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Science in Poland.pap.pl

Szymon Zdziebłowski

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People in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages were largely vegetarian, new research has shown.

Through the analysis of bones of those living in Miechów (Małopolska), scientists found that meat made up only a fraction of their diet, with plants accounting for nearly 50 percent.

Anthropologist Professor Krzysztof Szostek from the Institute of Biological Sciences of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw said: “We were able to determine that the diet of people living in the lands of today’s southern Poland several thousand years ago, in the Neolithic and Bronze Age, consisted of meat only to a small extent. Nearly 50 percent of its composition were plants, and the rest were other foods, probably dairy products.”

In addition, scientists found that there was no statistical change in diet over a period of around 5,000 years

Professor Szostek said: “The use of animals was maximised, for example, to obtain milk or skins. Obtaining meat from animals was not a priority.”

The analyses show that the cereals consumed (probably in various forms) included mainly barley, einkorn wheat, emmer wheat, and later also spelt.

The scientists’ findings are a result of extensive comparative research, mainly related to one archaeological site in Miechów (Małopolska). Various groups of people lived in the area covered by the research over the period of nearly 5,000 years, from the first groups of farmers in today’s Poland, defined by archaeologists as the Linear Pottery culture, to the Lusatian culture during the Bronze Age.

Experts took collagen for nitrogen isotope analysis from both their bones and animal remains discovered at this site. Obtaining the full picture was possible after combining these data with data from archaeobotanical analyses (of cereal grains).

Professor Szostek said: “Until now, isotope research on diet reconstruction was performed without taking archaeobotanical analyses into account. This meant that the image of prehistoric people’s diet was incomplete, the models even showed that mainly meat was consumed during that time, which could not be true.”

The research was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports.



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Researchers sample the contents of Ötzi the Iceman’s stomach to figure out the exact species of plants and animals that made up his final meal.


original article:


By maya wei-haas


5,300 Years Ago, Ötzi the

Iceman Died.

Now We Know His Last Meal.

It took 20 years to find his stomach. Now researchers know what was inside—in excruciating detail.


ÖTZI THE ICEMAN’S stomach wasn’t where it was supposed to be. The misplaced organ eluded researchers for some 20 years. But in 2009, while looking at new radiographic scans, they finally found it—inexplicably pushed up under his ribs, where the lower lungs usually sit. What’s more, it was completely full.

Since 1991, when a pair of hikers found the 5,300-year-old hunter in the Ötztal Alps, researchers have been scouring Ötzi’s frozen, shriveled form for clues to life in the past and his violent demise. They’ve studied his sheepskin coat and goat skin tights; scrutinized his tooth decay; ogled his likely frostbite-induced nub on his toe; ruminated over parasitic worm eggs in his gut; and cataloged every tattoo inked on his skin.

And now, after putting the stomach contents through a battery of tests, the researchers determined the ice mummy’s final meal: dried ibex meat and fat, red deer, einkorn wheat, and traces of toxic fern. The results, published this week in the journal Current Biology, offer a stunningly detailed peek into an ancient diet and hint at possible food preparation methods.

The Lost Stomach

In the late 90s, with Ötzi’s stomach nowhere to be found, researchers studied the nitrogen isotopes of the mummy’s hair for dietary clues, which suggested the Iceman was a vegetarian. Later analysis of his colon contents pointed to Ötzi’s omnivorous ways, revealing he ate not only cereals but also red deer and goat meat in the day before his death.


They located the wandering organ by examining Ötzi’s gall stones, which form in the gallbladder, a small sack sitting below the liver near the stomach. By lining up the position of surrounding organs in radiographic images, the team finally found the stomach.

To sample it, however, scientists had to first defrost the mummy, which is kept at a chilly 21.2 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent microbial invasion. They then used an endoscopic tool to pull 11 blobs of brownish yellow material from his stomach and intestines.

Unlike the mushy intestinal material, the crumbly stomach stuffs were essentially freeze dried, study author Frank Maixner explains. “It has an interesting appearance, actually,” he says.

The research team first took a peek under magnification. “Already under a microscope it was clear it was an omnivore diet,” says Maixner, who is a microbiologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy. Tiny flecks of undigested fibers of plants and meat were visible in the sample, surrounded by a cloudy haze of fat. The team then began their array of tests, which included DNA, proteins, lipids, metabolites, and more.

Ötzi’s Last Meal

Lipids and protein analysis indicate that Ötzi was eating both muscle and fat of the ibex (Capra ibex), a goat still common in the Ötztal Alps. The high-fat stomach contents would have supported energy-intensive treks. “Even though maybe ibex fat tastes horrible,” Maixner jokes.

But curiously, though DNA analysis suggests red deer (Cervus elaphus) was also part of the meal, researchers couldn’t figure out what part of the creature Ötzi ate. One possibility is that he consumed its organs, like the spleen, liver, or brain. Degradation may also be an issue. “It’s really hard to say,” Maixner says.

They could, however, look at meat preparation. By studying the meat’s microstructures and chemistry and comparing it to modern cooked and uncooked meats, they surmised Ötzi’s meat was not heated above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s most likely the meat was dried for preservation, Maixner says, since fresh meat spoils quickly. The presence of carbon flecks also hint the meat could have been smoked.

Ötzi also ate einkorn wheat and the toxic bracken fern. When eaten in sufficient doses, bracken has been associated with anemia in cattle, and blindness in sheep. It may also have carcinogenic effects. Yet some people still eat small quantities of the plant.

It’s possible Ötzi also indulged in this greenery. “ You can go as far as he might have treated stomach ache with this fern since we knew that he suffered from some stomach pathogens,” says Maixner. But he adds, “this, for me at least, goes a little bit too far.” Another possibility is that he wrapped his food in fern, accidentally ingesting pieces along with his snack—an idea previously proposed for Ötzi’s ingested moss.

Peeking at the Past Through Ötzi’s Stomach

Together, the diet shows a well-prepared meal, with some fiber, protein and lots of energy-rich fat. “They had knowledge on making preparing the proper clothes, the proper hunting equipment, and this is also true for the diet,” Maixner says. “They were clearly well prepared.”

Though it’s just a single sample, the results give a surprisingly detailed look into Ötzi’s final hours. “I don’t know if we’re going to get a whole lot better than this,” says Katherine Ryan Amato, a biological anthropologist at Northwestern University who wasn’t involved in the work.

Researchers have long used indirect methods to look at diet, broadly looking at transitions through time, she explains. “This actually lets us get at it on a finer scale and talk about it in more detail,” she says, “which is really exciting.”

The events surrounding Ötzi’s death are still debated. His many recent wounds point to violent conflict, and some say Ötzi fled into the mountains while being hunted down. But Maixner says that the last meal points to a slightly different story: “I personally think he was prepared for this trek.”

The mix of cereals and meats—and just two completed arrows in his deer hide quiver—suggests he hadn’t just eaten a fresh kill. Instead, in the hours before his death, Ötzi likely consumed the contents of what Maixner calls “a well-prepared doggy bag.”







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Topic: Einkorn Beer

Jørn Kragtorp (left) and Manfred Heun brew beer from the primitive wheat known as einkorn. Here they are adding a malt of einkorn, ready to start the brewing process. (Photo: Asle Rønning

Beer enthusiasts are using a barn in Norway’s Akershus County to brew a special ale which has scientific pretensions and roots back to the dawn of human culture.

When the wort is ready it smells good. Jørn Kragtorp gives it a whiff. (Photo: Asle Rønning)

The beer is made from einkorn wheat, a single-grain species that has followed humankind since we first started tilling the soil, but which has been neglected for the last 2,500 years.

“This is fun − really thrilling. It’s hard to say whether this has ever been tried before in Norway,” says Jørn Kragtorp.

He started brewing as a hobby four years ago. He represents the fourth generation on the family farm of Nedre Kragtorp in Aurskog-Høland, Akershus County.

Part of the barn has been refurnished as a meeting room, but space was also allotted for small-scale beer production.

Prehistoric beer

In the past year this brewing has become more scientific after Kragtorp teamed up with a rural neighbour, Manfred Heun, a plant geneticist and a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB).

“This is experimental. We’re trying to brew prehistoric beer,” explains Heun.

Heun has conducted research on einkorn wheat for years and came up with the idea of brewing ale here in Norway from malt made of the ancient grain.

Einkorn may have been the first cereal to be cultivated by the original Stone Age farmers.

Original farmers

Manfred Heun, who is an expert on einkorn genes, has helped trace the origin of the domesticated form of einkorn to the highlands in Southeastern Turkey.

A wild einkorn that’s genetically similar to the domesticated strain still grows in this region. This region is also considered by many to be the cradle of agriculture, with indications that farming started here 10,000 years ago.

Einkorn might have played an important role in the transition from a hunter-gatherer society to agriculture in this part of the world.

Perhaps the wish to brew beer for celebrations and ceremonies was a prime motivation for raising grain. This would put the brewing at Nedre Krogtorp into a very long perspective.

In Scandinavia

Six thousand years after people pioneered agriculture in the Near East, it spread to most of Europe. Einkorn was a part of this slow-rolling agricultural revolution together with other cereals from the Middle East and Turkey.

It’s known that einkorn was raised as a crop in the south of Scandinavia during the region’s Bronze Age (1700 – 500 BC). Scientists aren’t sure, however, whether einkorn was cultivated in Norway.

In any case this cereal has fallen into disuse for the past 2,500 years as other kinds of wheat were developed which gave bigger yields.

The beer now being brewed among the patches of forest and fields in inner Akershus County could be the first made from einkorn in this country – at least since the Bronze Age.

Einkorn beer brewed on a hobby basis at Hemnes has won acclaim from near and far. (Photo: Asle Rønning

Imported malt

Bronze Age methods are not used in the brewing process. It’s brewed like any beer.

“Now it’s most common to brew beer from barley. But you can make it from all kinds of grains, from corn, rice and wheat,” explains Jørn Kragtorp.

Malt, made of sprouted grain, is always the starting point. In this case the einkorn malt was imported from Germany.

It’s ground up and warm water is added for half an hour while the temperature is closely monitored. The process is called mashing and the sweet liquid this produces is called the wort. This is filtered and boiled for just over an hour before it’s all allowed to cool.

Devil in the detail

Then yeast is added, which starts the fermentation and sugar is converted to alcohol. The beer these hobby brewers make from einkorn is a pale ale.

Kragtorp explains that einkorn, or other wheat varieties, have different characteristics than barley and these can complicate things when the wort is made.

“Using pure wheat malt is challenging,” he says.

The brewers have experimented with various combinations.

The minor details make beer brewing exciting. Small alterations in room temperature, the amount of time used in yeasting and additives such as hops can all have a big impact on the final product.

“It’s a life-long learning process,” says Kragtorp.

Protein rich

Heun is an eager einkorn enthusiast.

“Einkorn is the healthiest thing you can imagine,” he says, referring to its high content of protein and other nutrients.

“And it tastes good too,” he adds.

Those who are lucky enough to have tasted the light and pale einkorn ale, which cannot be bought in stores, all seem to agree.

Einkorn beer from inner Akershus County has been sent in for expert academic evaluation to Munich – a city where beer is famously appreciated, and it has received the stamp of approval.

This autumn, attempts could be made to produce the beer from malt based on Norwegian-grown einkorn. Experimental crops of the ancient cereal have been planted in Aurskog-Høland and it will be exciting to see how the harvest turns out.

Original Article:


By: Asle Rønning, July 20, 2012

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Topic: Diet and Ritual Neolithic Germany


Thanks to preservation under waterlogged conditions, a well in the federal state of Saxony, Germany,

 has revealed unprecedented information about woodworking skills, diet, and ritual in early Neolithic Europe. Found in early 2008 at Altscherbitz, during construction work on the Leipzig/Halle airport, the well was carefully isolated and extracted from the ground in one block for excavation under laboratory conditions under the direction of Rengert Elburg of the Saxony State Office of Archaeology.

Heavy oak timbers were used to line the well, held together by mortise and tenon joints secured by wedges, the first time this type of keyed tenon joint has been recorded for the early Neolithic. On one piece of wood, the last ring under the bark was present and this allowed the felling of the trees to be dated precisely to the winter of 5102-5101 BC.

Complete ears of emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum) and einkorn (Triticum

monococcum) were found in the base sediment, as well as fruits of the bladder cherry or Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi) and several complete rose hips, some of them still as red as the day they were picked over 7,000 years ago. Cultivated wheat, barley, peas, lentils, linseed, and poppy seed were all present, as well as weeds associated with human habitation and cultivation, including large quantities of henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), the poisonous solanaceous plant used in very small doses for its hallucinogenic properties.

At some stage the well shaft was deliberately filled with a rich mix of pottery, stone and bone tools, bark containers and numerous fragments of string and rope, all mixed in with layers of twigs. Above these layers, a pot was placed, formally closing the well.

This was clearly a vessel of some significance, Rengert Elburg says. Extensive damage to the exterior suggests that it started life as a heavily used domestic pot, with a very slight incised decoration, typical of Linear Pottery Culture. When it broke in two it was mended by gluing the halves together with pitch. The repair was reinforced by binding the two halves together through holes drilled on either side of the break. Then the outside surface of the pot was completely redecorated by covering it with a thin layer of pitch into which narrow strips of birch-bark were stuck in a design completely unrelated to the incised pattern underneath. Traces of wear on the base suggest that the pot continued in use with this new decoration for some considerable time before being carefully placed in the well.

Original Article:


By Chris Catling Sep 6,  2010

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Topic Eikorn Wheat



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The wild progenitor of einkorn wheat, one of the first crops to be domesticated (ca. 9000 B.C.), has been identified genetically in southeastern Turkey, according to a report in the journal Science. Manfred Heun of the Agricultural University of Norway, along with Norwegian, German, and Italian colleagues, examined the DNA of 68 lines of cultivated einkorn (Triticum monococcum monococcum), 194 lines of wild einkorn (T. m. boeoticum) from nine geographical regions within the Fertile Crescent, and nine lines of a weedy einkorn (T. m. aegilopoides) found in the Balkans.

Cultivated einkorns proved closely related to one another and to weedy einkorn. Significantly, both cultivated and weedy varieties are closely related to wild einkorn found in one region, the Karacadag Mountains of southeastern Turkey. The wild einkorn from that area proved to be distinct from other wild types and may be the forebear of the domestic variety.

Eleven of 19 lines of wild einkorn from the Karacadag Mountains are particularly close to cultivated einkorn but have clear wild characteristics, including a brittle stalk yielding a few small grains. In cultivated einkorn the stalk is tougher (which makes the grain easier to harvest), and the seeds are larger and more numerous. The weedy einkorn, closely related to both wild and cultivated types, appears to be an intermediate form with some characteristics of cultivation (the stem is somewhat tougher than in wild plants, the seeds are intermediate in weight, and there are comparable numbers of seeds as in cultivated plants).

Wild or cultivated einkorn grains have been found at several early Neolithic sites in Turkey near the Karacadag Mountains, including Cafer Höyük, Cayönü, and Nevali Cori. Wild and cultivated seeds have also been found at Abu Hureya to the south in Syria.

Original article:

by Mark Rose 1998


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