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On this day ten years ago…
via A 200,000-Year-Old Cut of Meat

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On this day ten years ago…
via Steak Dinners Go Back 2.5 Million Years

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The remains of a high-quality Romano-British butcher’s business and centre for crafts have been unearthed by archaeologists in Devon. Photograph: Handout

The guardian.com
By Steven Morris

The remains of a high-quality Romano-British butcher’s business and centre for crafts have been unearthed by archaeologists in Devon.

Experts believe the fourth-century abattoir was set up to prepare the best cuts of beef that were transported to customers miles away along a Roman road found at the site.

They suggest the butchers at Ipplepen, near Newton Abbot in south Devon, worked alongside a string of talented craftspeople specialising in deer antler, leather and textiles.

Previous digs at Ipplepen have unearthed Roman coins, a stretch of Roman road and the remnants of vessels from France and the Mediterranean once full of wine, olive oil and garum – fish sauce.

The site is significant because it has undermined the notion that ancient Rome’s influence had not stretched further south-west in the British Isles than Exeter, 20 miles to the north of Ipplepen.

During the latest dig, the focus has been on a spot away from what is thought to be the centre of the Ipplepen settlement. They did not find scraps of pottery that suggest homes but a ditch full of 1,700-year-old cattle bones.

The remains are mostly just the heads and feet of cattle – analysis suggests that cattle were raised locally and butchered when they were at the prime age for producing high-quality beef.

Prof Stephen Rippon, from the University of Exeter, who is leading the archaeological work, said that if the cattle had been raised and slaughtered by peasant farmers nothing would have been left of them.

“They would have boiled down the bits that have been thrown away and made something like brawn out of them,” he said.

The age of the animals is another big clue. “The normal practice would have been to keep the cattle into old age, pulling ploughs and so on. Our cattle were one and a half to two years old – which fits in with the idea of this being professional beef production.

“We think they were preparing good meat joints and perhaps storing them in barrels of salted water and taking them somewhere else. This is the first time we have found evidence of commercial farming and butchery in the south-west of Britain.

“They would have been taken to market somewhere along the major Roman road we have found here. It is really rare to get animal bones preserved on rural archaeological sites in the south-west as its acidic soils normally dissolve the bones.”

The team also came upon a piece of sawn deer antler, possibly used for making objects such as awls, needles, combs and hairpins. This is the first time that evidence for Romano-British bone or antler working has been discovered in Devon outside of Exeter.

Waste from the smithing of iron found during the excavation indicates that there was a blacksmith’s forge nearby, while the discovery of a stone weight may have been used in the weaving of textiles. Though no direct evidence was found, Rippon believes the cattle hides would have been turned into leather at the site.

“This all builds up a picture of Ipplepen as a settlement that is not a normal farming community but a place where craftsmen are making all sorts of things,” he said.

National Lottery funding has allowed the University of Exeter to expand its work with local communities at Ipplepen. This year, the excavation is playing host to 40 local volunteers, pupils from Ipplepen primary school, and members of the Somerset and Torbay Young Archaeologists’ Clubs.

 

 

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WACO, Texas (Dec. 3, 2014) — Vikings are stereotyped as raiders and traders, but those who settled in Iceland centuries ago spent more time producing and consuming booze and beef — in part to achieve political ambitions in an environment very different from their Scandinavian homeland, says a Baylor University archaeologist.

The seafaring warriors wanted to sustain the “big man” society of Scandinavia — a political economy in which chieftains hosted huge feasts of beer and beef served in great halls, says Davide Zori, Ph.D., a Denmark native and archeological field director in Iceland, who conducted National Science Foundation-funded research in archeology and medieval Viking literature.

But instead, what Zori and his team discovered is what happened when the Vikings spent too long living too high on the hog — or, in this case, the bovine.

“It was somewhat like the barbecue here. You wanted a big steak on the grill,” said Zori, assistant professor in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, who co-edited the book Viking Archaeology in Iceland: Mosfell Archaelogical Project with Jesse Byock, Ph.D., professor of Old Norse and medieval Scandinavian studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“It made it really showy — if you could keep it up.”

The Viking chieftains used such wealth and cultural displays to flex political muscle with equals or rivals — or, at the other end of the political spectrum, to cement good relations with local laborers and supporters, Zori said.

Zori and Byock’s team excavated a farmstead called Hrísbrú in Iceland’s Mosfell Valley. The farm — inhabited by some of the most famous Vikings of the Icelandic sagas — included a chieftain’s longhouse nearly 100 feet long with a “feast-worthy” great hall, a church and a cemetery of 26 graves indicating a mix of pagan and Christian traditions, with male family members sometimes buried with ship remnants rather than in the simpler Christian manner of leaving earthly possessions behind.

Carbon dating and studies of volcanic eruption layers indicate the longhouse was built in the late ninth or early 10th century and abandoned by the 11th. The archeological team uncovered 38 layers of floor ash, including refuse dumped atop the abandoned house, and discovered samples of bones, barley seeds and valuable imported beads.

“By applying anthropology and medieval texts, we can excavate and compare,” Zori said.

Viking sagas, first written in the 13th century and based on oral traditions, recounted such details as where people sat at feasts, “which shows your ranking . . . These are really old texts, but they read almost like novels. They’re incredible sources. They talk about daily life,” Zori said.

“Yes, the Vikings may have put axes to one another’s heads — but these accounts also describe milking cows.”

High Times and Hard Times

When the Vikings arrived in uninhabited Iceland, they found forested lowlands, ample pasture land and sheltered sea inlets. Excavations show that choice cattle were selected for feasts, with ritual slaughter and display of skulls, according to research published by Zori and others in the journal Antiquity. Barley seeds unearthed from floors or refuse heaps indicate barley consumption, and pollen studies demonstrate barley cultivation. Barley could have been used for bread or porridge, but the social value of beer makes it very likely it was used primarily to produce alcohol, Zori said.

Over the centuries, as temperatures in the North Atlantic dropped during the “Little Ice Age,” being a lavish host got tougher.

“Nine months of winter — and three months that are only a little less than winter,” Zori said.

While sheep could find food free range most of the year and were well-suited for cold, the prized cattle had to be kept indoors in large barns during the winter. Savvy supply-and-demand reckoning was crucial to be sure the food lasted — both for cattle and humans — and could be properly preserved.

“They had to decide how many to slaughter and store,” Zori said. “They didn’t have salt, so they had to use big vats of curdled milk as a preservative.”

As the landscape changed due to erosion, climate shifts and cleared forests, it became harder to rear larger numbers of cattle.

High-status households also struggled to grow enough grain for beer-making and local consumption, based on historical accounts and confirmed by a growing body of archeological data. With a shorter growing season and colder climate than in their homelands in mainland Scandinavia, Icelandic, Vikings would have needed more laborers to improve the soil — and as the chieftains’ power waned, they would have had trouble attracting workers to fertilize and maintain the grain fields. As the same time that barley cultivation stopped, the local chieftains are no longer mentioned in the Viking sagas.

Changing Directions

“You can see in the archeological evidence that they adjusted their strategy and gave it up eventually,” Zori said. “It got harder and harder to keep up that showiness – and when that collapsed, you didn’t have that power, that beer and big slabs of beef to show off.”

When barley was abandoned, the pollen record shows native grasses common in grazing lands increased. Archeological findings show that the proportion of cattle to sheep bones declined over time, as Hrísbrú residents shifted to a more practical, less labor-intensive sheep-herding economy.

“You wonder what came first for the chieftains at Hrísbrú: Were they no longer powerful and didn’t need barley and beef? Or could they just not keep it up and so they lost power? I favor the second explanation,” Zori said.

“What we’re doing now is to let the archaeology speak, both for itself and for proof to verify (the texts),” he said. “Investigating politics breathes life into it, instead of just saying, ‘Here are three rocks.’ You can ask deeper questions.”

Zori argues that Viking chieftains’ drive to produce expensive beef and beer caused them to put their political aspirations above the greater good of the community.

“Maybe we don’t need the Vikings to prove this, but it shows you that politics can become more important than creating a productive society.”

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Original article:
Dec 4, 2014
baylor university

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Topic Food of the pyramid workers

Who built them—slaves, or well-compensated workers? How were they built? What are they made of? What do they symbolize?

Nearly everything about the Egyptian pyramids raises questions and inspires scientific investigation; they are the classic riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside geometric walls of limestone.

One of the greatest mysteries: What did the pyramid builders eat?

It had to be enough to sustain the workers through grueling days, weeks, years. Research led by Richard Redding, a research scientist at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, has helped shed light on the answer to this question. In short, the builders ate meat. Lots and lots of meat. Often with a side of meat.

“They probably had better diets than [people] did in the village. They definitely had more meat,” said Redding, (’71, Ph.D. ’81), also chief research officer and archaeozoologist at Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA), a nongovernmental organization that runs a field school at the Giza pyramids.

Bringing Up the Bones Redding’s team made the discovery of the meat-heavy diet based on 175,000 animal bones and bone fragments found at the Giza pyramid settlement—mostly cattle, sheep, and goats, with a smaller number of pig bones. He and other archaeologists from AERA, along with other U-M archaeology students who worked at the site through the years, studied the bones to estimate the large amount of meat that would have gone to the workers. They also looked for an explanation of where the animals were raised and slaughtered. They made the assumption, based on their findings, that the Giza settlement was run by a central authority or administration. “The administrators would have organized drives of sheep, goats, and cattle from the Nile Delta, along the edge of the high desert, to move the required animals to Giza,” Redding said. The workers’ town was located about 1,300 feet south of the Sphinx, and was used to house workers building the pyramid of the pharaoh Menkaure. The process of taking the meat directly to the workers inspired a news headline about Redding’s research that read, “Ancient Burger Vans.” While Redding and his AERA team are looking at animal bones, their main goal isn’t to learn more about the animals but rather the people who built the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence. “We’re trying to humanize the pyramids, to put people there, by finding out where the workers lived and how they lived,” said Redding, who began working on Old Kingdom sites in Egypt since 1983 after leaving a politically turbulent Iran. Math, Maps, and Herds Unearthing the details about the workers’ lives is a long, often tedious process of, for instance, sorting the tens of thousands of animal bones, while also applying Redding’s rich knowledge of animal behavior to figure out how the raising and transport of such huge numbers of animals was possible in ancient times.

Original article:
science blog.com
August 23, 2013

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Topic Carbonized beef

XI’AN: Archaeologists said a black substance found in an ancient tomb in northwest China’s Shaanxi province is a 2,000-year-old portion of beef.

Scientists arrived at the conclusion after months of analysis confirmed the substance’s makeup, according to Hu Songmei, a paleontologist from the provincial archaeological institute.

Xinhua news agency reports that according to Hu, the beef — most of which had been carbonised — is the earliest beef product discovered in China.

The beef was discovered two years ago in a bronze pot placed in a tomb believed to date back to the Warring States Period (475 B.C. – 221 B.C.), said Hu.

The tomb was discovered during a excavation conducted by the institute from 2009 to 2010 in Wanli village in the provincial capital of Xi’an

“The beef did not shrink, which proves that it had been dried before being put into the pot,” said Hu. Bernama.

Original article:

new straits times

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