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Original article in Phys.org

very interesting article…JLP

by Vivek Venkataraman,  The Conversation

Women were successful big-game hunters, challenging beliefs about ancient gender roles
New evidence suggests that contrary to long-held beliefs, women were also big-game hunters. Credit: Shutterstock

Archeological evidence from Peru has revealed that some ancient big-game hunters were, in fact, women, challenging what science writer James Gorman wrote was “one of the most widely held tenets about ancient hunters and gatherers—that males hunted and females gathered.”

Man the Hunter” is a narrative of human origins developed by early 20th-century anthropologists armed with their imaginations and a handful of fossils. They viewed hunting—done by men—as the prime driver of human evolution, bestowing upon our early ancestors bipedalism, big brains, tools and a lust for violence. In this narrative, hunting also gave rise to the nuclear family, as women waited at home for men to bring home the meat. 

As an anthropologist who studies hunting and gathering societies, I was thrilled by the discovery of female skeletons buried with big-game hunting paraphernalia, a pattern that raises important questions about ancient gender roles. But I found most of the media coverage it generated disappointingly inaccurate. Responding to the finding, journalist Annalee Newitz wrote: “Nicknamed ‘man the hunter,” this is the notion that men and women in ancient societies had strictly defined roles: Men hunted, and women gathered. Now, this theory may be crumbling.

In fact, that theory died a well-deserved death decades ago.

Hunting origins

In 1966, 75 anthropologists (70 of whom were men) held a symposium called “Man the Hunter” at the University of Chicago to address one of humanity’s grand questions: How did people live before agriculture? The researchers had lived with and studied contemporary populations of hunting and gathering peoples around the world, from jungle to tundra.

It was there in Chicago that real-life data confronted the myth of Man the Hunter. Researchers showed that women worked just as hard as men, and plant foods gathered by women were crucially important in hunter-gatherer diets. Hunter-gatherer movement patterns were driven by a variety of ecological factors, not just game. And many hunter-gatherers were quite peaceful and egalitarian. Hunting wasn’t the sole driver or unifying theory of human evolution after all.

By the late 1970s, as anthropologists carried out further research on hunter-gatherers and paid attention to issues of gender, the myth of Man the Hunter fell into disfavor.

Updating beliefs

Even so, subsequent research has affirmed a simple division of labor among hunter-gatherers: men mostly hunt and women mostly gather. When anthropologist Carol Ember surveyed 179 societies, she found only 13 in which women participated in hunting

But it is a mistake to conflate this pattern of “most hunters are men” among hunter-gatherers with the myth of Man the Hunter. That myth was born of assumptions, not careful empirical research.

Through decades of field research, anthropologists have developed a more flexible and capacious view of human labor. According to this view, women are not bound by biology to gather, nor men to hunt. In fact, several accounts of women’s hunting in foraging societies had emerged by the mid-1980s.

In this context, ancient female hunters are an expectation, not a surprise. And the focus on Man the Hunter distracts from the more important question of how a society with female big-game hunters might be constructed. After all, women are perfectly capable of hunting, yet in most hunter-gatherer societies they don’t do it very often

Hunting and child care

One prominent explanation, elaborated in 1970 by feminist anthropologist Judith Brown, is that the demands of hunting conflict with the provision of child care. This was supported in a recent review of women’s hunting that surveyed traditional societies around the world; the authors found that pregnant or lactating women do not often hunt, and those with dependents only hunt when child care is available or rich hunting grounds are close to camp

These constraints play a role in shaping risk preferences. In hunter-gatherers, men’s hunting is risky, meaning it carries a high chance of failure. Men tend to hunt alone or in small groups and target big game with projectile weapons, which often requires fast-paced, long-distance travel. In contrast, women prefer to hunt in groups and focus on smaller, easier-to-capture prey closer to camps, often with the aid of dogs

Women are often crucial to the hunting success of others, whether through logistical or ritual assistance. Husbands and wives sometimes work collaboratively; in these instances women may help trap an animal, then club it to death and carry the meat home. And in big-game hunting societies, women provide support to hunters by manufacturing clothing, weaponry and transportation equipment. They may also participate in hunting directly by locating, then surrounding and driving game toward a killing location, as seen among high-latitude reindeer hunters and Plains bison hunters. As the authors of the new paper speculate, this is likely how the Peruvian female hunters killed game.

Women were successful big-game hunters, challenging beliefs about ancient gender roles
Girls from the hunting and gathering Batek tribe playing with blowpipes. Credit: Kirk Endicott

Updated views on plant gathering provide insight into why women may choose not to hunt altogether. No one questioned that hunting is hard, but early anthropologists often assumed women’s gathering was simple and easy. This turns out to be wrong. Like hunting, gathering demands extensive ecological knowledge and skill that is socially learned and cultivated over a lifetime.

As a result, hunter-gatherers face tough choices about how to divide difficult labor in a 24-hour day. In this context, economic considerations show that it pays to specialize: modest comparative advantages—speed and strength, and the incompatibilities posed by child care—can lead to divisions of labor that increase overall food acquisition by the group. From this perspective, women’s decisions to hunt less than men may be a rational decision about allocating effort. 

The Batek people

Many have assumed that by not hunting, women are relegated to lower status. But is that true?

I conduct my work among the Batek people, hunter-gatherers from the rainforests of Malaysia who are widely considered one of the most gender-egalitarian societies in the world. They have little material inequality, share food widely, abhor violence and emphasize individual autonomy.

When day breaks at camp, Batek men trek far, usually alone, to hunt monkeys with blowpipes. The women gather tubers or fruit in small groups closer to camp. Nothing prohibits women from hunting, as is the case with some hunter-gatherers where, for example, touching hunting weapons is forbidden. Batek women sometimes join in group hunts of bamboo rats, but it is otherwise rare. However, there are exceptions. Some teenage girls establish an interest in blowpipe hunting that carries into adulthood.

The Batek people say this division of labor comes down to strength differences, incompatibility with child care and differences in knowledge specialization. Hunting has great cultural significance, but women’s knowledge of plant distributions is crucial for collective decisions like moving camp. The Batek conceive of themselves as a co-operative and interdependent group in which each person makes a unique and important contribution toward a communal goal.

Beyond Man the Hunter

Contrary to news reports, the archeological findings from Peru accord well with current knowledge about how and why men and women divide labor among hunter-gatherers. And it has little to do with the myth of Man the Hunter.

The Peruvian hunter-gatherers were big-game specialists who used spear-throwing technologies that were likely relatively easy to learn. This may have enabled more flexible divisions of labor and broader participation in hunting by women, similar to what we see among some hunter-gatherers today. 

The social implications beyond these facts are not clear. That’s because one’s role in food collection has no simple relation to status or power dynamics. New research on neglected topics like the determinants of women’s status and risk-seeking economic behavior in traditional societies promises to shed light on this issue. But as the case with the Batek people shows, among a liberated society of equals, status and power has little to do with who brings in the meat.

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On this day ten years ago…
via Meeting demand for Ancient Grains

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On this day ten years ago…

Happy Holidays to all!  Peace be with you.
via Happy Holidays

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On this day ten years ago…
via The archaeology of table manners

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Well it’s official I’ve ben blogging on WordPress for 8 years( well my first actiual post was September 1, 2009). Check it out…it’s on Maze!

Maze post 2009
Personally I don’t plan on stopping, though I am going to take the occasion to ask any and all who care to comment if they would be interested in an Aincent Cookbook or an anthology of the material I’ve posted so far?

Thanks to all who follow my blog, I hope you comtinue to find relivant and interesting material!

Joanna Linsley-Poe

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It’s the pits: Ancient peach stones offer clues to fruit’s origins

Peach stones are well represented at archeological sites in the Yangtze valley, so they compared the size and structure of the stones from six sites that spanned a period of roughly 5,000 years. By comparing the size of the stones from each site, they were able to discern peaches growing significantly larger over time in the Yangtze valley, demonstrating that domestication was taking place.
In a study published in PLOS ONE, Gary Crawford, a U of T Mississauga anthropology professor, and two Chinese colleagues propose that the domestic peaches enjoyed worldwide today can trace their ancestry back at least 7,500 years ago to the lower Yangtze River Valley in Southern China, not far from Shanghai. The study, headed by Yunfei Zheng from the Zhejiang Institute of Archeology in China’s Zhejiang Province, was done in collaboration with Crawford and X. Chen, another researcher at the Zhejang Institute.

“Previously, no one knew where peaches were domesticated,” said Crawford. “None of the botanical literature suggested the Yangtze Valley, although many people thought that it happened somewhere in China.”

Radiocarbon dating of ancient peach stones (pits) discovered in the Lower Yangtze River Valley indicates that the peach seems to have been diverged from its wild ancestors as early as 7,500 years ago.

Archeologists have a good understanding of domestication — conscious breeding for traits preferred by people- of annual plants such as grains (rice, wheat, etc.), but the role of trees in early farming and how trees were domesticated is not well documented. Unlike most trees, the peach matures very quickly, producing fruit within two to three years, so selection for desirable traits could become apparent relatively quickly. The problem that Crawford and his colleagues faced was how to recognize the selection process in the archeological record.

Peach stones are well represented at archeological sites in the Yangtze valley, so they compared the size and structure of the stones from six sites that spanned a period of roughly 5,000 years. By comparing the size of the stones from each site, they were able to discern peaches growing significantly larger over time in the Yangtze valley, demonstrating that domestication was taking place. The first peach stones in China most similar to modern cultivated forms are from the Liangzhu culture, which flourished 4,300 to 5300 years ago.

“We’re suggesting that very early on, people understood grafting and vegetative reproduction, because it sped up selection,” Crawford said. “They had to have been doing such work, because seeds have a lot of genetic variability, and you don’t know if a seed will produce the same fruit as the tree that produced it. It’s a gamble. If they simply started grafting, it would guarantee the orchard would have the peaches they wanted.”

Crawford and his colleagues think that it took about 3,000 years before the domesticated peach resembled the fruit we know today.

“The peaches we eat today didn’t grow in the wild,” Crawford added. “Generation after generation kept selecting the peaches they enjoyed. The product went from thinly fleshed, very small fruit to what we have today. Peaches produce fruit over an extended season today but in the wild they have a short season. People must have selected not only for taste and fruit size, but for production time too.”

Discovering more about the origins of domesticated peaches tells us more about our human ancestors, too, Crawford noted.

Crops such as domesticated peaches indicate that early people weren’t passive in dealing with the environment. Not only did they understand grain production, but the woodlands and certain trees were being manipulated early on.

“There is a general sense that people in the past were not as smart as we are,” said Crawford. “The reality is that they were modern humans with the brain capacity and talents that we have now.

“People have been changing the environment to suit their needs for a very long time, and the domestication of peaches helps us understand this.”

September 6, 2014
University of Toronto
sciencedaily

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Topic: Holidays
I’m going off topic today to wish everyone who follows my blog and everyone who has just stopped by, a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Saint Mithras Day, or whatever you celebrate at this time of the year. I almost forget the winter solace and the beginning of a new
Mayan calendar! A special greeting to any pagans, followers of the ancient Egyptian Religion or any other of the ancient beliefs. This is the season to wish you all the best!

Below is a picture of myself and husband at a recent holiday dinner.
My thanks to my husband Michael for his research on my behalf and for his photos.
Well back to pie making and I will see you on Wednesday

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Topic: Beer

One of the oldest microbreweries in history has been found in Cyprus and University of Manchester archaeologists are raising a glass to their ‘healthy’ discovery.

Microbreweries may be an inviting and trendy way to explore the world’s kookiest ales, beers and beyond, but researchers have now discovered that our ancestors were supping different flavoured concoctions three-and-a half-thousand years ago as a safer alternative to bread and water.

The team who excavated the two by two metre domed mud-plaster structure, led by Dr Lindy Crewe, have demonstrated it was used as a kiln to dry malt to make beer.

According to Dr Crewe, beers of different flavours would have been brewed from malted barley and fermented with yeasts with an alcoholic content of around 5%. The yeast would have either been wild or produced from fruit such as grape or fig.

She said: “Archaeologists believe beer drinking was an important part of society from the Neolithic onwards and may have even been the main reason that people began to cultivate grain in the first place.

“But it’s extremely rare to find the remains of production preserved from thousands of years ago so we’re very excited.

“The excavation of the malting kiln with associated sets of pottery types and tools left in place gives us a fantastic opportunity to look at Bronze Age toolkits and figure out techniques and recipes.”

The oven discovered by the archaeologists was positioned at one end of a 50 metre square courtyard with a plastered floor.

They found grinding tools and mortars which may have been used to break down the grain after it was malted, a small hearth and cooking pots made of clay to cook the beer gently.

They also found juglets, which they believe probably contained yeast additives or sweeteners to produce beers of different strengths or flavours. The beers’ ingredients were found by the team as carbonised seeds.

She added: “Beer was commonly drunk because it is more nutritious than bread and less likely to contain harmful pathogens than drinking water which can make you ill.

“But alcoholic beverages were also used to oil the wheels of business and pleasure in much the same way as today: work brought communities together for tasks such as bringing in the harvest or erecting special buildings.

“Instead of payment, participants are rewarded with a special feast, often involving quantities of alcohol, which also transformed the work from a chore into a social event.

“The people of the Bronze Age, it seems, were well aware of the relaxing properties of alcohol.”

An experimental archaeology team, led by Ian Hill of HARP Archaeology, recreated the drying kiln using traditional techniques, to test Dr Crewe’s theory in August .

The modern version used hot air to produce a temperature of 65° C – perfect conditions for heating and drying grains but still preserving it’s enzymes and proteins.

He said: “After the beers had been strained, we felt they were all pretty drinkable, though some varieties were better than others.

“The grape was less pleasant – a bit too sweet– the outcomes are less reliable when using wild yeasts, compared to brewers yeast, but the fig beer was definitely the most popular.”

Original article:
By dean Wilkins
mancunianmatters.co.uk

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Topic: Cow, unique ancient find

Archaeologists excavating an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Cambridgeshire say the discovery of a woman buried with a cow is a “genuinely bizarre” find.

 

 

The grave was uncovered in Oakington by students from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Central Lancashire.

At first it was thought the animal skeleton was a horse.

Student Jake Nuttall said: “Male warriors might be buried with horses, but a woman and a cow is new to us.”

He added: “We were excited when we thought we had a horse, but realising it was a cow made it even more bizarre.”

Co-director of the excavation, Dr Duncan Sayer, from the University of Central Lancashire, said: “Animal burials are extremely rare, anyway.

“There are only 31 horse burials in Britain and they are all with men.

“This is the first animal to be discovered with a woman from this period – the late 5th Century – and it’s really interesting that it’s a cow, a symbol of economic and domestic wealth and power.

“It’s also incredibly early to find any grave of a woman buried with such obvious wealth.”

‘Unique’ burial

The skeleton was found with grave goods including brooches and hundreds of amber and decorated glass beads.

“She also had a complete chatelaine [keychain] set, which is an iron girdle and a symbol of her high status,” Dr Sayer said.

“It indicates she had access to the community’s wealth.

“She is almost certainly a regional elite – a matriarchal figure buried with the objects that describe her identity to the people who attended her funeral.”

Joint director Dr Faye Simpson, from Manchester Metropolitan, said: “A cow is a big thing to give up.

“It’s a source of food and something that would have been very expensive to keep, so to sacrifice it would be a big decision.

“They would have wanted to give her something really important to show respect and they wouldn’t have done that for just anybody.

Dr Sayer added: “The cow burial is unique in Europe which makes this an incredibly exciting and important find.

“I don’t think I’ll find anything as significant as this again in my lifetime.”

Original article:

bbc.co.uk

June 25, 2012

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Topic: Teeth and the ancient diet

Many ancient human teeth, including specimens tens of thousands of years old, still hold onto tiny pieces of food — and even bacteria. Anthropologists are studying the tartar attached to ancient human teeth to learn more about the plants people ate and the pathogens they carried long ago.

Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is a hard substance that toothpaste ads promise to obliterate and dentists scrape away. It builds up on after solidifies. A dentist might scrape away 30 milligrams of a patient’s calculus each visit. Sets of teeth from hundreds or thousands of years ago might have up to 20 times that much, a mass roughly equal to a small paperclip.

Scientists are only beginning to explore the variety of materials caught in calculus, which preserves organic materials that are often fleetingly preserved in other settings. This allows scientists to address questions that are very difficult to answer using established archaeological methods.

“There are so many time periods in human history where we have theories about what they ate but we really have no idea,” said Amanda Henry, a physical anthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany.

Seeds and grains often degrade slowly and typically last even longer. But finding direct evidence of is more difficult. Vegetables such as cabbage and carrots were important foods in , but evidence to confirm their consumption is hard to come by. Reconstructing the full diet for people living in earlier periods is even more difficult.

“We know very little about the vegetable and salad portion of the diet,” said Christina Warinner, an archaeological geneticist at University of Zurich’s Centre for Evolutionary Medicine, in Switzerland. “[Studying calculus] could potentially be an entirely new way of approaching that.”

Small Fossils, Big Information

Calculus contains pollen grains and microscopic fossilized plant pieces called phytoliths, in addition to starch grains and even bacteria. Fragments of bacterial DNA found in calculus can help identify specific pathogens that were once present in the mouths of ancient people.

The plant evidence can be definitive enough to suggest the species that was consumed, or it may suggest what part of a plant was eaten, such as a fruit or leaf. This can help track the use, spread and evolution of food plants, including agricultural varieties, through time and space.

Researchers can examine the calculus directly on the tooth with a microscope. But for further analysis, they carefully scrape the material off ancient teeth with common dental tools to avoid contaminating the samples with modern material. From that scraped-off tartar, they then carefully remove non-organic material to concentrate the food remnants.

Scientists use microscopes and molecular methods to examine the samples. Examining the small bits of food they find is challenging some long-held beliefs about ancient peoples and helping to answer significant questions.

Henry has been studying Neanderthal diet and working to confirm her initial results that they ate plants regularly. Some researchers have long argued that Neanderthals were primarily carnivores who depended on meat and fat.

“We were able to show that [Neanderthals] did eat plant foods and they processed these foods,” said Henry. “It’s the first time we have evidence of what those plant foods are.”

Henry and her collaborators identified grass seeds, tubers that may have been related to water lilies, and at least in a location in present-day Iraq, the foods had been cooked.

Jaime Pagan-Jimenez, a Puerto Rico-based anthropologist working at Leiden University in the Netherlands, recently began analyzing calculus to obtain more evidence in his study of diets throughout the Caribbean islands.

Pagan-Jimenez had already studied starch grains found in artifacts used to process and cook foods, concluding that the people who first lived on the Caribbean islands were, in at least many cases, cultivating a variety of food plants, such as corn, sweet potato, beans, and more. His findings also challenged the idea that the area’s main food crop was manioc, a root also known as cassava or yucca. The new technique allows him to confirm what foods actually reached the mouth.

“We had the chance of seeing directly in the human tooth what plants they were eating at different time periods and sub-regions in the Caribbean islands,” Pagan-Jimenez wrote to Inside Science in an email.

That evidence changes the interpretation of other archaeological findings.

“It turns out that these tools that we’ve called manioc scrapers were not at all used for processing manioc,” said Henry.

Starch grains, such as those found in cooking pots, are well-established evidence of food processing and consumption. Scientists also look for clues about food consumption in the atomic makeup of bones and tooth enamel. However, calculus allows researchers to attain a greater level of detail.

“For starch grains studies in archeology, human dental calculus is the last piece of the ‘broad picture’ for acquiring direct information on the whole process of plant preparation and consumption as food,” said Pagan-Jimenez.

Health Hints

Dental plaque contains all manner of information about an individual’s health. It can contain clues about tuberculosis, stomach ulcers and more. Since calculus is formed from plaque, it seemed natural to Warinner to investigate the preservation of health information.

“It seems like a great way to actually access so much health information about ancient peoples that otherwise has been really, really hard to do,” said Warinner.

One significant modern change is a highly processed diet, which is often accompanied by fluoridated water. How does the state of modern people’s mouths differ from that of their ancestors? Because calculus can preserve oral bacteria, it opens new doors to scientists.

“One of the things we don’t know very well is what actually is our natural or ancestral state of health in our mouth,” said Warinner. “We can look at specific dental diseases and try to understand how they have changed over time.”

Warinner said that in addition to bacteria from the mouth, calculus also contains bacteria that originated in other areas of the body. These bacteria can provide more information on the array of tiny organisms that inhabit the human body, called the microbiome. Doctors are becoming increasingly aware of the relationship between this collection of flora and human health. Data gathered from genetic material found in samples such as calculus is termed metagenomic, and can greatly enhance scientists’ ability to research the historical microbiome.

“[Calculus] allows us unparalleled access to these more distant organ systems that we’ve almost never had access to in the archaeological record except in some exceptional circumstances,” said Warinner.

“The idea that metagenomic data from archaeological dental calculus can provide a glimpse of ancient human diet and health is very clever, and if validated, it will be a very exciting discovery!” wrote Cecil Lewis, a molecular anthropologist at the University of Oklahoma, in an email.

Warinner is currently studying samples from medieval Germany, in part to establish the reliability of calculus research. She’s looking at pathogens, including those that cause ailments such as colds and flus. The method may allow Warinner and others to compare how certain diseases affected people throughout history and across continents.

“We could look at how their virulence has changed over time,” said Warinner. “Were they more virulent in the past than today, or not?”

Clean Sample

Techniques to deduce ancient diets and disease from dental calculus are still being established and verified.  Molecules of DNA in dental calculus are often degraded, and the more time has passed, the lower the chance that the sample is pristine, which makes interpretation more complicated.

Scientists are also uncertain as to how comprehensively calculus can portray diet. Not all foods that are consumed will be found in calculus. Although finding evidence that a food was in a person’s mouth is significant, it doesn’t necessarily explain how often the food was eaten, or what proportion of the overall diet it represented.

“We must be conscious that ancient people did not only eat starchy seeds or tubers; they also ate leaves, flowers, and so on,” said Pagan-Jimenez.

“What percentage of a person’s diet is represented in that record? We don’t know,” said Henry. “Any technique, you need to work out all the bugs before all academics buy it.

Scientists are still forming a full picture of all the components found inside ancient dental calculus, said Warinner.

Henry said she planned to examine calculus “for other kinds of plant residues or even animal food residues.” She said that the technique may help solve an important mystery: when humans began cooking their food — answers currently range from a few hundred thousand to more than 1.5 million years ago.

Both Henry and Warinner said they planned to reveal more findings, about Neanderthal diet and respiratory pathogens, respectively, in the near future.

Original article:

phys.org

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