Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘archeology’

20130719-111903.jpg

Spreading the bounty.Barley(left) and wheat from farming sites up to 8000 years old have levels of heavy nitrogen consistent with being fertilized by manure.
Credit: Amy Bogaard

Topic: Farming/ ancient fertilizer

OXFORD, ENGLAND—The high levels of nitrogen-15 found in samples of wheat, barley, peas, and lentils from 13 early farming sites in suggest that European farmers were fertilizing their crops with manure as early as 8,000 years ago, or some 5,000 years earlier than previously thought. Archaeobotanist Amy Bogaard of the University of Oxford thinks that the farmers probably noticed that areas where their animals gathered became “patches of superfertile ground.” This evidence supports the idea that “cropping and herding developed in tandem,” and were “entangled from the start,” she added.
archaeology.org
July 16, 2013

The main article is below

Researchers Discover First Use of Fertilizer

Europe’s first farmers helped spread a revolutionary way of living across the continent. They also spread something else. A new study reveals that these early agriculturalists were fertilizing their crops with manure 8000 years ago, thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

Fertilizer provides plants with all sorts of nutrients that they need to grow strong and healthy, including, most importantly, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. That’s why farmers all over the world, in countries rich and poor, put manure on their crops. Nevertheless, it may not be intuitively obvious that spreading animal dung around plants is good for them, and archaeologists had found no evidence for the practice earlier than about 3000 years ago. Farmers in the Near East—what is today Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, and neighboring countries—began cultivating plants and herding animals about 8000 B.C.E., but there are no signs that they used animal dung for anything other than as fuel for fires.

So a team led by Amy Bogaard, an archaeobotanist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, decided to look for evidence in Europe, where farming began to spread from the Near East about 8500 years ago. Manure has a higher than normal proportion of the rare isotope nitrogen-15, which is heavier than the more common N-14. The researchers took advantage of recent agricultural research showing that plants treated with manure also have more nitrogen-15. They measured the nitrogen-15 content of plant remains from cereals such as wheat and barley and pulses such as peas and lentils from 13 early farming sites. The sites dated to between 7900 and 4400 years ago and ranged from Greece and Bulgaria in the southeast to the United Kingdom and Denmark in the northwest. As the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the nitrogen-15 levels in 124 crop samples, totaling more than 2500 individual cereal grains or pulse seeds, were high and consistent with the use of manure at most of the 13 sites.

Bogaard and her colleagues conclude that as agriculture spread to Europe, farmers began to invest more and more heavily in the long-term management of their fields. That meant spreading manure, which breaks down slowly and increases the fertility of farmland over many years. This long-term relationship with the land, the team suggests, fostered notions of land ownership and fueled the kind of stratified social hierarchies of wealthier and poorer peoples that other researchers have uncovered on the continent.

So how did early farmers figure out that spreading manure was a key to farming success? Bogaard says that there are several plausible scenarios. Areas of “natural dung accumulation,” where animals hung out, would have provided “patches of superfertile ground that early crops would have colonized,” she points out, adding that “subsistence farmers are extremely observant of small differences in growth and productivity among their plots.” And new evidence from both the Near East and Europe, Bogaard says, suggests that “cropping and herding developed in tandem” and were “entangled from the start.”

The team is on firm ground in claiming the earliest use of fertilizer, says Martin Jones, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. “We used to think that close integration of animal and crop husbandry” was a later development, he says, but the new research indicates “that it goes back to Europe’s first farmers.”

Original article:
sciencemag.org
by Michael Balter on 15 July 2013

Read Full Post »

20130710-125210.jpg

Cover Photo: This is a photo of the excavations in area A at Chogha Golan, Iran. Credit: [Image courtesy of TISARP/University of Tübingen]

Topic: Fertile Crescent

The birth of agriculture has long been thought by scholars and scientists to have first emerged in the Levant and Mesopotamia, in the westen regions of what is known as the ancient Fertile Crescent.

Research related to excavations at a site in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains in present-day Iran, however, challenges that view, and argues for a more widespread development of the earliest agriculture across the Fertile Crescent. Simone Riehl from the University of Tübingen in Germany, along with colleagues from the Tübingen Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoecology, have analyzed plant remains at the pre-pottery Neolithic site of Chogha Golan in Iran, and their results show that people were growing and grinding cereal grains like wheat and barley at the same time as their counterparts to the west, as early as 9,800 to 12,000 years ago.

Excavated in 2009 and 2010, archaeologists from the University of Tübingen and the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research uncovered artifacts, structures and plant remains that show that Chogha Golan's early inhabitants cultivated wild barley, wheat, lentil and grass peas at the location, with the first evidence of such plant management going back as far as 12,000 years ago.

"During the last few decades, numerous archaeological excavations were conducted in the Near East that led researchers to consider the possibility that multiple regions in the Fertile Crescent began cultivating cereal grains roughly at the same time, rather than just a single core area," Riehl said. "Plentiful findings of chaff remains of the cereals indicate that people processed their harvest within the sites they were living in. Mortars and grinding stones may have been used for turning the grain into some kind of bulgur or flour, which may have been further processed either by cooking or roasting."

The Chogha Golan site represents the earliest record of long-term plant management in Iran, according to the researchers.

These findings suggest that essentially simultaneous processes led to the management of wild plants and the domestication of cereal grains across most of the Fertile Crescent.

"For some time, the emergence of agriculture in Iran was considered as part of a cultural transfer from the west," Riehl said. "This opinion was, however, mostly based on the lack of information from Iranian sites. We meanwhile assume that key areas for emerging domestication existed over the whole Fertile Crescent, and that there were several locations where domesticated species evolved as a result of cultivation by local human groups."

The authors note, however, that it may not have been as simple as simultaneous emergence at multiple locations and that interregional exchanges of ideas and cultigens may have played a role.

The study report is published in the July 5th issue of the journal Science.

Original article:
popular archaeology

20130710-124849.jpg
This photo shows the architecture and grinding equipment from excavation area A in Chogha Golan, Iran. Credit: [Image courtesy of TISARP/University of Tübingen]

Read Full Post »

20130628-113621.jpg

Topic: poem to Sumerian beer goddess and a recipe!

After Wednesdays post on Sumerian beer I looked up the poem to Ninaski, I thought you might enjoy it and the recipe included.

As to whether the Sumerians discovered beer well my vote is for the Egyptians but who ever it was we owe them a great deal!

Ninkasi, the Sumerian Goddess of Brewing and Beer

The Sumerians were big-time beer drinkers. In fact, by accident, they discovered beer. Yes, not created, but rather discovered, or so it’s been postulated. Sources indicate that the old school nomadic hunter-gatherers, of some 13,000 years ago, finally realized that they could settle – that it was more beneficial to life and yielded stability. One of their first harvested products was grain. To keep this grain, it was often baked and stored. Some 6,000 years ago, ancient text reveals that eventually it was formulated that the sweetest grain, if baked, left out, moistened, forgotten, then eaten, would produce an uplifting, cheerful feeling. Intoxication at the primal level! The first beer!

After this blissful discovery, baked grains were broken into pieces and stuffed into a pot. Water, and sometimes aromatics, fruit or honey, were added (creating a basic mash and wort) and left to ferment. Years later, the Babylonians fashioned what we now know as a straw, to extract the juice from the grain pulp in the pot. A not-so-distant Russian recipe is still produced today, called “kvass.” The only real difference being that the fermented liquid is poured into a cask, bottle or jug.

The following text from 1800 BC is the Hymn to Ninkasi, translated by Miguel Civil. It was written by a Sumerian poet and found on clay tablet. It actually includes one of the most ancient recipes for brewing beer.

Hymn to Ninkasi

Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,
Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,

Having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its great walls for you,
Ninkasi, having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished it’s walls for you,

Your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.
Ninkasi, your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.

You are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with sweet aromatics,
Ninkasi, you are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with [date] – honey,

You are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,
Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,

You are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,
Ninkasi, you are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,

You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.
Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.

You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,

You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort,
Brewing [it] with honey [and] wine
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)
Ninkasi, (…)(You the sweet wort to the vessel)

The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.
Ninkasi, the filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.

When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

Ninkasi is the Sumerian goddess of brewing and beer and head brewer to the gods themselves. Her name means “the lady who fills the mouth” and her birth was formed of sparkling-fresh water. She who bakes with lofty shovel the sprouted barley, she who mixes the bappir-malt with sweet aromatics, she who pours the fragrant beer in the lahtan-vessel that is like the Tigris and Euphrates joined! Yes, she. Early brewers were primarily women, mostly because it was deemed a woman’s job. Mesopotamian men, of some 3,800 years ago, were obviously complete assclowns and had yet to realize the pleasure of brewing beer.

Using the above text, one could literally recreate the ancient recipe embedded within the poem. In fact, back in the early 1990s, Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing and Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania set out to reproduce this brew by deciphering the ancient clay tablet. Thick loaves of bread called bappir were baked from several grains. Mixed with honey, the loaves were then twice baked until a granolalike consistency was achieved, believing that the Sumerians stored this brew for later use. These loaves were added to a mash with a large addition of malt to ensure a proper conversion of starches. The mixture was then cooled naturally, not by modern techniques. The sweet liquid was strained away from the grains and transferred to the fermenter. Yeast was added and yielded a 3.5 percent alcohol by volume. After the fermentation, the beer was served in proper Sumerian style – sipped from bulky clay jugs using lengthy drinking straws, produced to bear a resemblance to the gold and lapis-lazuli straws unearthed in the mid-third millennium tomb of Lady Pu-abi at Ur.

Let’s give thanks to our one true god – Beer and its messenger Ninkasi! Blessed be Beer!

Original article:
beer advocate

Read Full Post »

20130531-104223.jpg

Topic: ancient clam sites

The excavation of what appears to be an ancient food storage system along the beach of Russell Island, between Fulford Harbour and Swartz Bay, is helping to cast more light on the history and development of local aboriginal groups.

Six years after researchers discovered two clam gardens along the beachfront, University of Victoria students are sifting through sand, gravel and shells to figure out how and when the gardens were built. Some researchers have suggested the gardens helped augment a community’s food supply.

The gardens are beach areas where clams grow naturally and have been enhanced to increase clam production.

“From some groups of elders we’ve talked to, they say these clam gardens basically acted as food banks,” said Nathan Cardinal, the cultural resource management adviser for the Gulf Island National Park Reserve. “If they couldn’t get enough food to get through the winter, they could come here and grab shellfish.”

For the past three years, anthropology students have pitched their tents and spent May and part of June studying historical aboriginal sites around Vancouver Island. The clam gardens they are studying are small fields built on the beach at low tide with surrounding rock walls. The walls acted as a barrier to keep out seaweed and prevent predators from destroying the growing clams and other shellfish.

Like vegetable gardeners, those who tended the clam beds would till the sand, turning it over to provide the clams more oxygen.

“It shows that people didn’t passively react to their environment but rather created their own landscape,” said instructor Eric McLay.

McLay estimates the gardens on Russell Island are at least 1,000 years old. The island was once home to an aboriginal community and the clams may have been used for trade.

Clam gardens are a relatively new discovery for archeologists. The first one was found in the Broughton Archipelago in 1995. Since then, gardens have been discovered along coastlines from B.C. to Alaska.

For the UVic students, this week marks the one time each year that there’s a three-day window when the tides will be lowest, helping them get a clearer picture of the gardens.

Aboriginal representatives have joined the students to help teach about the role the gardens played in their culture.

Phillip Joe, a member of the Cowichan Tribe, said he remembers his grandparents telling him stories about the gardens. “The clam gardens are only a little bit of our culture, and there’s a lot more to be explained,” he said.

Original article:

times colonist

Read Full Post »

20130527-110412.jpg

Topic: Fremont diet

It seems the ancient Fremont people would have taken a real fancy to scones, Jell-O, funeral potatoes and Dutch Ovens.

Granted, Utah’s signature foods were not exactly on Fremont menus 1,000 years ago, but these early state dwellers did chow down on bone, hide and connective tissues, from which gelatin is derived. They also consumed plenty of bread- and potato-related food items found in their maize, tubers and rhizomes, and engaged in some serious containment cooking.

Bon appétit!

Food sustains and even explains a little bit about the people who consume it.

Yes, people are what they eat and that is why Timothy Riley, archaeologist with Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum, is so interested in determining who the Fremont people were by what they ate. These mysterious people, who were both farmers and nomads, inhabited the region comprising Utah as well as parts of Idaho, Nevada and Colorado between 400-1350 A.D.

Plants and diet have always been a favorite topic for Riley and were the focus of a recent lecture he gave at USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum as part of Utah Archaeology Week. And best of all, he didn’t just talk about what the Fremont people ate; he dished it out in the form of a four-course evening of sampling.

Riley began with cattail and spring onion salad followed by dusky grouse with pinion nuts and Juniper berries. After that came tasty venison steak with dried and roasted pumpkin seeds – a definite crowd pleaser.

By the end of the evening, the 30 or so people in attendance experienced the Fremont culture as though they had been guests in their pithouses. The similarities between then and now made dining with the Fremont not only bearable to the palate but really quite pleasant.

Of course in order to develop his menu, Riley had to get his hands a little dirty because he could only determine what went in the mouths of the Fremonts by carefully studying what came out of them.

Yes, his menu was based on fossilized human waste, called coprolites.

And Riley couldn’t have been happier digging through the dung knowing it was for the greater good. There is much to be found in discards. What fascinated him was the amount of animal hair, fish, seeds, grass and fiber he found in Fremont waste.

Because such matter is not easily preserved, human coprolites are particularly rare and, shy of stumbling upon Fremont latrines, elusive. In fact, the best examples of Fremont feces finds date back to the 1960s and 70s from which Riley did his research. These samples were dug up by archaeologists at three Fremont sites in Utah, including the Hogup Cave site along the Great Salt Lake.

By studying the eating habits of the Fremont Indians, Riley knows when they were heavier into hunting and gathering and when they were more likely chilling in their pithouses as farmers. He can also tell you when they were physically healthiest – think Mediterranean Diet – and when they were likely dipping into their corn-only food storage.

“Coprolites actually do give you direct evidence that people were not just gathering these plants and using them for baskets and tools, they were also eating them and combining them and so the idea of menus and meals is something you can get at through coprolites.”

And to his biggest surprise, despite the plethora of Fremont granaries throughout the region storing all that maize, what was most abundant in the coprolites were wild seeds.

Of the 30 coprolites he analyzed, 17 reflected no field-grown foods. The remaining samples revealed eight with corn and the other five with corn and other domestic foods. At the sites where corn had been the most heavily ingested, such as the Hogup site, they also found greater nutritional stress. Maybe they figured out, and a little too late, that strictly farming was not good for their health – more nuts and berries were in order.

After 1150, they evidently switched primarily to a hunter-gatherer diet and were the better for it – their muscle mass increased and their nutrient stress decreased, as reflected in the Harris lines in teeth and skeletal robusticity based on muscle attachments, Riley said.

“It looks like people who were eating a lot of maize were actually probably the least healthy,” he said. “We see that a fair amount in hunter-gatherer versus agricultural populations. Hunter-gathers tend to have seasonal nutrition stress but they don’t have long-term nutritional deficiencies the same way agriculturalists tend to.”

After tasting the spring onion salad, the pinion nuts and pumpkin seeds, the palatable merits of mixing it up became especially apparent to Riley’s guests. But it was not just about the food that was prepared but also how it was prepared that was important to the evening. Archaeologists have determined that the Fremont people used cooking slabs, (like pizza stones), hand-held grinding stones, called manos, parching trays, boiling baskets and ceramic vessels.

The food on this particular night was prepared primarily through boiling in ceramic vessels, which made for tender and moist morsels. So not only did Riley prepare and serve what he said he’s 99 percent sure the Fremont people ate, he also cooked it up in the same ceramic fashion that they did. Utah’s fascination with Dutch Ovens appears to run deeper than anyone could have imagined.

Original article:

sunad.com
May 23, 2013

Read Full Post »

20130306-110756.jpg

Topic: diet

Human sacrifices are the most infamous feature of ancient South American societies, but little was actually known about the victims? New research published in The American Journal of Physical Anthropology explores archaeological evidence from Peru, dating to the Late Horizon era between 1450 and 1532 A.D., to tell us more about the individuals who met their fate.

Examining the final years

Evidence from bone collagen to hair keratin was used to examine where the sacrificial victims lived in the decade prior to their death, as well as their diets in the months leading up to the fatal ritual.

This study investigated two key variables—residential and subsistence—among sacrificial victims dating to the Late Horizon (A.D. 1450–1532) in the Huaca de los Sacrificios at the Chotuna-Chornancap Archaeological Complex in north coastal Peru.

The studied individuals date to the period of Inca imperial rule over the Lambayeque Valley Complex which included a radical social change to the culture and the installation of direct Inca political presence in some areas of the valley.

The investigators decided to test a hypothesis that the sacrificial victims were brought from outside the locality and would have eaten a diet that corresponded to their status as sacrificial offerings in the final months of life.

To do this, they used 33 sets of human remains from Huaca de los Sacrificios, where rib samples could be collected from 32 individuals. The central aim of the study was to examine only the last decade of the individuals life through to the final months. Given this, and the fact that obtaining samples for dentine collagen isotopic analysis is particularly intrusive, the team opted not to include teeth in this study and took all samples from ribs.

Typical Inca demographic

The demographic of the victims at Huaca de Los Sacrificios mirrored that of Inca rituals within the empire’s heartland; mainly juveniles and females. Thirty of the 33 bodies were female and the majority hadn’t reached 15-years-old with some of the child mummies being no older than nine.

Haagen Klaus, anthropologist at Utah Valley University said at the time of discovery that the “majority of them were sacrificed using a very sharp bladed instrument, probably a copper or bronze tumi knife. And for the majority there are several combinations, a complex set of variations on cutting of the throat.”

Human sacrifice on the north coast of Peru can be both conservative and highly variable. The focus of ritual killing in this region for two thousand years appears to have been linked to blood sacrifice involving the slitting of the supplicant’s throat followed by a blow to the head.

A Surprising result

The results did not however match the expectations, as it revealed that in contrast to contemporaneous coastal and highland contexts rather than being individuals brought in from outside the region, the victims were local to the area, and consumed diets consistent with social status with no visible sign of dietary change in the final months. This is very different from other sacrificial victims (Inca Sacrifice Victims ‘Fattened Up’ Before Death. – National Geographic).

These findings suggest a distinct pattern of human sacrifice in the Late Horizon and underscore the regional and temporal variation in sacrificial practices in the central Andes. What this means is that every single site showing signs of the behaviour requires unique study to understand the context of sacrifice.

Source: American Journal of Physical Anthropology
More Information

Bethany L. Turner, Haagen D. Klaus, Sarah V. Livengood, Leslie E. Brown, Fausto Saldaña, Carlos Wester, The variable roads to sacrifice: Isotopic investigations of human remains from Chotuna-Huaca de los Sacrificios, Lambayeque, Peru” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22238
Human Sacrifice Victims at Chotuna-Chornancap: Multidimensional Reconstruction of Ritual Violence in the Late Pre-Hispanic Lambayeque Valley A paper by Haagen Klaus
Ambrose SH, Norr L. 1993. Experimental evidence for the relationship of the carbon isotope ratios of whole diet and dietary protein to those of bone collagen and carbonate. In: Lambert JB, Grupe G, editors. Prehistoric human bone: archaeology at the molecular level. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. p 1–37.
Donnan CB. 2012. Chotuna and Chornancap: excavating an ancient Peruvian legend. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA.

Original article:

past horizons
March 4, 2013

20130306-110810.jpg

Read Full Post »

20130211-100811.jpg

Topic: soup

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—Waterproof, heatproof containers were made at least 10,000 years ago, according to Ofer Bar-Yosef of Harvard University. He and his team found such pots in a cave in China. “When you look at the pots, you can see that they were in a fire,” he explained. The pots may have been used for boiling soup or alcohol. And 25,000 years ago, soup may have been made by dropping heated rocks into a lined pit with water and other ingredients. Such broths would have balanced the diet and may even have been cooked by Neanderthals, since cooked starched grains have been found on their 46,000-year-old teeth. “This doesn’t prove that they were making soups or stews, but I would say it’s quite likely,” said John Speth, an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Original article
archaeology.org
Feb 8, 2013

Main article posted on New Hampshire news feb 6, 2013

Stone Age Stew? Soup Making May Be Older Than We’d Thought

Soup comes in many variations — chicken noodle, creamy tomato, potato and leek, to name a few. But through much of human history, soup was much simpler, requiring nothing more than boiling a haunch of meat or other chunk of food in water to create a warm, nourishing broth.

So who concocted that first bowl of soup?

Most sources state that soup making did not become commonplace until somewhere between 5,000 and 9,000 years ago. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America says, for example, “boiling was not a commonly used cooking technique until the invention of waterproof and heatproof containers about five thousand years ago.”

That’s probably wrong — by at least 15,000 years.

It now looks like waterproof and heatproof containers were invented much earlier than previously thought. Harvard University archaeologist Ofer Bar-Yosef and colleagues reported last year in Science on their finding of 20,000-year-old pottery from a cave in China. “When you look at the pots, you can see that they were in a fire,” Bar-Yosef says.

Their discovery is possibly the world’s oldest-known cookware, but exactly what its users were brewing up isn’t certain. Perhaps it was alcohol, or maybe it was soup. Whatever it was, the discovery shows that waterproof, heatproof containers are far older than a mere 5,000 years.

That kind of container, though, isn’t even necessary for boiling. An ancient soup maker could have simply dug a pit, lined it with animal skin or gut, filled his “pot” with water and dropped in some hot rocks.

The power of the expanding steam cracks the rocks, a distinct characteristic that first shows up in the archaeological record around 25,000 years ago in Western Europe, says archaeologist John Speth, an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

But Speth says boiling, and soup, could be even older.

He started thinking about ancient boiling after watching an episode of the television show “Survivorman,” in which host Les Stroud boils water in a plastic container. “You can boil without using heated stones,” Speth realized. All you need is a waterproof container suspended over a fire — the water inside keeps the material from burning.

Long-ago cooks could have fashioned such a container from tree bark or the hide of an animal, Speth says. Finding evidence of such boiling, though, would be incredibly difficult because those types of materials usually don’t get preserved in the archaeological record.

Speth has argued that Neanderthals, ancient human relatives that lived from around 200,000 to 28,000 years ago, would have needed boiling technology to render fat from animal bones to supplement their diet of lean meat, so that they could have avoided death by protein poisoning.

The kidneys and liver are limited in how much protein they can process in a day — when more than that amount is consumed, ammonia or urea levels in the blood can increase, leading to headaches, fatigue and even death. So humans must get more than half their calories from fat and carbohydrates.

If Neanderthals were boiling bones to obtain the fat, they could have drunk the resulting broth, Speth says.

Neanderthals were probably cooking in some way, scientists have concluded. A 2011 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found evidence of cooked starch grains embedded in 46,000-year-old fossil Neanderthal teeth from Iraq.

“This doesn’t prove that they were making soups or stews,” Speth says — some have suggested the meal would have resembled oatmeal — “but I would say it’s quite likely.”

Putting a date on the world’s first bowl of soup is probably impossible. Anthropologists haven’t been able to determine for certain when man was first able to control fire, or when cooking itself was invented (though it was likely more than 300,000 years ago, before Homo sapiens first emerged, Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham says in his book Catching Fire).

And the story is probably different for people in different parts of the world. It appears that pottery was invented in eastern Asia thousands of years before it emerged in western Asia, Bar-Yosef notes. “Maybe boiling wasn’t so important because you had bread” in the West to balance out all that protein, he says.

Other parts of the world never had any tradition of boiling food. “A lot of hunter-gatherers didn’t use containers at all,” Speth says. In places like Tanzania and the Kalahari, there are tribes that didn’t boil water until after Europeans arrived.

Speth says, though, it’s very likely that humans were concocting soup at least 25,000 years ago in some places. Whether our ancestors were boiling up broth before that — well, we’ll just have to wait and see what the archaeologists dig up.

Original article
NPR.org
By SARAH ZIELINSKI
Feb6, 2013

20130211-100823.jpg

Read Full Post »

20130111-093649.jpg

Topic Stone Age Diet

Analyses of Stone Age settlements reveal that the hunters were healthy and would gladly eat anything they could get their hands on, including carbohydrates – contrary to the modern definition of the Paleolithic, or Stone Age diet.

The Stone Age hunter’s food contained large amounts of protein from fish, lean mean, herbs and coarse vegetables and has formed the basis of one of today’s hottest health trends: the paleo diet.

The modern version of the Stone Age diet excludes foods rich in carbohydrates. This exclusion of carbs is based on the idea that Stone Age hunters didn’t have access to bread, rice or pasta.

But is it true that Stone Age hunters and gatherers didn’t eat any carbohydrates at all?

Sabine Karg, an external lecturer at Copenhagen University’s Saxo Institute, specialises in archaeobotany. She says that Stone Age hunters, unlike many followers of the modern Stone Age diet, joyfully munched away at carbs when the opportunity presented itself.

“Carbohydrates have been part of their diet. In flooded settlements from the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods, traces of roots and seeds from various aquatic plants and wild grasses have been found.”

Stone Age hunters were not picky

The modern version of the paleo diet forsakes everything that’s reminiscent of bread, rice, pasta, legumes and milk.

But according to Karg, the Stone Age hunters were nowhere near that fastidious about their food.

Easily digestible food with high energy content is a welcome feature if you have to make the effort of finding the next meal yourself, and traces of foods containing carbohydrates have also been found in the old settlements.

“What archaeologists find in their excavations is dependent on both the preservation conditions and how the people had prepared their food,” says Karg. “For us, the conditions are particularly good in flooded settlements where organic material is well preserved, or in burn layers or fireplaces where we can find charred plant residues,” she says, giving an example:

“We have found seeds of wild grasses, aquatic plants and root vegetables, all of which have formed part of the hunters’ diet. Especially after an unsuccessful hunt, they had to go out and dig up roots.”

Paleo diet for 9,000 years

The Stone Age menu was widely different depending on the region, climate and season. In Denmark, people lived by hunting and gathering for more than 9,000 years until they changed their ways and became farmers.

During the course of these 9,000 years, Denmark presented the hunters with terrains ranging from frozen landscapes similar to today’s Greenland to warm islands with temperatures like those in today’s Southern European holiday destinations.

The starch sources that the archaeologists have so far found include acorns and sea beet, the latter of which is the ancestor of both the beetroot and the sugar beet.

Compared to today, the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic diets included lots of proteins, less fat and fewer, though some, carbohydrates.

You are what you eat

A healthy diet was as important to Stone Age hunters as it to modern man. But since we can’t just send a Stone Age hunter to hospital for a fitness test, if we are to find out about the health of the hunters, we need to make do with what’s available to us – bones and teeth.

So ScienceNordic asked Pia Bennike, a biological anthropologist and lecturer at Copenhagen University, to bring out the boxes of Neolithic bones and tell us about their condition.

“The hunters’ dental health was excellent,” she says. “There is very little tooth loss and no caries. That’s understandable because they didn’t consume many sugary carbohydrates. The only sweet food available at the time was honey. The advantage with the starch sources they had, e.g. root vegetables, is that it’s coarse food, which actually helps clean the teeth.”

Stone Age food was less prepared than today’s food

Bennike explains that the Stone Age hunters made good use of their healthy teeth:

“The skulls reveal that they had a strong chewing system and that their teeth were worn. The very heavy tooth wear shows that they have had a coarse diet, but also that perhaps they didn’t prepare their food as much as we do today.”

When it comes to tooth decay, she says, it’s not only about the contents of the food, but also about how it’s prepared:

“Caries emerges at the beginning of the Neolithic period and increases in the Iron Age and the Viking Age. This occurs in line with people starting to eat more carbohydrates, but also much more finely processed food.”

The hunters had strong bones

From the bones, we see that the general health condition of the Stone Age hunters wasn’t all that bad. Their life expectancy, however, was a lot shorter than it is for modern man.

“There are only few visible signs of diseases on the bones, but that could be put down to the low average age at the time. Those who survived into adulthood could expect an average lifespan of around 35-40 years,” says Bennike.

“Bone quality was generally better than today, but the question is whether that’s due to diet or exercise. Both factors have probably played a part, but the level of physical activity in particular makes a difference. It may also be an evolutionary feature because the further we go back in time, the stronger the bones.”

Stone Age people got their calcium from shellfish

Calcium is crucial to the quality and strength of our bones. Today we are advised to drink milk because of its high calcium content. But milk was not featured in the Stone Age diet, so the hunters must have found their calcium elsewhere.

“Calcium is found in many other foods, e.g. shellfish, so I think they got the calcium they needed,” says Bennike.

Stone Age hunters had strong bones and strong teeth. They lived active lives and ate a coarse diet, consisting of anything edible that they could get their hands on.

Original article:
sciencenordic.com
Jan 4, 2013

20130111-093705.jpg

Read Full Post »

20130109-121143.jpg

Topic Farming at Petra

—A team of international archaeologists including Christian Cloke of the University of Cincinnati is providing new insights into successful and extensive water management and agricultural production in and around the ancient desert city of Petra, located in present-day Jordan. Ongoing investigations, of which Cloke is a part, are led by Professor Susan Alcock of the Brown University Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP).

Using a variety of tools and techniques, including high-resolution satellite imagery and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of soils, Cloke, a doctoral student in the Department of Classics at UC, and Cecelia Feldman, classics lecturer at UMass-Amherst, have suggested that extensive terrace farming and dam construction in the region north of the city began around the first century, some 2,000 years ago, not during the Iron Age (c. 1200-300 BC) as had been previously hypothesized. This striking development, it seems, was due to the ingenuity and enterprise of the ancient Nabataeans, whose prosperous kingdom had its capital at Petra until the beginning of the second century. The successful terrace farming of wheat, grapes and possibly olives, resulted in a vast, green, agricultural “suburb” to Petra in an otherwise inhospitable, arid landscape. This terrace farming remained extensive and robust through the third century. Based on surface finds and comparative data collected by other researchers in the area, however, it is clear that this type of farming continued to some extent for many centuries, until the end of the first millennium (between A.D. 800 and 1000). That ancient Petra was under extensive cultivation is a testament to past strategies of land management, and is all the more striking in light of the area’s dry and dusty environment today. Cloke and Feldman will present their findings Jan. 4 at the Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting in Seattle, in a paper titled “On the Rocks: Landscape Modification and Archaeological Features in Petra’s Hinterland.” Their research efforts are contributing to a growing understanding of the city, its road networks, and life in the surrounding area.

AGRICULTURAL SUCCESS FOLLOWED BY ANNEXATION

Dating the start of extensive terrace farming at Petra to the beginning of the common era has important historical implications, according to Cloke, because this date coincides closely with the Roman annexation of the Nabataean Kingdom in A.D. 106. He explained, “No doubt the explosion of agricultural activity in the first century and the increased wealth that resulted from the wine and oil production made Petra an exceptionally attractive prize for Rome. The region around Petra not only grew enough food to meet its own needs, but also would have been able to provide olives, olive oil, grapes and wine for trade. This robust agricultural production would have made the region a valuable asset for supplying Roman forces on the empire’s eastern frontier.”

In other words, said Feldman, successful terrace farming and water management when Petra was at its zenith as a trading center added not only to the city’s economic importance but to its strategic military value as well, because there were limited options in the region for supplying troops with essential supplies.

TERRACES FOR FARMING AND DAMS FOR WATER MANAGEMENT

On large stretches of land north of Petra, inhabitants built complex and extensive systems to dam wadis (riverbeds) and redirect winter rainwater to hillside terraces used for farming. Rainfall in the region occurs only between October and March, often in brief, torrential downpours, so it was important for Petra’s inhabitants to capture and store all available water for later use during the dry season. Over the centuries, the Nabataeans of Petra became experts at doing so. The broad watershed of sandstone hills naturally directed water flow to the city center, and a complex system of pipes and channels directed it to underground cisterns where it was stored for later use. “Perhaps most significantly,” said Cloke, “it’s clear that they had considerable knowledge of their surrounding topography and climate. The Nabataeans differentiated watersheds and the zones of use for water: water collected and stored in the city itself was not cannibalized for agricultural uses. The city’s administrators clearly distinguished water serving the city’s needs from water to be redirected and accumulated for nurturing crops. Thus, extensive farming activity was almost entirely outside the bounds of the city’s natural catchment area and utilized separate watersheds and systems of runoff.” These initial conclusions from the first three seasons of BUPAP fieldwork promise more exciting discoveries about how the inhabitants of Petra cultivated the outlying landscape and supported the city’s population. The presence of highly developed systems of landscape modification and water management at Petra take on broader significance as they offer insight into geopolitical changes and Roman imperialism.

Original article:
Phys.org
January 2, 2013 by M.b. Reilly

20130109-121425.jpg

Read Full Post »

20121127-124015.jpg

20121127-124026.jpg

Topic Stone Age Wine

ELAZIG, Turkey — There are easier places to make wine than the spectacular, desolate landscapes of southeast Turkey, but DNA analysis suggests it is here that Stone Age farmers first domesticated the wine grape.
Today Turkey is home to archaeological sites as well as vineyards of ancient grape varieties like Bogazkere and Okuzgozu, which drew the curiosity of the Swiss botanist and grape DNA sleuth Jose Vouillamoz, for the clues they may offer to the origin of European wine.
Together with the biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern, Vouillamoz has spent nearly a decade studying the world’s cultivated and wild vines.
“We wanted to collect samples from wild and cultivated grape vines from the Near East — that means southeastern Anatolia, Armenia and Georgia — to see in which place the wild grape was, genetically speaking, linked the closest to the cultivated variety.”
“It turned out to be southeastern Anatolia,” the Asian part of modern Turkey, said Vouillamoz, speaking at the EWBC wine conference in the Turkish city of Izmir this month. “We propose the hypothesis that it is most likely the first place of grape vine domestication.”
McGovern’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania Museum also provided archaeological evidence of wine’s Anatolian roots after analysing residues of liquid recovered from vessels thousands of years old.
Author of “Uncorking the Past” and “Ancient Wine”, McGovern used a sensitive chemical technique to look for significant amounts of tartaric acid — for which grapes are the only source in the Middle East.
While Georgia, Armenia and Iran all played a role in ancient winemaking, preliminary evidence from pottery and even older clay mineral containers, seems to place the very first domestication of the wild Eurasian grape Vitis vinifera in southeastern Anatolia sometime between 5,000 and 8,500 BC, McGovern said.
Southeast Anatolia is part of the Fertile Crescent, the name given to a vast area stretching through modern-day Iraq and Iran to the Nile Valley in the south, widely seen as the birthplace of the eight so-called “founder” crops — from chickpea to barley — that are the world’s first known domesticated plants.
Evidence found by the research duo suggests that for wine too, hundreds of today’s grapes find their roots in “founder” varieties descended from the wild grapes of the region.
Through DNA profiling, Vouillamoz says he has isolated 13 of these “founder” grapes by tracing the family trees of European fine wine grapes.
He believes farmers across southeast Anatolia or the Near East started domesticating the wild Vitis vinifera grape around the same time — giving rise to the 13 “founders”.
This, he says, debunks the long-held notion that most Western European grapes were introduced independently from the Middle East, Near East or Egypt, Turkey or Greece, at different times and in different places.
One of the “founders”, Gouais Blanc, is a good example.
“He gave birth to at least 80 varieties in western Europe, including Chardonnay, Gamay, Furmint, and Riesling,” said Vouillamoz, who recently co-authored, “Wine Grapes,” a monumental opus on 1,368 vine varieties. “I call it the Casanova of grapes.”
Standing in a gully between Elazig and Diyarbakir, Daniel O’Donnell, chief winemaker at the Turkish winery Kayra, gestured to the great expanse of mountains where wild grape vines still grow in gullies and washes.
“It is a wine-making pilgrimage to come back here and find, genetically, 8,000, 9,000-year old vines,” said O’Donnell, who arrived here from California in 2006.
“It’s mind-blowing to be a Napa guy paying attention to the fine details, the minutiae of wine making, and come here.”
But this heritage is now under threat.
In the Kurdish Diyarbakir region, where women on subsistence farms tend the vines and goats do the pruning, phylloxera is killing vineyards that have not been grafted onto disease-resistant rootstock.
“Unfortunately, phylloxera has arrived here. Every year we see the vines die,” said Murat Uner, wine production manager at Kayra.
Phylloxera annihilated vineyards in Europe in the late 19th century. Wild vines are somewhat protected by their eco-system, but cultivated vines are extremely vulnerable.
“We explain it to them, but they don’t want to listen,” says Uner.
The frustration is shared by winemakers who are trying to develop the Turkish wine industry, and experts who fear the loss of an irreplaceable genetic diversity within these ancient varieties.
“They are incredibly lucky to have this,” said Vouillamoz. “It has been lost in many places.”

Original article:
By Suzanne Mustacich
google.com/ hosted news

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: