could have been used to gather the seeds. Also, chemical analysis of pottery from the site demonstrates that cereal soup and cheese were being produced.

A new article that describes the latest findings and the lessons to be learned appears in the journal Nature Plants. Titled Plant behaviour from human imprints and the cultivation of wild cereals in Holocene Sahara, it is co-authored by Anna Maria Mercuri, Rita Fornaciari, Marina Gallinaro, Savino di Lernia and Dr Vanin.

One of the article’s conclusions is that although the wild cereals, harvested by the people of the Holocene Sahara, are defined as “weeds” in modern agricultural terms, they could be an important food of the future.

“The same behavior that allowed these plants to survive in a changing environment in a remote past makes them some of the most likely possible candidates as staple resources in a coming future of global warming. They continue to be successfully exploited and cultivated in Africa today and are attracting the interest of scientists searching for new food resources,” state the authors.

Research based on the findings at Takarkori continues. Dr Vanin is supervising PhD student Jennifer Pradelli – one of a cohort of doctoral candidates at the University of Huddersfield funded by a £1 million award from the Leverhulme Trust – and she is analyzing insect evidence in order to learn more about the evolution of animal breeding at the site.

 

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(GERMANY OUT) Klosterhäseler (Photo by Schellhorn/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

 

Original article:

Food and wine.com

Cornell University is working on ways to help supply meet demand.
JILLIAN KRAMER July 21, 2017

It turns out America’s taste for grains is reach far beyond white and wheat flour. A recent shift toward alternatives to traditional grains has opened up our interest in exotic and ancient grains, helping to land emmer and einkorn on our plates.
According to marketing and economic analyses by Cornell University researchers, demand for specialty grains—grains that reach beyond wheat, rye, barely, and even quinoa—is so strong it’s led restaurants across the country to work them onto their menus. And patrons, the researchers found, are more than willing to pay a higher price for these ancient grains.
The university names Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan as prime example of a restaurant that is embracing consumer demand. In the past, that restaurant’s rotating menu has included items such as “roasted beets and kale salad with einkorn and candied pistachio,” while national chains, such as Brio, is working farro—or emmer—onto their everyday menus. Next up, Gramercy Tavern says it will source an ancient spring emmer that can be ground and used to make pasta. Funnily enough, its manager, Jenny Jones, worked on Cornell’s project.

Consumer tastes are changing,” according to Mark Sorrells, who led a Cornell University project investigating which ancient and heritage wheat varieties are most adapted for Northeastern and north-central climates. “They are interested in local and flavorful food products, and farmers are looking for value-added crops to sell for higher prices.” Heck, even Cheerios is getting in on the ancient grains action.
But going to forward-thinking restaurants and cereal companies aren’t the only way to get your hands (or mouth) on ancient grains. Farmers markets are also embracing the trend. “Every year, we’ve seen things grow exponentially,” June Russell, the manager of farm inspections and strategic development at New York City’s Greenmarket, told the university. “Demand is building, and that’s helping to drive more acres getting planted and some infrastructure development.” At Greenmarket 14 different kinds of wheat, plus emmer and einkorn are available today.
To help those suppliers meet the demand, part of Cornell’s project is identifying and cultivating anvient and heirloom grains that can be grown in America’s heartland. Which means, yes, even more eateries (and breakfast cereal companies) will be able to experiment with these everything-old-is-new-again ingredients.

 

 

 

 

 

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hArchaeological Service of the Canton of Bern

Original article:

Food and wine.com

How and when wheat and other grains became domesticated has long been a mystery.
JILLIAN KRAMER July 28, 2017

It’s not exactly difficult to get grains these days. You can add them to your cart at the grocery store and have oats, cereal, or rice in your house in just a matter of minutes. It wasn’t always that easy; the domestication of wheat-bearing plants was a huge and somewhat mysterious step for the human race. And thanks to a discovery by a team of archeologists, we’re starting to understand just when and where the exploitation (which is to say, human cultivation and use) of some grains occurred.
Archeologists from the University of York set out to the Swiss Alps on a dig, where they discovered a Bronze Age wooden container lodged in an ice patch some 8,600 feet up a mountain. Thinking the container was for some kind of porridge, the team was surprised to find lipid-based biomarkers for whole wheat or rye grain—called alkylresorcinols—in place of the milk residue they had expected to find. But that residue, they say, could help other archeologists trace the development of early grain farming in Eurasia

Here’s why this discovery is such a big deal: plants are all-but-impossible to find in archeological deposits because they degrade so quickly. A deposit like this one, the archeologists say, is really the first of its kind to be found and recorded.

“This is an extraordinary discovery, if you consider that of all domesticated plants, wheat is the most widely grown crop in the world,” University of York archeologist André Colonese said in a statement, “and the most important food grain source for humans, lying at the core of many contemporary culinary traditions.” Next, Colonese said, the team will search for lipid-based grain biomarkers in ceramic artifacts.
In the meantime, here’s what the discovery already tells the team: “Strong evidence that cereals were being transported across this [Swiss] alpine pass,” Jessica Hendy, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, said in a statement.

As they make additional, similar discoveries, the archeologists should also be able to glean “when and where this food crop spread through Europe,” Hendy said

 

 

 

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Beer made an old-fashioned way is shown at Barn Hammer Brewing Company in Winnipeg on Tuesday. (David Lipnowski/Canadian Press)

 

Barn Hammer Brewing Company head brewer Brian Westcott, left to right, University of Winnipeg associate professor and chair of classics Matt Gibbs, and Barn Hammer owner Tyler Birch pose Tuesday for a photo after they teamed up to recreate an ancient beer the old-fashioned way. (David Lipnowski/Canadian Press)

This Article was brought to my attention by a reader in Winnipeg!

My greatful thanks, this is indeed impressive. 

JLP

 

Original Article:

Cbc.ca

The brewers were able to stay close to the original process and the ingredients were available — and legal
An idea that began when a classicist went to a brewery to sip beers and ponder the history of hops has brought to life an ancient ale.
It took hours of translating, milling and baking, but ale experimenters in Winnipeg have finally sipped a beer created from a fourth-century Egyptian alchemist’s recipe.
“If you expect this to taste like a modern beer, you are not going to find that,” said Matt Gibbs, chair of the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Classics.

“This beer is very, very sour. It’s good. It’s much better than I thought it was when we first did it, I will say that much, but it’s different.”
Gibbs got the idea while sitting at a bar talking about old beers with a pair of brewmasters.
The original recipe was found in the book, The Barbarian’s Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe, by Max Nelson at the University of Windsor. It was chosen because Gibbs figured he could stay close to the original process and, unlike some of the other recipes, the ingredients were available and legal.
Gibbs received permission to translate the recipe out of ancient Greek and then got to work with brewers Tyler Birch and Brian Westcott, co-owners of Barn Hammer Brewing Co. in Winnipeg.
First, they made a sourdough bread from water and barley flour milled by hand. It took 18 hours to bake the loaves at a heat low enough that the enzymes essential for beer-making stayed alive.
The loaves were then submerged in a fermenter at Barn Hammer.
The only major differences from the original recipe was that a stainless steel fermenter was used and the barley wasn’t malted on a roof in the sun.
Weeks went by and the experiment slowly turned from a murky mix to a pristine pint.
“After tasting the bread they made, I thought we were going to have something really disgusting, but it turned out really well,” Birch said.
“I’m actually blown away by how good it is. It’s actually very drinkable.”
It’s not what most people would consider a beer and tastes more like a sour cider with hints of raisin or apple. The drink is flat because there was no carbonation more than 1,000 years ago. The brewers figure the alcohol content is about three per cent, similar to modern light beer.

The brew is not for sale — yet — but they are open to marketing an ancient batch in the future.
The ale is the beginning of research into how it and other beers were consumed by ancient societies. The initial batch has demonstrated how much brews have changed as technology around beer-making developed, Gibbs said.
“There were things we learned in terms of taste and technology and in processing, but I think the most important one was taste,” he said.
“The simple taste of that makes it quite clear how much the palate has changed over 2,000 years.”

 

 

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Original article:

Sciencenordic.com
By: Rasmus Kragh Jakobsen

A new study shows that the Mesopotamian farmers during a food crisis did not try to farm their land more intensively, but converted more land to arable land. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Ancient grain from the Middle East has given scientists an insight into how some of the world’s first cities developed.
Small, charred remains of grain that are at least 8,500 years old provide a fingerprint of ancient farming and how villages suddenly expanded over the course of a few hundred years into the large city states in ancient Mesopotamia—a historical area in present-day Syria and Iraq.
The grain can now reveal that as cities expanded and the need for food grew, so did the land dedicated to growing crops.
“It’s very exciting because until now the theory was that as the towns grew, they cultivated the land more intensively,” says archaeobotanist Mette Marie Hald from the National Museum of Denmark, who participated in the study.
“The study gives us an indirect indication of the political control of cities and how we imagine cities were established,” she says.
New knowledge on early city life
Arable farming made the cultivatable land valuable, and when land was inherited it could have laid the ground for a ruling elite of farmers and the beginnings of social inequality.
“It’s exciting and groundbreaking research, and the study strikes to the heart of many years of debate surrounding the economy and organisation of the early city societies,” says Tim Skuldbøl, archaeologist from the University of Copenhagen who also studies early urbanism but did not take part in the new study.
“Today, most people live in a city but don’t understand how they came about and why cities are organised the way they are. This archaeological research is important to understand the basic sociological building blocks that helped to form our urban societies today,” says Skuldbøl.
The study is published in the scientific journal, Nature Plants.
Villages shot up as settlement mounds
In the Khabur Valley in Northeast Syria, runs one of history’s most important rivers, the Euphrates. Together with the Tigris River, they define the region of Mesopotamia—which also means land between the rivers—where the world’s first civilisations emerged.
In the valley, archaeologists have found several ancient cities. One of them is Tell Brak, which was described by British archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan in the 1930s.
At first glance, Tell Brak looks like a small hill, but preserved under the surface are houses built upon houses.
“They have torn down houses and built on top of the old foundations, so the occupation level has risen over thousands of years. Now, it’s 40 to 60 metres high and like a small mountain,” says Hald.
Food for 30,000 inhabitants
Among the remains, archaeologists have discovered temples, large administrative buildings, and even long sewage pipes. But how the city grew to be so big, was still a mystery.
Eight thousand years ago, arable farming was just beginning with grain fields of wheat and barley. At this time, animals, such as cows, goats, and sheep, were domesticated.
At this time, people lived in villages of perhaps 100 to 200 people, and then suddenly, some 6,000 years ago, over a period of a few centuries, these villages grew to cities of more than 10,000 inhabitants.
The development of arable farming, which provided food for all these people, is a key piece of the puzzle to understand how these cities grew so quickly.
Atomic physics meets archaeology
In recent years, archaeologists have obtained a new peep-hole that allows them to see back in time. Amazingly enough, packets of information have survived 8,000 years in the form of grain from burned down houses.
“It’s a bit mean, but when a house burns down, we archaeologists are really happy because then grains are burnt and don’t rot. They can lie in the earth for thousands of years,” says Hald.
Most of us think of fire as a frightful, destructive power, but grain is strong enough to survive and save its secrets.

Every little grain records a piece of history of the conditions under which it was cultivated, in the form of stable isotopes of nitrogen and carbon.
Two routes to large towns
The scientists measured isotopes in 276 samples of grain discovered in Tell Brak and four other ancient cities in the northern region of Mesopotamia, dating to between 8,000 and 4,000 years ago: Tell Leilan, Tell Sabi Abyad, Tell Zeidan, and Hamoukar.
They compared the analysis with modern samples from test fields in France, Spain, Morocco, and Denmark, where old varieties of grain are grown under controlled conditions with manuring and irrigation.
Together with the knowledge of ancient climate, scientists can estimate very precisely how much or how little manure or irrigation was used. By comparing this with the archaeological layer which the samples came from, they could follow the development of agricultural practices through time.
The bigger the cities became, the less manure they used, which is surprising as further south in Iraq, they used widespread irrigation and farmed the land very intensively.
But now they know that practices to the north were very different, which means that there were at least two ways in which cities could expand.
Farmers made their own choices about their grain
The differences are probably closely related to the climate: Not enough rain in the dry south requiring irrigation versus the wetter northern region requiring less work-intensive input, where food output was boosted by converting more of the landscape to fields.
The grains also held clues of the socio-economic system of the time, revealing who held power in these early cities.
“It’s interesting that we find large pots filled with different crops in private homes, and from the isotope values we can see that they had very different manuring levels, so they must have come from different fields,” says Hald.
“It shows us that individual households had different fields around the town, where some were manured and others weren’t,” she says.
In other words, the grain suggests that there was no centralised arable economy, but that each farmer made their own choices.
Large farmers had power
If a king or nobleman controlled the fields, then all of the harvest would probably be collected centrally and then distributed. In this case, archaeologists might expect to see more consistent isotope values in the grain found in various households.
“Later, we see massive grain stores, where the crops must have come in from all the fields and stored in these large rooms, and distributed among the population,” says Hald.
“So what we see here is an indirect indication of how a town became controlled, and it doesn’t look like there was a strong centralised power at this time, and the society—at least agriculturally speaking—is still rather egalitarian,” she says.
In later deposits, the archaeologists found remains of temples, large storerooms, and administrative buildings, which suggests a central power had developed from the early agribusiness.
So it appears that the development began with a collective of important farmers.
“The extensive agriculture paved the way for some powerful families. You can say roughly that instead of a central royal power, in terms of economy, these cities may have been controlled by a team of large families,” says Hald.

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