Posts Tagged ‘Celtic’

The layout of Lattara (modern Lattes) at the end of the second century.  The tavern is located in Zone 75 [Credit: Antiquity]

The layout of Lattara (modern Lattes) at the end of the second century.
The tavern is located in Zone 75 [Credit: Antiquity]

A view of the ash-filled oven next to an insert (lower right) of a modern tabouna  (Tunisian bread) oven from Souidat, Tunisia [Credit: Antiquity]

A view of the ash-filled oven next to an insert (lower right) of a modern tabouna
(Tunisian bread) oven from Souidat, Tunisia [Credit: Antiquity]

Original Article:

Author: Laura Geggel | Source: LiveScience [March 10, 2016]



One of France’s earliest-known Roman taverns is still littered with drinking bowls and animal bones, even though more than 2,000 years have passed since it served patrons, a new archaeological study finds.

An excavation uncovered dozens of other artifacts, including plates and bowls, three ovens, and the base of a millstone that was likely used for grinding flour, the researchers said.

The finding is a valuable one, said study co-researcher Benjamin Luley, a visiting assistant professor of anthropology and classics at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Before the Romans invaded the south of France, in 125 B.C., a culture speaking the Celtic language lived there and practiced its own customs.

These Celtic people lived in densely settled, fortified sites during the Iron Age (750 B.C. to 125 B.C.), trading with cultures near and far, the researchers said. But after the Roman invasion, the Celtic culture at this location changed socially and economically, Luley said.

For instance, the new findings suggest that some people under the Romans stopped preparing their own meals and began eating at communal places, such as taverns.

“Rome had a big impact on southern France,” Luley told Live Science. “We don’t see taverns before the Romans arrive.”

The newly excavated tavern is located at Lattara, an archaeological site that’s been known to modern researchers since the early 1980s. But Luley and his colleague Gaël Piquès, a researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, were specifically looking for artifacts dating to the end of the Iron Age, when the Romans arrived, the archaeologists said.

The researchers were in luck: The site they uncovered dates to about 125 B.C. to 75 B.C., spanning the period following the Roman conquest, and was located at the intersection of two important streets, the scientists said.

At first, the researchers weren’t sure what to make of it. But a number of clues suggested the site was once a bustling tavern, one that likely served fish, flatbread, and choice cuts of cows and sheep, Luley said.

The excavated area includes a courtyard and two large rooms; one was dedicated to cooking and making flour, and the other was likely reserved for serving patrons, the researchers said. There are three large bread ovens on one end of the kitchen, which indicates that “this isn’t just for one family,” but likely an establishment for serving many people, Luley said. On the other side of the kitchen, the researchers found a row of three stone piles, likely bases for a millstone that helped people grind flour, Luley said.

“One side, they’re making flour. On the other side, they’re making flatbread,” Luley said. “And they’re also probably using the ovens for other things as well.” For example, the archaeologists found lots of fish bones and scales that someone had cut off during food preparation, Luley added.

The other room was likely a dining room, the researchers said. The archaeologists uncovered a large fireplace and a bench along three of the walls that would have accommodated Romans, who reclined when they ate, Luley said. Moreover, the researchers found different kinds of animal bones, such as wishbones and fish vertebra, which people simply threw on the floor. (At that time, people didn’t have the same level of cleanliness as some do now, Luley noted.)

The dining room also had “an overrepresentation of drinking bowls,” used for serving wine — more than would typically be seen in a regular house, he said. Next to the two rooms was a courtyard filled with more animal bones and an offering: a buried stone millstone, a drinking bowl and a plate that likely held cuts of meat.

“Based upon the evidence presented here, it appears that the courtyard complex … functioned as a space for feeding large numbers of people, well beyond the needs of a single domestic unit or nuclear family,” the researchers wrote in the study. “This is unusual, as large, ‘public’ communal spaces for preparing large amounts of food and eating together are essentially nonexistent in Iron Age Mediterranean France.”

Perhaps some of the people of Lattara needed places like the tavern to provide meals for them after the Romans arrived, Luley said.

“If they might be, say, working in the fields, they might not be growing their own food themselves,” he said. And though the researchers haven’t found any coins at the tavern yet, “We think that this is a beginning of the monetary economy” at Lattera, Luley said.

The study was published in the journal Antiquity.


Read Full Post »


Archaeological excavations have finally answered the question regarding the age and development of the mysterious prehistoric fields enclosed by earthen ridges known as ‘Celtic fields’.

Using Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL), a technique that dates the last exposure to light or heat sources of quartz minerals, archaeologist Stijn Arnoldussen from the University of Groningen managed to determine that these banks around the later prehistoric field plots were constructed more than 3100 years ago and remained in use for hundreds of years thereafter. Until now, no reliable dates were available to securely date the Dutch Celtic fields. Moreover, his research indicated that the Celtic field-banks were constructed out of sods taken from wet heathlands, near alder carrs or from stream valleys. Such sods were taken to the settlements, mixed with dung and domestic refuse and – akin to modern fertilizer – taken back to the field plots as manure. Through the process of uprooting field weeds and then discarding them at the field’s edges, this mixture came to form banks, ever so gradually, between fields. Over the course of hundreds of years, c. 1 m high banks developed.


Through manually digging small test-pits and analysing hundreds of soils samples from the banks and Celtic field plots at Lunteren (municipality of Ede, the Netherlands), Arnoldussen successfully managed to determine how the banks were constructed and to accurately date the banks. These excavations were conducted in cooperation with the Municipality of Ede, the Province of Gelderland and land-owner ‘Stichting Geldersch Landschap & Kastelen´. “The problem is that we have known the locations of these Celtic fields for decades thanks to aerial photography and, more recently, due to laser altimetry analyses”, states Arnoldussen, “but that we essentially were clueless about how the banks were constructed or for what period of time this system of embanked fields was in function”. This is peculiar, as Arnoldussen argues that “Celtic fields are one of the most extensive and still visible types of archaeology in the present-day Dutch landscape”. Indeed, the size of Celtic field systems can be vast. The Celtic field complex targeted by the Groningen Institute of Archaeology at Lunteren measured at least 210 hectares in prehistory.

Age of the Celtic field banks

Through the application of a special technique that dates the last heat- or light-exposure of quartz particles (Optically Stimulated Luminescence dating or OSL, in collaboration with the Netherlands Centre for Luminescene dating at Wageningen University), various soil samples from the Celtic field banks could be dated. “The results are way more spectacular than anticipated!”, exclaims Arnoldussen, “It showed that the Celtic field system remained in use for hundreds of years: certainly 700 years, but possibly even for one millennium!”. The prehistoric banks were constructed around 1100 cal BC but were still increasing in height 700 years later. It is probable that their use spanned into the Roman era. This shows that Celtic field systems are not only vast in surface area, but also represent an agricultural landscape of unprecedented stability and durability. “This most have been an utmost traditional agricultural system”, clarifies Arnoldussen, “in which is was of vital importance to continue the planting, tending to and harvesting of crops in the same ways, and on the near same spots, as your ancestors”. Palaeobotanical analyses of the samples showed that barley, wheat and flax were cultivated. According to Arnoldussen, there has never been a (agri)cultural landscape in the history or the prehistory of the Dutch, that surpasses the Celtic field system in permanence and durability.

Celtic field banks

The composition of the Celtic field banks was previously subject to debate, states Arnoldussen: ”Many wild theories have been brought to the fore, for example that the banks consisted of cleared-out tree stubs, stones or driftsand, yet none of these were found during our excavations of the banks. The banks rather appear to comprise mineral and organic sods of low-lying, wet, parts of the landscape that were mixed with dung and debris at small prehistoric hamlets.” As the excavation of the Groningen team was situated on the high-and-dry flank of a Saale-period glacial ridge (the Goudsberg of Lunteren), the team was initially somewhat puzzled by the discovery of plants of wet landscapes (lesser bulrush, sedges, alder pollen) on the ridge. “They would have needed to walk two kilometres to lower lying land beyond the glacial ridge in prehistory”, clarifies Arnoldussen, “but as we have also found charcoal indicative of alder trees used for firewood from the same lowland areas, they presumably used ox-powered carts to do the heavy lifting.”

Despite these important discoveries, the investigators are adamant that there is still much to be learned. “We now know the age of several banks in two Dutch Celtic fields, yet the precise ways in which the Celtic field agriculture was executed (crop rotation, fallow period, and interspersed occupation) and whether Celtic fields in other parts of the Low Countries are similar, remains unclear”, according to Arnoldussen. Therefore, this summer, Arnoldussen sets out to excavate yet another Dutch Celtic field, this time within the coversand landscapes of the Southern Netherlands.
Research by University of Groningen archaeologist Stijn Arnoldussen

Original article:
March14, 2014


Read Full Post »

Topic: French Beer

The raw grain itself, or materials like metals, might have been traded for wine.

Although this domestic brewery operated 2,500 years ago, the beer then was
about the same as it is today.

  • Archaeological evidence for France’s oldest known beer-making operation has
    been found in the Provence region.
  • The brewer used malted barley to make his beer, which might have resembled
    modern home brews.
  • The Celts of Provence imported wine from the Mediterranean and also made
    their own wines, but likely couldn’t trade beer for wine.

France today may be renowned for its fine wines, but it has at least a
2,500-year-old history of beer-making, suggests an Iron Age beer operation
recently discovered in the Provence region.

The early beer-making items, described in the latest issue of the journal
Human Ecology, provide the oldest direct archeological evidence for
beer brewing in France. The home brewery is also one of the most ancient in all
of Europe.

There’s a chance that beer then was about the same as it is today.

Ancient Nubians Drank Antibiotic-Laced Beer

“From what we can tell, it was processed in a way that was close to
traditional beer-brewing techniques and was not so different from modern
home-made beers,” lead author Laurent Bouby told Discovery News.

“It is, however, still difficult to know what the taste was of this beer,”
added Bouby, a researcher in the Institute of Botany at Montpellier. “We know
nothing, for example, about possible additives used in brewing, such as hops. We
know nothing about possible lactic fermentation, which would give a sour taste
to the beer.”

Bouby and colleagues Philippe Boissinot and Philippe Marinval analyzed three
samples of sediment from a fifth century B.C. house at a site called
Roquepertuse in the Provence region of southeastern France. The area had been
settled by people of Celtic heritage. One sample came from the dwelling’s floor,
near a hearth and oven. Another came from a ceramic vessel, while the third
sample was found in a pit.

All three of the samples contained carbonized barley, 90 percent of which had
sprouted. The barley had been carefully sorted, with no weed seeds present,
eliminating the possibility that it had germinated by accident during

Based on the barley remains, its location and the equipment, the researchers
believe the home’s inhabitants soaked the grain in vessels, spread it out during
germination on a flat area of the paved floor, dried the grain in the oven to
stop germination, and used grindstones to pulverize the malted barley. Hearths
and containers were then probably used for fermentation and storage.

The brewmaster may have shared his beer.

“Being a domestic production does not necessarily imply that it was consumed
at a single family level,” Bouby said. “It could have been dedicated to
collective drinking or feasts. In traditional societies, the consumption of
alcoholic beverages often bears strong social and symbolic meanings. … This is
why grain could have been used to brew beer instead of being preserved for human
or animal consumption.”

At the time, people from southern France used to consume wine imported from
the Mediterranean region, frequently from Greeks in the city of Massalia, Bouby
explained. Local wines were also being made.

Based on historical writings, the Greeks and the Romans often turned their
noses up to beer then, so it is unlikely that the French beer-maker was able to
trade the brew for wine. The raw grain itself, or materials like metals, might
have been traded for wine.

The Celts, however, seemed always to have an appreciation for beer, so trade
could have existed between their populations. Wooden barrels found in early
Celtic communities may have been used to transport beer instead of wine.

Hans-Peter Stika of the University of Hohenheim’s Institute of Botany has
also been studying early evidence for beer making in Europe. Stika told
Discovery News that while Greek and Roman historians wrote about beer, specific
information about “prehistoric beers is poor.”

“Archaeological excavations of features where beer production took place are
scarce,” Stika said, “so I was really happy to learn more about Iron Age

Stika said it’s important to note that the Celts in France were producing
both wine and beer, and possibly other alcoholic beverages. Future analysis of
the manufacture and use of these beverages could reveal important information
about social, cultural and economic life during Iron Age Europe.

Original Article:


by Jennifer Viegas


Check out Brewmasters from the Discovery Channel

Read Full Post »

Topic Celtic Beer



Early Celtic rulers of a community in what’s now southwestern Germany liked to party, staging elaborate feasts in a ceremonial center. The business side of their revelries was located in a nearby brewery capable of turning out large quantities of a beer with a dark, smoky, slightly sour taste, new evidence suggests.

Six specially constructed ditches previously excavated at Eberdingen-Hochdorf a 2,550-year-old Celtic settlement, were used to make high-quality barley malt, a key beer ingredient, says archaeobotanist Hans-Peter Stika of the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. Thousands of charred barley grains unearthed in the ditches about a decade ago came from a large malt-making enterprise, Stika reports in a paper published online Jan. 4 in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Stika bases that conclusion on a close resemblance of the ancient grains to barley malt that he made by reproducing several methods that Iron Age folk might have used. He also compared the ancient grains to malt produced in modern facilities. Upon confirming the presence of malt at the Celtic site, Stika reconstructed malt-making techniques there to determine how they must have affected beer taste.

The oldest known beer residue and brewing facilities date to 5,500 years ago in the Middle East, but archaeological clues to beer’s history are rare (Science News: Oct, 2, 2004, p. 216).

At the Celtic site, barley was soaked in the specially constructed ditches until it sprouted, Stika proposes. Grains were then dried by lighting fires at the ends of the ditches, giving the malt a smoky taste and a darkened color. Lactic acid bacteria stimulated by slow drying of soaked grains, a well-known phenomenon, added sourness to the brew.

Unlike modern beers that are flavored with flowers of the hop plant, the Eberdingen-Hochdorf brew probably contained spices such as mugwort, carrot seeds or henbane, in Stika’s opinion. Beer makers are known to have used these additives by medieval times. Excavations at the Celtic site have yielded a few seeds of henbane, a plant that also makes beer more intoxicating.

“These additives gave Celtic beer a completely different taste than what we’re used to today,” Stika says.

Heated stones placed in liquefied malt during the brewing process — a common practice later in Europe — would have added a caramelized flavor to this fermented Celtic drink, he adds. So far, no fire-cracked stones have been found at Eberdingen-Hochdorf but they may have been used to heat pulpy malt slowly, a practice documented at later brewing sites, Stika says. He suspects that fermentation was triggered by using yeast-coated brewing equipment or by adding honey or fruit, which both contain wild yeasts.

Celts consisted of Iron Age tribes, loosely tied by language and culture, that inhabited much of Western Europe from about the 11th to the first century B.C.

In the same report Stika describes another tidbit for fans of malt-beverage history: A burned medieval structure from the 14th century A.D., recently unearthed in Berlin during a construction project, contains enough barley malt to have brewed 500 liters of beer, the equivalent of nearly 60 cases.

Classics professor Max Nelson of the University of Windsor in Canada, an authority on ancient beer, largely agrees with Stika’s conclusions. Malt-making occurred at Eberdingen-Hochsdorf, and malt was probably stored in the medieval Berlin building, Nelson says.

Other stages of brewing occurred either at these sites, as suggested by Stika, or nearby, in Nelson’s view.

“Stika’s experiments go a long way toward showing how precisely barley was malted in ancient times,” he remarks.

Beer buffs today would regard Celtic beer as a strange brew not only for its flavor but because it would have been cloudy, contained yeasty sediment and been imbibed at room temperature, Nelson notes.

Stika’s insights into the range of techniques and ingredients available to Celtic beer makers should inspire modern “extreme brewers” to try out the recipe that he describes, says anthropologist Bettina Arnold of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

Perhaps they’ll find out whether Roman emperor Julian, in a 1,600-year-old poem, correctly described Celtic beer as smelling “like a billy goat.”

Original article:

By Bruce Bower, Science news

January 17, 2011


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: