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The discarded bone of a chicken leg, still etched with teeth marks from a dinner thousands of years ago, provides some of the oldest known physical evidence for the introduction of domesticated chickens to the continent of Africa, research from Washington University in St. Louis has confirmed.

Based on radiocarbon dating of about 30 chicken bones unearthed at the site of an ancient farming village in present-day Ethiopia, the findings shed new light on how domesticated chickens crossed ancient roads — and seas — to reach farms and plates in Africa and, eventually, every other corner of the globe.

“Our study provides the earliest directly dated evidence for the presence of chickens in Africa and points to the significance of Red Sea and East African trade routes in the introduction of the chicken,” said Helina Woldekiros, lead author and a postdoctoral anthropology researcher in Arts & Sciences at Washington University.

The main wild ancestor of today’s chickens, the red junglefowl Gallus gallus is endemic to sub-Himalayan northern India, southern China and Southeast Asia, where chickens were first domesticated 6,000-8,000 years ago. Now nearly ubiquitous around the world, the offspring of these first-domesticated chickens are providing modern researchers with valuable clues to ancient agricultural and trade contacts.

The arrival of chickens in Africa and the routes by which they both entered and dispersed across the continent are not well known. Previous research based on representations of chickens on ceramics and paintings, plus bones from other archaeological sites, suggested that chickens were first introduced to Africa through North Africa, Egypt and the Nile Valley about 2,500 years ago.

The earliest bone-based evidence of chickens in Africa dates to the late first millennium B.C., from the Saite levels at Buto, Egypt — approximately 685-525 B.C.

This study, published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, pushes that date back by hundreds of years. Co-authored by Catherine D’Andrea, professor of archaeology at Simon Fraser University in Canada, the research also suggests that the earliest introductions may have come from trade routes on the continent’s eastern coast.

“Some of these bones were directly radiocarbon dated to 819-755 B.C., and with charcoal dates of 919-801 B.C. make these the earliest chickens in Africa,” Woldekiros said. “They predate the earliest known Egyptian chickens by at least 300 years and highlight early exotic faunal exchanges in the Horn of Africa during the early first millennium B.C.”

Despite their widespread, modern-day importance, chicken remains are found in small numbers at archaeological sites. Because wild relatives of the galliform chicken species are plentiful in Africa, this study required researchers to sift through the remnants of many small bird species to identify bones with the unique sizes and shapes that are characteristic of domestic chickens.

Woldekiros, the project’s zooarchaeologist, studied the chicken bones at a field lab in northern Ethiopia and confirmed her identifications using a comparative bone collection at the Institute of Paleoanatomy at Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich.

Excavated by a team of researchers led by D’Andrea of Simon Fraser, the bones analyzed for this study were recovered from the kitchen and living floors of an ancient farming community known as Mezber. The rural village was located in northern Ethiopia about 30 miles from the urban center of the pre-Aksumite civilization. The pre-Aksumites were the earliest people in the Horn of Africa to form complex, urban-rural trading networks.

Linguistic studies of ancient root words for chickens in African languages suggest multiple introductions of chickens to Africa following different routes: from North Africa through the Sahara to West Africa; and from the East African coast to Central Africa. Scholars also have demonstrated the biodiversity of modern-day African village chickens through molecular genetic studies.

“It is likely that people brought chickens to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa repeatedly over long period of time: over 1,000 years,” Woldekiros said. “Our archaeological findings help to explain the genetic diversity of modern Africans chickens resulting from the introduction of diverse chicken lineages coming from early Arabian and South Asian context and later Swahili networks.”

These findings contribute to broader stories of ways in which people move domestic animals around the world through migration, exchange and trade. Ancient introductions of domestic animals to new regions were not always successful. Zooarchaeological studies of the most popular domestic animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs have demonstrated repeated introductions as well as failures of new species in different regions of the world.

“Our study also supports the African Red Sea coast as one possible early route of introduction of chickens to Africa and the Horn,” Woldekiros said. “It fits with ways in which maritime exchange networks were important for global distribution of chicken and other agricultural products. The early dates for chickens at Mezber, combined with their presence in all of the occupation phases at Mezber and in Aksumite contexts 40 B.C.- 600 A.D. in other parts of Ethiopia, demonstrate their long-term success in northern Ethiopia.”

Source: How the chicken crossed the Red Sea

eurekalert.org

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Scientists in Sweden are launching their own mead — an alcoholic beverage made from a fermented mix of honey and water — based on old recipes they say could help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Together with a brewery, the scientists, who have long studied bees and their honey, have launched their own mead drink: Honey Hunter’s Elixir.

Lund University researcher Tobias Olofsson said mead had a long track record in bringing positive effects on health.

“Mead is an alcoholic drink made with just honey and water, and it was regarded as the drink of the gods and you could become immortal or sustain a better health if you drank it,” Olofsson said. “It was drunk by the Vikings for example and other cultures such as the Mayas, the Egyptians, and it was a drink that was regarded as a very beneficial drink.”

Honey production is key to the research. In previous research published in 2014, Olofsson and Alejandra Vasquez discovered that lactic-acid bacteria found in the honey stomach of bees, mixed with honey itself, could cure chronic wounds in horses that had proved resistant to treatment.

They said their research had proved that these bacteria had the power to collaborate and kill off all the human pathogens they have been tested against, including resistant ones. They are doing so by producing hundreds of antibacterial antibiotic-like substances.

What makes Honey Hunter’s Elixir different from other types of modern mead drinks is that is uses all 13 beneficial honeybee lactic-acid bacteria and the wild yeasts from honey that normally ferment mead spontaneously.

According to the team, commercial honey does not contain these bacteria. Since the honey and water mixture is sterilized before later adding industrial wine yeast, all other life in the honey, including wild yeast, is killed off.

The researchers say the drink contains 100 billion of these 13 different living and collaborating lactic-acid bacteria.

Olofsson said they believed mead could have been the most efficient historical equivalent to today’s antibiotics, and they see Honey Hunter’s Elixir as a possible way of preventing infections.

“Well, we’ve seen in our research that the honey bees actually add great flora of lactic-acid bacteria in honey, so the mead, when produced, is actually fermented by these lactic-acid bacteria together with wild yeasts and the lactic-acid bacteria can really kill off all the dangerous pathogens that are even resistant against antibiotics,” Olofsson said. “So our thinking is that the mead, when you consume the mead, these (antibacterial substances in) lactic-acid bacteria in the drink can actually be transferred to your blood and help you when you are infected with dangerous bacteria or promote health, preventing infections.”

In 2005, Olofsson and Vasquez discovered that many beneficial bacteria reside within honeybees in a structure called honey crop, which is the organ in which honeybees collect nectar for honey production.

As a result, their research has since focused on how this can be applied to functional foods, as alternative medical tools against infections and bee health.

The mead is part of this research, which is summarized on the website.

“We will have volunteers drinking this drink and measure different parameters to see if the compounds the bacteria produce could end up in the blood system and for that to cause a prevention or a cure for infections,” Vasquez said, adding that more research was needed.

“We don’t really know at the moment exactly which kind of infectious disease we could counteract in the future because we need to understand this thoroughly,” she said. “At the moment we know that the bacteria produce very interesting compounds, a lot of different weapons like antibiotics but a lot of them that collaborate and those weapons or the key in use in this viable bacteria in the future.”

If human trials are successful, it could help doctors overturn the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, in both First World countries and also in the developing world where fresh honey is more readily accessible than antibiotics.

In recent years antibiotic resistance has become a critical issue for global health, with an ever increasing number of strains of bacteria developing immunity.

Read the original article on Reuters. Copyright 2015. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

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ILZE FILKS, REUTERS

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Featured image: Proto-cuneiform recording the allocation of beer, probably from southern Iraq, Late Prehistoric period, about 3100-3000 BC (Flickr photo) –

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Archaeologist Patrick McGovern

Article:
An archaeologist working with a brewery is recreating ancient beers from around the world, including Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Denmark, Honduras and China. Alcohol archaeologist Patrick McGovern thinks he may even be able to recreate a drink from Egypt that is 16,000 years old.

McGovern, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, has been working with Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. The professor is using modern technology to detect traces of ingredients. In addition, Dogfish Head Brewery has produced beer using African, South American and Finnish recipes from centuries ago. For a list of the brews, see dogfish.com

Others have been attempting to brew and make wine. In 2013, Great Lakes Brewery in Ohio, with the help of archaeologists in Chicago, tried to brew a Sumerian beer whose recipe dated back 5,000 years.

Beginning in 2012, Great Lakes tried to replicate the Sumerian beer using only a wooden spoon and clay vessels modeled after artifacts excavated in Iraq. They successfully malted barley on the roof of the brew house and also used a bricklike “beer bread” for the active yeast. Current results have yielded a beer full of bacteria, warm and slightly sour.

Beer seems to have been an important part of Sumerian culture: the word beer appears in many contexts relating to religion, medicine and myth. In fact, the oldest documentary evidence of beer comes from a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet depicting people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl, and the oldest surviving beer recipe can be found in a 3,900-year-old ancient Sumerian poem honoring Ninkasi, the goddess of brewing, fertility and the harvest. The poem describes how bappir, Sumerian bread, is mixed with “aromatics” to ferment in a big vat.

The production of beer in Mesopotamia is a controversial topic in archaeological circles. Some believe that beer was discovered by accident and that a piece of bread or grain could have become wet and a short time later, it began to ferment into an inebriating pulp. However, others believe that the technique of brewing beer was an early technological achievement and may have even predated the Sumerians in the lowlands of the Mesopotamian alluvial plane.

Now McGovern is extracting alcoholic beverage ingredients from residue on ancient pottery at archaeological sites worldwide and studying references in documents. He has been resurrecting beers and beverages that had been forgotten.

“He detected traces of various ingredients left by the drinks – including barley, honey, herbs and spices – using a number of methods including liquid chromatography, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry,” says an article the DailyMail.co.uk.

Dogfish Head brewed was what they called Midas Touch. The recipe is from molecular evidence from residues in what scholars think is King Midas’ Turkish tomb from 700 B.C. Midas Touch beer is made with barley malt, white muscat grapes, honey and saffron.

“A variety of alcoholic residues have been found inside important tombs around the world – suggesting that they were drinks used during celebrations or rituals and perhaps even to wish good luck to the dead in the afterlife,” the Daily Mail article states.

It’s not just beer that archaeologists are trying to recreate. Ancient-Origins.net reported in 2013 that Italian archaeologists planted a vineyard near Catania in Sicily with the aim of making wine using techniques from classical Rome described in ancient texts. The team expected its first vintage within four years.

In order to replicate conditions used in Roman times, modern chemicals will not be used on the crop and the vines will be planted using wooden Roman tools and fastened with canes and broom.

Instead of fermenting in barrels, the wine will be placed in large terracotta pots – traditionally big enough to hold a man – which are buried to the neck in the ground, lined inside with beeswax to make them impermeable and left open during fermentation before being sealed shut with clay or resin.

The research team will make two types of wine – the type once used for the nobles, which was sweetened with honey and water, and the type made for slaves, which was more vinegary.

The history of wine spans thousands of years and is closely intertwined with the history of agriculture, cuisine, civilization and humanity itself. Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest known wine production occurred in what is now the country of Georgia around 7000 BCE, with other notable sites in Greater Iran and Greece, dated at 4500 BCE.

It appears McGovern was one of the earlier researchers to use modern technology in the ancient beverage field. He has been working with Dogfish Head Brewery since 2001 to recreate ancient beers.

But there is a reference at thekeep.org about a 1996 attempt by Newcastle Breweries in Melbourne to brew an ancient Egyptian beer.

“The Herald-Sun reported that ‘Tutankhamon Ale’ will be based on sediment from jars found in a brewery housed in the Sun Temple of Nefertiti, and the team involved has gathered enough of the correct raw materials to produce just 1000 bottles of the ale,” Caroline Seawright wrote at thekeep.org. That beer was 5 to 6 percent alcohol and was sold at Harrods for £50 (about $100) a bottle. The profit was to go toward further research into Egyptian beer making.”

By Mark Miller, February 1, 2015

ancient-origins.net

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Donkey milk was hailed by the ancients as an elixir of long life, a cure-all for a variety of ailments, and a powerful tonic capable of rejuvenating the skin. Cleopatra, Queen of Ancient Egypt, reportedly bathed in donkey milk every day to preserve her beauty and youthful looks, while ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote of its incredible medicinal properties. Now it seems that interest in donkey milk is experiencing a renewed interest after Pope Francis reported thriving on it as a baby, and remarkable results are being reported in people with psoriasis, eczema, and asthma.

Donkey milk preserves beauty and youth? Legend has it that Cleopatra (60 – 39 BC), the last active Pharaoh of Egypt, insisted on a daily bath in the milk of a donkey (ass) to preserve the beauty and youth of her skin and that 700 asses were need to provide the quantity needed. It was believed that donkey milk renders the skin more delicate, preserves its whiteness, and erases facial wrinkles. According to ancient historian Pliny the Elder, Poppaea Sabina (30 – 65 AD), the wife of Roman Emperor Nero, was also an advocate of ass milk and would have whole troops of donkeys accompany her on journeys so that she too could bathe in the milk. Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Bonaparte (1780–1825 AD), was also reported to have used ass milk for her skin’s health care.

Greek physician Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC) was the first to write of the medicinal virtues of donkey milk, and prescribed it as a cure a diverse range of ailments, including liver problems, infectious diseases, fevers, nose bleeds, poisoning, joint pains, and wounds.

Roman historian Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) also wrote extensively about its health benefits. In his encyclopedic work Naturalis Historia, volume 28, dealing with remedies derived from animals, Pliny added fatigue, eye stains, weakened teeth, face wrinkles, ulcerations, asthma and certain gynecological troubles to the list of afflictions it could treat:

Asses’ milk, in cases where gypsum, white-lead, sulphur, or quick-silver, have been taken internally. This last is good too for constipation attendant upon fever, and is remarkably useful as a gargle for ulcerations of the throat. It is taken, also, internally, by patients suffering from atrophy, for the purpose of recruiting their exhausted strength; as also in cases of fever unattended with head-ache. The ancients held it as one of their grand secrets, to administer to children, before taking food, a semisextarius of asses’ milk.

Over the centuries, donkey’s milk continued to be recognized for its medicinal properties. In the 1800s, donkeys were used at a hospital for assisted children in Paris to aid in the recovery of children with congenital or contagious diseases. The Popular Science Monthly, Volume 22, writes:

The infants were at first fed with goat’s milk, but it was soon found that ass’s milk was better for them; and they are now all fed with milk which they draw directly from the teat of the animal. One, two, and sometimes three children are presented to the ass at the same time, being held at the teat in the arms of the nurse, and the operation is performed with wonderful ease. Numbers speak most eloquently of the success of the method. During six months, eighty-six children afflicted with congenital and contagious diseases were fed at the nursery. The first six were fed, by stress of particular circumstances, with cow’s milk from the bottle; only one of them recovered. Forty-two were nursed at the teat of the goat; eight recovered, thirty-four died. Thirty-eight were nursed at the teat of the ass; twenty-eight recovered, ten died. In the face of such results there can be hardly any hesitation in declaring that in hospitals, at least, the best method of feeding new-born children, who cannot, for any reason, be confided to a nurse, is to put them to suck directly from the teat of an ass.

Donkey milk is the closest known milk to human breast milk with high lactose ratios and low fat content. It is also rich in vitamins, contains anti-bacterial agents, reported to be 200 times more active than in cow’s milk, and anti-allergens, which are believed to be responsible for alleviating psoriasis, eczema, asthma, and bronchitis, according to a new report in the MailOnline. “Like humans, donkeys have a single stomach,” writes the MailOnline. “Yet we mostly drink the milk of multi-stomached animals such as cows and goats, which use a lot of bacteria to digest their food through a complicated fermentation process.”

Donkey milk is still used throughout the world for its many health benefits. Source: BigStockPhoto With all these benefits, one may wonder why it is not more readily available. The answer lies in its production. A female donkey produces an average of 0.3 litres of milk a day (maximum 1 litre) for only half of the year, while cows are forced to deliver 30 times as much throughout the year. Furthermore, a donkey “won’t produce milk unless it’s stimulated by the presence of its foal, and milking has to be done manually,” writes the MailOnline. As a result, the milk sells for an extremely high price, €24 (approx. $30) a litre in Cyprus, and in other European countries the price is even double. Nevertheless, donkey milk remains fairly popular in South America, where it can be readily found at street markets.

AP reports that fresh donkey milk is sold on the streets of Chile. “Ricardo Alegria is a different sort of milk man,” writes AP. “For a quarter century or more, he and his brother Marco have led donkeys through the streets of Chile’s capital, milking them on the spot for customers.” Ricardo Alegria said the milk taken as a “vitamin jolt” for babies with stomach problems, but that adults often drink it too. While many may be put off by the price of this precious milk, a donkey seller from Golden Donkeys Farm in the village of Skarinou, Cyprus, told MailOnline that 60ml a day is “all you need to protect your body”.

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Original article:
worldtruth.tv

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Finding a cache of 2200-year-old coins buried in the remains of an Egyptian house sparked honours student Liesel Gentelli’s interest in coins, inspiring her to pursue postgraduate studies in forensics.

Ms Gentelli is one of two UWA archaeologists invited to excavate Tell Timai, the remains of the Greco-Roman town of Thmuis in Egypt.

A tell is a large mound formed by the remains of an abandoned town or city, and Thmuis was a port on a former Nile delta channel which has since silted up.

She says the coins she discovered during the dig were probably votive offerings placed under the building’s foundation to bring prosperity to its inhabitants.

The cache included 13 individual coins from the reigns of Ptolemy II, III and IV, making the building no older than 221 BCE.

The University of Hawaii invited Ms Gentelli and UWA archaeologist Sean Winter to participate in digs at the tell, which is threatened by encroaching developments.

Dr Winter was part of a small international team working at another part of the 91ha site which appears to have been a large open-sided shed.

He says they found an unusually large number of baker’s ovens for Egypt at that point in time, indicating the building may have been an industrial-scale bakery or perhaps a tavern.

“Nowhere in the published literature can we find an equivalent number of ovens in the same place,” he says.

They used the remains of ceramics, coins and charcoal to date the building to between 100 BCE and perhaps 10 CE.

Of particular interest is the former building’s rubbish pit, from which they identified mammal, bird, fish and mollusc remains.

Together with remains of amphorae—large stone urns used to transport fish sauce, wine, oil and the like—they built up a complex picture of Thmouis people’s dietary options and sources.

He says oysters, for example, swam up the Nile from the Mediterranean.

The researchers inferred this by comparing the oysters shellfish assemblage with others, including specimens from the former Red Sea port of Berenike.

“At that site all the shellfish were derived locally and comprised species that came from the Red Sea,” he says.

“In contrast all of the shellfish that we can identify in our assemblage comprise species native to the Mediterranean.”

He has written a paper, “Food Consumption During the First Century BCE at Thmouis” with co-authors Colleen Westmor and Courtney Bobik, which is due to be published next year.
Explore further: Haunting tales in ship-wrecked silver

More information: Winter, S., Westmor, C. & Bobik, C. (In-press). “Food Consumption During the First Century BCE at Thmouis.” In Pinarello, M., Woo, J., Lundock , J. & Walsh, C. (eds.) Current Research in Egyptology 15. Oxbow.

Original article:
phys.org

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You can check out my posts about making my own mead by going to archives for 2011, February through August. Thanks

Admit it, you thought the only time mead was consumed nowadays was at Renaissance Fairs or following a rousing day of LARPing – that’s Live Action Role Playing, for those of you not in the know. But, contrary to popular belief, this ancient honey wine is not just for the Dungeons and Dragons set. Made since ancient times from fermented honey and water, mead is a great drink to add to your fall table, especially if you’ll be celebrating Rosh Hashanah this week. Think of mead as the more adult version of apples and honey with the mead being your honey and a delicious slice of sweet apple cake standing in for the traditional apple slice.

We can trace mead’s origins all the way back to 7000 BCE and mainland China, where archeological digs have unearthed ancient pottery with mead residue inside. From there the recipe for mead traveled to Europe and Africa. In both locations historians believe mead caught on in places where the climates and/or soils didn’t support healthy grape production. With no ability to make wine, mead was a great option, since all one needed was access to bees and water.

As society progressed and we developed the ability to trade with locations much further away from us, many forgot about Mmad, losing the need for it with the influx of wine from other regions. But some cultures across the world maintained mead as a staple beverage, including Ethiopia, which continued to perfect the beverage known as Tej — a beverage that is still drunk at Ethiopian tables to this day.

Recently, mead has experienced a resurgence in the U.S., with craft meaderies opening across the country to brew meads of all different styles. While the traditional sweet mead can still be found, craft mead brewers are now making meads that truly push the boundaries of the beverage, from the very dry and bubbly almost sparkling wine style, to the sweet and fruity that is reminiscent of Riesling.

As the industry has expanded, so has experimentation, with many brewers striving to make meads that not only appeal to their tastes, but that of their peers as well. In many instances, this means new styles of the elixir mixed with fresh fruits and berries, or meads that are “hopped” and made in the style of an American IPA. While mead used to also be a beverage that, historically, was simply fermented and then bottled, some brewers have started to age it like wine, letting the mead rest in stainless steel or oak for up to a year before placing it in the bottle. The result of all of this experimentation is a high quality beverage that is definitely like nothing you may have had with that turkey leg ten years ago at the Renaissance Fair.

Just like wine, mead can only be great if the ingredients used to make it are, and for mead that all begins with the flowers. Because the base ingredients of mead are simply water and honey, the flowers the bees visited in the process of creating their sticky sweet syrup are incredibly important. Some people say drinking mead is like drinking the elixir of thousands of flowers at once and each mead can have completely different characteristics depending on the types of flowers visited by the bees.

Because mead is usually at least a little sweet, it’s a great accompaniment for spicier foods, which is probably why it’s been a constant on the Ethiopian table for all this time. It also pairs wonderfully with stews, hard sharp cheese and of course desserts.

So add mead to your table, and say cheers to a sweet new year — you won’t be disappointed.

Header image via Boykov / Shutterstock.com

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More information on the post I just submitted.

By extracting chemical compounds and microfossils from dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from ancient teeth, the researchers were able to provide an entirely new perspective on our ancestors’ diets. Their research suggests that purple nut sedge (Cyperus rotundus) — today regarded as a nuisance weed — formed an important part of the prehistoric diet.

Crucially, the research, published in PLOS ONE and led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the University of York, suggests that prehistoric people living in Central Sudan may have understood both the nutritional and medicinal qualities of this and other plants.

The research was carried out at Al Khiday, a pre-historic site on the White Nile in Central Sudan. It demonstrates that for at least 7,000 years, beginning before the development of agriculture and continuing after agricultural plants were also available the people of Al Khiday ate the plant purple nut sedge. The plant is a good source of carbohydrates and has many useful medicinal and aromatic qualities.

Lead author Karen Hardy, a Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) Research Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and an Honorary Research Associate at the University of York, said: “Purple nut sedge is today considered to be a scourge in tropical and sub-tropical regions and has been called the world’s most expensive weed due to the difficulties and high costs of eradication from agricultural areas. By extracting material from samples of ancient dental calculus we have found that rather than being a nuisance in the past, its value as a food, and possibly its abundant medicinal qualities were known. More recently, it was also used by the ancient Egyptians as perfume and as medicine.

“We also discovered that these people ate several other plants and we found traces of smoke, evidence for cooking, and for chewing plant fibres to prepare raw materials. These small biographical details add to the growing evidence that prehistoric people had a detailed understanding of plants long before the development of agriculture.”

Al Khiday is a complex of five archaeological sites which lie 25km south of Omdurman; one of the sites is predominantly a burial ground of pre-Mesolithic, Neolithic and Later Meroitic age. As a multi-period cemetery, it gave the researchers a useful long-term perspective on the material recovered.

The researchers found ingestion of the purple nut sedge in both pre-agricultural and agricultural periods. They suggest that the plant’s ability to inhibit Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium which contributes to tooth decay, may have contributed to the unexpectedly low level of cavaties found in the agricultural population.

Dr Stephen Buckley, a Research Fellow at the University of York’s BioArCh research facility, conducted the chemical analyses. He said: “The evidence for purple nut sedge was very clear in samples from all the time periods we looked at. This plant was evidently important to the people of Al Khiday, even after agricultural plants had been introduced.”

Dr Donatella Usai, from the Instituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente in Rome led the excavation and Dr Tina Jakob from Durham University’s Department of Archaeology, performed the analysis of the human remains at Al Khiday. Anita Radini, an Archaeobotanist at the University of Leicester Archaeological Service (ULAS) and a PhD candidate at BioArCh, University of York, contributed to the analysis of microfossils found in the dental calculus samples.

Dr Usai said: “Al Khiday is a unique site in the Nile valley, where a large population lived for many thousands of years. This study demonstrates that they made good use of the locally available wild plant as food, as raw materials, and possibly even as medicine.”

Dr Hardy added: “The development of studies on chemical compounds and microfossils extracted from dental calculus will help to counterbalance the dominant focus on meat and protein that has been a feature of pre-agricultural dietary interpretation, up until now. The new access to plants ingested, which is provided by dental calculus analysis, will increase, if not revolutionise, the perception of ecological knowledge and use of plants among earlier prehistoric and pre-agrarian populations.”

Fieldwork was funded by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, Centro Studi Sudanesi e Sub-Sahariani, and the Universities of Milano, Padova and Parma. The research was endorsed by the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) of Sudan.

Stephen Buckley, Donatella Usai, Tina Jakob, Anita Radini, Karen Hardy. Dental Calculus Reveals Unique Insights into Food Items, Cooking and Plant Processing in Prehistoric Central Sudan. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (7): e100808 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100808

Original article :

sciencedaily.com

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