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Images of bog butter

The journal.ie

LONG BEFORE MODERN refrigeration Irish people discovered that storing butter in the bog keeps it fresher for longer. Much longer. A new study has now revealed that the ingenious practice dates back nearly 4,000 years, 1,500 years longer than previously thought.

The bog’s preservative powers are so strong that butter can still be edible after centuries in the ground. This is thanks to the cool, low oxygen and high-acid environment.

When the food finally deteriorates it takes on a hard, yellowish-white, wax-like texture and a cheesy smell. Chunks of these ancient foodstuffs are still often unearthed by turf cutters.

The new study has found that people were storing butter in Irish bogs in the Early Bronze age and there may have been a booming dairy industry at the time.

The practice lasted a staggering 3,500 years, from 1700 BC to, as recently as, the 17th century.

“The widespread occurrence of these enigmatic butter deposits fits with our increasing knowledge of the central importance of dairying in prehistoric northern Europe,” Professor Richard Evershed from the University of Bristol explained.

Four of the five Bronze Age bog butters studied by the researchers came from Offaly, they were found at Ballindown, Drinagh, Esker More and Knockdrin. The fifth was recovered from Clonava in Westmeath.

The earliest dated sample, from Knockdrin, dates from between 1745–1635 BC. It was found associated with bark, which was possibly a wrapping or container.

“Clearly, it is unlikely there was a single reason for the deposition of bog butter over four millennia,” Dr Jessica Smyth from the UCD School of Archaeology said.

“In certain periods they may have been votive deposits, while at other points in time it may have been more about storage and even protection of valuable resources.”

The National Museum of Ireland works with Bord Na Móna to record and retrieve bog butters that are found by chance.

The archaeology branch of the museum, which is on Dublin’s Kildare Street, has a collection of the butters on display to the public.

The findings of the new study are published in the journal Scientific Reports today.

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By Bruce Bower

Sciencenews.org

In Europe, Stone Age hominids began adding small, fast animals to their menus much earlier than previously thought, scientists say.

Now-extinct members of the human genus, Homo, hunted rabbits and, to a lesser extent, hares in southern France and probably other Mediterranean parts of Europe by around 400,000 years ago, researchers report online March 6 in Science Advances. Hunters also bagged larger creatures such as wild goats and deer. The new finding may highlight the flexibility and innovativeness of these ancient relatives of humans.

That dietary shift to smaller animals away from eating primarily large game emerged long before a previously recognized change in ancient humans’ eating habits, concludes a team led by paleoanthropologist Eugène Morin of Trent University in Peterborough, Canada. In the later transition, Stone Age people dramatically broadened what they ate, including a wide variety of small animals, starting around 36,000 years ago.

Morin’s group studied 21 sets of animal fossils and stone tools previously excavated at eight sites in southern France. All but one collection included large numbers of fossil leporids, the family of rabbits and hares. Cuts made by stone tools, likely during butchery, appeared on leporid remains from 17 fossil sets. At the oldest site, Terra Amata, about half of 205 identified animal bones from a 400,000-year-old sediment layer belonged to leporids. Other small-game sites studied by the researchers dated to as recently as around 60,000 years ago.

Ancient Homo groups mainly hunted rabbits that probably existed in large numbers in Mediterranean areas ranging from Spain to Italy, Morin’s team suspects. Colony-dwelling rabbits were probably easier to hunt than hares, which are solitary animals. After 40,000 years ago, the investigators suspect that humans hunted hares regularly, possibly tracking the elusive creatures down with the aid of dogs by 11,500 years ago (SN: 2/16/19, p. 13).

 

 

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Jpost.com

A method for identifying salmon remains using mineral markers developed at the University of Haifa sheds light on the Late Stone Age in the Arctic Circle, according to a new study published in the academic journal Scientific Reports.

While archaeological researchers have assumed that salmon would have been crucial to the early diet of the ancient Arctic’s inhabitants, there has been little proof until now.

“The new method we have developed will enable researchers to better understand life in the ancient Arctic and the way in which seamstresses are able to move to permanent communities,” said Prof. Ruth Gross, who led the study, in a statement.

While evidence has been previously found that indicated inhabitants of the ancient Arctic Circle would catch fish, and particularly salmon, few fish bones were ever discovered in archaeological research, according to Dr. Don Butler of the Department of Marine Civilizations at the Leon Charney School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa. Butler is a postdoctoral researcher who co-authored the study.

Gross added that the importance of salmon today in Scandinavia, together with the paucity of bones, has made the subject significant for local researchers and archaeologists.

Gross and Butler worked with Dr. Sato Koivisto of the University of Helsinki, who provided the Israeli team with the Mid-Holocene period salmon bones found in excavations in Finland over the years. The mineral marker that Gross and Butler discovered matched that of the fish.

The researchers then turned to one of the oldest settlements on the Iijoki River in northern Finland, where they sampled ash from a fire found in a 5,600-year-old cabin. Laboratory results showed that the salmon’s signature mineral marker could be found within the ash.

This, combined with the team’s sieving efforts and mineralogical analyses of these sediments, along with zooarchaeological identification of recovered bone fragments, confirmed that salmon was part of the diet of people living in the village. The findings provided new evidence for early estuary or riverine fisheries in northern Finland’s Lapland region.

The method developed at the University of Haifa will enable archaeologists in the future who are working in the ancient Arctic periods to collect evidence of salmon consumption, and perhaps other relationships salmon may have had with Arctic river ecosystems.

 

 

 

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Source: A Dark Age Beacon

go to page3 of this document to read references to olive oil and wine.

the entire article is most fascinating especially to me and my love of England. My husband and I visited here in 1997, went to  Tintagel, climbed the steps and went across the  to the excavations under works at the time. I would love to return.

 

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New research, led by the University of Bristol, has shed new light on the eating habits of Neolithic people living in southeastern Europe using food residues from pottery extracts dating back more than 8,000 years.

Source: New insights into what Neolithic people ate in southeastern Europe

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I may have already posted this, is so……enjoy anyway

 

Milk vessel

 

Source: When Things Got Cheesy

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Some types of fish roe these days are seen as luxury foods. Perhaps it’s been that way for 6000 years.
Jean-Blaise Hall/Getty Images

 

Original article:

Cosnosmagazine.com

 

Analysis of cooking gunk from six millennia ago reveals a surprisingly sophisticated palate. Andrew Masterson reports.

The meal – or, more likely, the dish, one element of a more varied repast – was simple, but elegantly so. It comprised freshwater carp eggs, cooked in a fish broth.

The top of the earthenware bowl in which it was prepared was sealed with leaves of some sort – the eggs perhaps fried off before the stock was added, the leaves holding in steam and perhaps also adding a note or two of their own.

All up, then, the dish – a fish roe soup a little like a Korean altang, perhaps, or a Thai tom yam khai pla – likely had a pleasing and rounded depth of flavour, a certain delicacy and a beguiling aroma. It would not have been out of place on a menu in any posh restaurant from New York to Tokyo.

Except that this particular meal was cooked almost 6000 years ago, not far from what is these days Berlin.

The ingredients were identified by scientists led by Anna Shevchenko from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology in Dresden, Germany.

They did so by analysing the proteins contained in a thin crust of ancient food gunk found clinging to a small coarse ceramic bowl unearthed at an archaeological site called Friesack 4, in the Brandenburg region. The bowl had previously been radio-carbon dated to around 4300 BCE.

Writing in the journal PLOS One, Shevchenko and her colleagues note that most archaeological approaches to studying historical food substances are unable to definitively identify the species consumed.

Assumptions – often very accurate – thus have to be made on the basis of isotopes, fats and a few common biological markers, as well as indirect evidence, including artefacts, contemporary artworks or written material, the contents of latrines and middens, and so forth.

Protein analysis, a relatively new field called proteomics, however, provides much more detailed results.

Ancient proteins, the authors explain, evince age-specific modifications which allow them to be distinguished from more recent contaminants. Many proteins are also species-specific, permitting source animals and plants to be confidently identified, and changes to their biological properties, wrought by enzymes, enable educated guesses regarding cooking methods and recipes.

And the proof, it seems, if not in the pudding, is at least in the soup tureen. The ceramic bowl tested by the researchers is one of about 150,000 objects so far excavated from the Friesack 4 site. The extensive collection includes many pieces of clay and stoneware, as well as artefacts made from bone, wood, pitch and antlers.

Almost all of the pieces recovered from the site have been dated as coming from the Mesolithic period, which ran from roughly 13,000 to 300 BCE.

Initial protein analysis of the “charred organic deposits” adhering to a group of 12 shards that together comprise an unglazed, smoothed, dark brown, 10-centimetre-high pot known as #3258 indicated an aquatic origin.

In order to properly identify age and species, and to eliminate later contaminants – including human-derived keratins, food particles from the fingers of archaeologists and previous researchers and, it turned out, a speck of hair gel – the samples had to be compared against modern equivalents.

Thus, Shevchenko and colleagues report, fresh carp roe was purchased from a fish farm in Dresden, and 125 milligrams of fish muscle tissue derived from Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) was also sourced.

The latter was boiled for 30 minutes in 300 milligrams of salty water. The result would have been a nice bit of fish stock, but instead of serving it the scientists mixed it with a couple of marker compounds and separated out its components in order to use it as a standard reference.

Once all the tests had been run, the identification of carp roe inside bowl #3258 was unequivocal. The analysis produced no evidence of microorganisms commonly associated with food fermentation, so it is very likely that the eggs were fresh when they went into the pot.

Fish roe, the researchers note, can be consumed “grilled, fired, marinated, baked, smoked, dried, cured, and also boiled in broth”.

In this case, they suggest, there is clear evidence that it was “thermally processed”, but more specific assumptions about preparation method are possible. It is likely, they add, that it was “cooked in a small volume of water or fish broth, for example by poaching on embers”.

Electron microscopy carried out on the pot itself revealed an organic crust around the rim, suggesting that it was “probably capped with leaves”. Alas, the plant species could not be determined, leaving moot the question of whether Stone Age cooks used the material just to keep the heat in, or to add another flavour profile to the dish.

A crust from another bowl subjected to proteomic analysis by Shevchenko and her colleagues suggested it had been used to cook “pork with bones, sinews or skin”.

All up, the evidence gathered from the Friesack 4 ceramics suggests that stereotypic images of Mesolithic hunters chowing down on great hunks of meat cooked brutally in camp fires are substantially wrong.

For some at least, poached caviar accompanied by boar spare ribs was perhaps a more likely meal.

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