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MITCHELL, S.D. — Archaeologists in the northwestern state of South Dakota have uncovered corn cobs, corn kernels and sunflower kernels that are over 1,000 years old.

Officials say the discoveries at the Prehistoric Indian Village in Mitchell show that people who lived in the region at the time farmed and had a diverse diet.

The village is an active archaeological site and open to the public. Students from the University of Exeter in England and Augustana College in Sioux Falls work every year at the site that holds dual status as a National Register and National Historic Landmark site.

Augustana archaeology professor Adrien Hannus told The Daily Republic that the new discoveries indicate the village dwellers weren’t exactly primitive. He says it was a successful village of farmers, hunters and foragers.

Posted July 9, 2015

TorontoSun

I just discovered the article from The Daily Republic, with more information:

Each year, something new is uncovered at the Thomsen Center Archeodome at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village.

Researchers working the archaeological site along Lake Mitchell have discovered troves of small, charred kernels of corn and sunflowers, each only a few millimeters wide, that remain intact more than 1,000 years after people lived in the area along Firesteel Creek. Researchers have also found corn cobs, which they say show how much agriculture has changed, and affirms that people of the region had a diverse diet.

The findings are significant for those investing their time and resources into the Mitchell site. Alan Outram, who is in his 12th year bringing students from the University of Exeter, in England, to partner with Augustana College students, said the team has found as much carbonized plant matter in the last two weeks than from the last 11 years.

“Of course, it’s important to this area,” he said. “The thing is, this is an agricultural area and this is the history of that agriculture.”

Augustana College Professor of Archeology Adrien Hannus, who serves as the project director at the site, said when the archeodome was being built and finished in 1999, they got an idea of where the best deposits would be. That hinted to Hannus that they would get a good look at the way of life for the American Indians who settled in the area.

“It showed at the time that there was probably 12 feet there, and we’re really just scratching the surface,” Hannus said. “This village isn’t the origin of prehistoric agriculture, but it is one of the key sites in understanding what was done here.”

The discovery was made through cache pits, which were large holes used to store things like food and tools. When the people who used them discovered they were not ideal for keeping food, they turned them into trash receptacles. In those pits, archeological students have also found broken pottery pieces and other items.

In this part of the country, Hannus said, the prehistoric pits would have a wide opening and then would belly out at the bottom, sometimes 4 to 5 feet deep. They would be capped with clay and ash, because insects such as beatles can’t survive climbing through ash, according to researchers. Until this year, Thomsen Center Archeodome researchers had never found a cache pit with an unbroken clay and ash cap.

As for the corn findings, the longest cobs are about the size of an adult finger. Hannus said the people of that time were either roasting or boiling the entire cob, and Outram said they show the growth of corn crops since that time.

“They tell us a lot about these strains of plants have changed over time,” he said. “They’re a lot smaller. You can see that the corn kernels are about the same size, but the cobs were a lot smaller and there were a lot fewer kernels on the cobs.”

The charring helped to preserve the seeds, Outram said. Otherwise, that seed might have grown out of the ground over time.

“For a 1,000-year-old seed, they’re very nicely preserved,” he said. “But they’re only preserved because they’re charred.”

Hannus said the findings reiterate that the American Indians of the area—about 200 to 250 of them at the site at any one time—had a complex diet and weren’t exactly a primitive people.

“I guess the real positive story is that we know this was a successful village of farmers, hunters, foragers; they collected fish and wildlife; they hunted bison and deer and smaller mammals,” he said. “This wasn’t a starvation story here. It’s a story about a very vital, alive group of people who lived here.”

Hannus has worked at the site for last 31 years, and says the parallels with modern South Dakota are still evident.

“I keep trying to convince people that are visiting, this is not some kind of bizarre, alien culture,” he said. “This isn’t something that people should not be able to relate to. You’ve got small, rural towns in South Dakota right now, today, that are functioning not much differently than the people did then.”

Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village Executive Director Cindy Gregg agreed with the researchers, saying if the average person was dropped in the Amazon, “they would be considered primitive, too,” she said.

The 18 students, who are from the U.S., England, Ireland, Russia and Spain, are about 60 percent complete with their time at the site this year and will be in Mitchell through July 16.

The discoveries come on the cusp of the village’s biggest event of the year, Archeology Awareness Days, which is this Saturday and Sunday. Primitive technologists from around the country will be here and demonstrating the skills used more than 1,000 years ago. There will also be summer Lakota Games and cultural programs.

“We’ve had our most productive dig season in the 12 years we’ve been doing this,” Gregg said. “This is an exciting time for us.”

mitchellrepublic.com

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Hunter-gatherers had almost no malocclusion and dental crowding, and the condition first became common among the world’s earliest farmers some 12,000 years ago in Southwest Asia, according to findings published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

By analysing the lower  and teeth crown dimensions of 292 archaeological skeletons from the Levant, Anatolia and Europe, from between 28,000-6,000 years ago, an international team of scientists have discovered a clear separation between European hunter-gatherers, Near Eastern/Anatolian semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and transitional farmers, and European farmers, based on the form and structure of their jawbones.

“Our analysis shows that the lower jaws of the world’s earliest farmers in the Levant, are not simply smaller versions of those of the predecessor hunter-gatherers, but that the lower jaw underwent a complex series of shape changes commensurate with the transition to agriculture,” says Professor Ron Pinhasi from the School of Archaeology and Earth Institute, University College Dublin, the lead author on the study.

“Our findings show that the  populations have an almost “perfect harmony” between their lower jaws and teeth,” he explains. “But this harmony begins to fade when you examine the lower jaws and teeth of the earliest farmers”.

In the case of hunter-gatherers, the scientists from University College Dublin, Israel Antiquity Authority, and the State University of New York, Buffalo, found a correlation between inter-individual jawbones and dental distances, suggesting an almost “perfect” state of equilibrium between the two. While in the case of semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and farming groups, they found no such correlation, suggesting that the harmony between the teeth and the jawbone was disrupted with the shift towards agricultural practices and sedentism in the region. This, the international team of scientists say, may be linked to the dietary changes among the different populations.

The diet of the  was based on “hard” foods like wild uncooked vegetables and meat, while the staple diet of the sedentary farmer is based on “soft” cooked or processed foods like cereals and legumes. With soft cooked foods there is less of a requirement for chewing which in turn lessens the size of the jaws but without a corresponding reduction in the dimensions of the , there is no adequate space in the jaws and this often results in malocclusion and dental crowding.

The link between chewing, diet, and related dental wear patterns is well known in the scientific literature. Today, malocclusion and dental crowding affects around one in five people in modern-world populations. The condition has been described as the “malady of civilization”

Original article:

Phys.org

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About 6,600 years ago the Ertebølle Mesolithic hunter-gatherers acquired domesticated pigs whose black-spotted coat might have looked similar to that of this modern-day Bentheimer pig.

Topic: Hunter-gatherers domesticated pigs

Ancient hunter-gatherers in Europe, whose meat intake was once limited to wild game, may have enjoyed bacon, ham, pork chops and other tasty bites from pigs they owned starting about 7,000 years ago, researchers say.

The new findings suggest these hunter-gatherers had domesticated pigs about 500 years earlier than previously thought, yielding new insights into the movements and interactions of prehistoric humans and the exchange of technologies and knowledge, scientists said.

The first humans in Europe were Neanderthals, an early human lineage that may have gone extinct there some 50,000 years ago. Their successors in Europe, modern humans, were hunter-gatherers that by the Mesolithic, or middle period of the Stone Age,were focused heavily on collecting and hunting wild game. [The 10 Biggest Mysteries of the First Humans]

Later on, incoming Neolithic or New Stone Age farmers who migrated to Europe from the south between 5500 B.C. and 4200 B.C. owned domestic plants and animals, such as sheep, goats, cattle and swine. Past research found that Mesolithic and Neolithic communities long co-existed.

Some communication apparently occurred between the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and the Neolithic farmers, as suggested by pottery and other tool finds. However, the scale of the interaction and the extent to which hunter-gatherers took ideas from their neighbors remains hotly debated.

Until now, there was only circumstantial evidence of Mesolithic hunter-gatherer ownership of domestic animals other than dogs in continental Europe.

“Mesolithic hunter-gatherers definitely had dogs, but they did not practice agriculture and did not have pigs, sheep, goats or cows, all of which were introduced to Europe with incoming farmers [in] about 6000 B.C.,” researcher Ben Krause-Kyora, an archaeologist and biochemist at Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, said in a statement. “Having people who practiced a very different survival strategy nearby must have been odd, and we know now that the hunter-gathers possessed some of the farmers’ domesticated pigs.”

The scientists analyzed the ancient DNA from the bones and teeth of 63 pigs in northern Germany from a Mesolithic site known as Ertebølle and a number of Neolithic sites. They found that as early as 4600 B.C., the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers owned pigs that had both near-Eastern and European ancestry, which means they were domestic swine as opposed to wild boar.

“We address a long-standing debate in archaeology that has implications beyond northern Germany,” researcher Almut Nebel, a molecular geneticist at Christian-Albrechts University, told LiveScience. “Our multidisciplinary approach can also be used to obtain information on cultural contact — for example, between hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists — for other areas of Europe and the world.”

Genetic analysis revealed the domestic pigs had colorful coats and spots that likely would have seemed exotic and strange to the hunter-gatherers and may have attracted them to the swine.

“Humans love novelty, and though hunter-gatherers exploited wild boar, it would have been hard not to be fascinated by the strange-looking, spotted pigs owned by farmers living nearby,” researcher Greger Larson at Durham University in England, said in a statement. “It should come as no surprise that the hunter-gatherers acquired some [of the pigs] eventually, but this study shows that they did very soon after the domestic pigs arrived in northern Europe.”

Scientists are not sure whether the hunter-gatherers procured the pigs via trade or by capturing escaped animals. Still, given the close proximity of these two groups and how they occasionally exchanged artifacts, the researchers suspect trade for pigs was a more likely scenario than hunting of escaped domestic pigs, Krause-Kyora told LiveScience.

The scientists detailed their findings in the Aug. 27 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Original article:
livescience.com

By Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor | August 27, 2013

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Topic: Milk for the ages

When a single genetic mutation first let ancient Europeans drink milk, it set the stage for a continental upheaval.

In the 1970s, archaeologist Peter Bogucki was excavating a Stone Age site in the fertile plains of central Poland when he came across an assortment of odd artefacts. The people who had lived there around 7,000 years ago were among central Europe’s first farmers, and they had left behind fragments of pottery dotted with tiny holes. It looked as though the coarse red clay had been baked while pierced with pieces of straw.

Looking back through the archaeological literature, Bogucki found other examples of ancient perforated pottery. “They were so unusual — people would almost always include them in publications,” says Bogucki, now at Princeton University in New Jersey. He had seen something similar at a friend’s house that was used for straining cheese, so he speculated that the pottery might be connected with cheese-making. But he had no way to test his idea.

The mystery potsherds sat in storage until 2011, when Mélanie Roffet-Salque pulled them out and analysed fatty residues preserved in the clay. Roffet-Salque, a geochemist at the University of Bristol, UK, found signatures of abundant milk fats — evidence that the early farmers had used the pottery as sieves to separate fatty milk solids from liquid whey. That makes the Polish relics the oldest known evidence of cheese-making in the world.

Roffet-Salque’s sleuthing is part of a wave of discoveries about the history of milk in Europe. Many of them have come from a €3.3-million (US$4.4-million) project that started in 2009 and has involved archaeologists, chemists and geneticists. The findings from this group illuminate the profound ways that dairy products have shaped human settlement on the continent.

During the most recent ice age, milk was essentially a toxin to adults because — unlike children — they could not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk. But as farming started to replace hunting and gathering in the Middle East around 11,000 years ago, cattle herders learned how to reduce lactose in dairy products to tolerable levels by fermenting milk to make cheese or yogurt. Several thousand years later, a genetic mutation spread through Europe that gave people the ability to produce lactase — and drink milk — throughout their lives. That adaptation opened up a rich new source of nutrition that could have sustained communities when harvests failed.

This two-step milk revolution may have been a prime factor in allowing bands of farmers and herders from the south to sweep through Europe and displace the hunter-gatherer cultures that had lived there for millennia. “They spread really rapidly into northern Europe from an archaeological point of view,” says Mark Thomas, a population geneticist at University College London. That wave of emigration left an enduring imprint on Europe, where, unlike in many regions of the world, most people can now tolerate milk. “It could be that a large proportion of Europeans are descended from the first lactase-persistent dairy farmers in Europe,” says Thomas.

Strong stomachs

Young children almost universally produce lactase and can digest the lactose in their mother’s milk. But as they mature, most switch off the lactase gene. Only 35% of the human population can digest lactose beyond the age of about seven or eight (ref. 2). “If you’re lactose intolerant and you drink half a pint of milk, you’re going to be really ill. Explosive diarrhoea — dysentery essentially,” says Oliver Craig, an archaeologist at the University of York, UK. “I’m not saying it’s lethal, but it’s quite unpleasant.”

Most people who retain the ability to digest milk can trace their ancestry to Europe, where the trait seems to be linked to a single nucleotide in which the DNA base cytosine changed to thymine in a genomic region not far from the lactase gene. There are other pockets of lactase persistence in West Africa (see Nature 444, 994–996; 2006), the Middle East and south Asia that seem to be linked to separate mutations (see ‘Lactase hotspots’).

The single-nucleotide switch in Europe happened relatively recently. Thomas and his colleagues estimated the timing by looking at genetic variations in modern populations and running computer simulations of how the related genetic mutation might have spread through ancient populations. They proposed that the trait of lactase persistence, dubbed the LP allele, emerged about 7,500 years ago in the broad, fertile plains of Hungary.

Powerful gene

Once the LP allele appeared, it offered a major selective advantage. In a 2004 study, researchers estimated that people with the mutation would have produced up to 19% more fertile offspring than those who lacked it. The researchers called that degree of selection “among the strongest yet seen for any gene in the genome”.

Compounded over several hundred generations, that advantage could help a population to take over a continent. But only if “the population has a supply of fresh milk and is dairying”, says Thomas. “It’s gene–culture co-evolution. They feed off of each other.”

To investigate the history of that interaction, Thomas teamed up with Joachim Burger, a palaeogeneticist at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in Germany, and Matthew Collins, a bioarchaeologist at the University of York. They organized a multidisciplinary project called LeCHE (Lactase Persistence in the early Cultural History of Europe), which brought together a dozen early-career researchers from around Europe.

By studying human molecular biology and the archaeology and chemistry of ancient pottery, LeCHE participants also hoped to address a key issue about the origins of modern Europeans. “It’s been an enduring question in archaeology — whether we’re descended from Middle Eastern farmers or indigenous hunter-gatherers,” says Thomas. The argument boils down to evolution versus replacement. Did native populations of hunter-gatherers in Europe take up farming and herding? Or was there an influx of agricultural colonists who outcompeted the locals, thanks to a combination of genes and technology?

One strand of evidence came from studies of animal bones found at archaeological sites. If cattle are raised primarily for dairying, calves are generally slaughtered before their first birthday so that their mothers can be milked. But cattle raised mainly for meat are killed later, when they have reached their full size. (The pattern, if not the ages, is similar for sheep and goats, which were part of the dairying revolution.)

On the basis of studies of growth patterns in bones, LeCHE participant Jean-Denis Vigne, an archaeozoologist at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris, suggests that dairying in the Middle East may go all the way back to when humans first started domesticating animals there, about 10,500 years ago. That would place it just after the Middle Eastern Neolithic transition — when an economy based on hunter-gathering gave way to one devoted to agriculture. Dairying, says Roz Gillis, also an archaeozoologist at the Paris museum, “may have been one of the reasons why human populations began trapping and keeping ruminants such as cattle, sheep and goats”. (See ‘Dairy diaspora’.)

Dairying then expanded in concert with the Neolithic transition, says Gillis, who has looked at bone growth at 150 sites in Europe and Anatolia (modern Turkey). As agriculture spread from Anatolia to northern Europe over roughly two millennia, dairying followed a similar pattern.

On their own, the growth patterns do not say whether the Neolithic transition in Europe happened through evolution or replacement, but cattle bones offer important clues. In a precursor study, Burger and several other LeCHE participants found that domesticated cattle at Neolithic sites in Europe were most closely related to cows from the Middle East, rather than indigenous wild aurochs. This is a strong indication that incoming herders brought their cattle with them, rather than domesticating locally, says Burger. A similar story is emerging from studies of ancient human DNA recovered at a few sites in central Europe, which suggest that Neolithic farmers were not descended from the hunter-gatherers who lived there before.

Taken together, the data help to resolve the origins of the first European farmers. “For a long time, the mainstream of continental European archaeology said Mesolithic hunter-gatherers developed into Neolithic farmers,” says Burger. “We basically showed they were completely different.”

Milk or meat

Given that dairying in the Middle East started thousands of years before the LP allele emerged in Europe, ancient herders must have found ways to reduce lactose concentrations in milk. It seems likely that they did so by making cheese or yogurt. (Fermented cheeses such as feta and cheddar have a small fraction of the lactose found in fresh milk; aged hard cheeses similar to Parmesan have hardly any.)

To test that theory, LeCHE researchers ran chemical tests on ancient pottery. The coarse, porous clay contains enough residues for chemists to distinguish what type of fat was absorbed during the cooking process: whether it was from meat or milk, and from ruminants such as cows, sheep and goats or from other animals. “That gave us a way into saying what types of things were being cooked,” says Richard Evershed, a chemist at the University of Bristol.

Evershed and his LeCHE collaborators found milk fat on pottery in the Middle Eastern Fertile Crescent going back at least 8,500 years, and Roffet-Salque’s work on the Polish pottery offers clear evidence that herders in Europe were producing cheese to supplement their diets between 6,800 and 7,400 years ago. By then, dairy had become a component of the Neolithic diet, but it was not yet a dominant part of the economy.

That next step happened slowly, and it seems to have required the spread of lactase persistence. The LP allele did not become common in the population until some time after it first emerged: Burger has looked for the mutation in samples of ancient human DNA and has found it only as far back as 6,500 years ago in northern Germany.

Models created by LeCHE participant Pascale Gerbault, a population geneticist at University College London, explain how the trait might have spread. As Middle Eastern Neolithic cultures moved into Europe, their farming and herding technologies helped them to out-compete the local hunter-gatherers. And as the southerners pushed north, says Gerbault, the LP allele ‘surfed’ the wave of migration.

Lactase persistence had a harder time becoming established in parts of southern Europe, because Neolithic farmers had settled there before the mutation appeared. But as the agricultural society expanded northwards and westwards into new territory, the advantage provided by lactase persistence had a big impact. “As the population grows quickly at the edge of the wave, the allele can increase in frequency,” says Gerbault.

The remnants of that pattern are still visible today. In southern Europe, lactase persistence is relatively rare — less than 40% in Greece and Turkey. In Britain and Scandinavia, by contrast, more than 90% of adults can digest milk.

Cattle conquest

By the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age, around 5,000 years ago, the LP allele was prevalent across most of northern and central Europe, and cattle herding had become a dominant part of the culture. “They discover this way of life, and once they can really get the nutritional benefits they increase or intensify herding as well,” says Burger. Cattle bones represent more than two-thirds of the animal bones in many late Neolithic and early Bronze Age archaeological sites in central and northern Europe.

The LeCHE researchers are still puzzling out exactly why the ability to consume milk offered such an advantage in these regions. Thomas suggests that, as people moved north, milk would have been a hedge against famine. Dairy products — which could be stored for longer in colder climes — provided rich sources of calories that were independent of growing seasons or bad harvests.

Others think that milk may have helped, particularly in the north, because of its relatively high concentration of vitamin D, a nutrient that can help to ward off diseases such as rickets. Humans synthesize vitamin D naturally only when exposed to the sun, which makes it difficult for northerners to make enough during winter months. But lactase persistence also took root in sunny Spain, casting vitamin D’s role into doubt.

The LeCHE project may offer a model for how archaeological questions can be answered using a variety of disciplines and tools. “They have got a lot of different tentacles — archaeology, palaeoanthropology, ancient DNA and modern DNA, chemical analysis — all focused on one single question,” says Ian Barnes, a palaeogeneticist at Royal Holloway, University of London, who is not involved in the project. “There are lots of other dietary changes which could be studied in this way.”

The approach could, for example, help to tease apart the origins of amylase, an enzyme that helps to break down starch. Researchers have suggested that the development of the enzyme may have followed — or made possible — the increasing appetite for grain that accompanied the growth of agriculture. Scientists also want to trace the evolution of alcohol dehydrogenase, which is crucial to the breakdown of alcohol and could reveal the origins of humanity’s thirst for drink.

Some of the LeCHE participants are now probing further back in time, as part of a project named BEAN (Bridging the European and Anatolian Neolithic), which is looking at how the first farmers and herders made their way into Europe. Burger, Thomas and their BEAN collaborators will be in Turkey this summer, tracing the origins of the Neolithic using computer models and ancient-DNA analysis in the hope of better understanding who the early farmers were, and when they arrived in Europe.

Along the way, they will encounter beyaz peynir, a salty sheep’s-milk cheese eaten with nearly every Turkish breakfast. It is probably much like the cheese that Neolithic farmers in the region would have eaten some 8,000 years ago — long before the march of lactase persistence allowed people to drink fresh milk.

Original article:
nature.com
By Andrew Curry July 16, 2013

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A set of balance scales.

Topic: Trade
This article is interesting, I hope more shows up on food that might have been traded,( I’m sure it was ). If so I’ll keep you informed.

A tantalizing hint of an ancient trading town

When archaeologists Geir Grønnesby and Ellen Grav Ellingsen found these and other artefacts during a dig in mid-Norway, they realized they had intriguing evidence of a Viking-age trading area mentioned in the Norse Sagas.

The finds came from two separate boat graves in an area in Nord-Trøndelag County called Lø, a farm in part of Steinkjer. The archaeologists, who both work at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s University Museum, were there to conduct a routine investigation required because of an upgrade to Norway’s main national highway, the E6.

But instead of a simple highway dig, the researchers found themselves with a potential answer to an unsolved puzzle about a mysterious Viking trading place that is named in ancient sagas, but that has never before been located.

“These finds got us thinking about the descriptions in the Sagas that describe Steinkjer as a trading place,” the researchers wrote of their findings in Vitark, an academic journal published by the University Museum from Dec. 2012. “The Sagas say that Steinkjer, under the rule of Eirik Jarl, was briefly even more important than Nidaros, before Olav Haraldsson re-established Nidaros as the king’s residence and trading city.

Norway’s medieval capital

Nidaros, now the modern city of Trondheim, was Norway’s capital during Viking times, and the country’s religious centre. The world’s northernmost Gothic Cathedral, Nidarosdomen, was built in Trondheim, with its first stones laid in 1070 over the grave of Olav Haraldsson. The oldest existing parts of the cathedral date from 1183.

As a medieval city and a religious capital, Nidaros played an important role in international trade throughout the Middle Ages. The Lewis Chessmen, an exquisite set of 12th century chess pieces worked out of walrus ivory and whales’ teeth, are widely believed to have been crafted in the Trondheim/Nidaros area, and traded away.

Olav Haraldsson was the Norwegian king who is often credited with bringing Christianity to Norway and whose sainthood, first proclaimed in 1031, a year after his death, was confirmed by Pope Alexander III in 1164.

Not surprisingly, he features in a number of different Norse and Icelandic sagas. It was these sagas that mention a major trading place in Steinkjer that was even larger than Nidaros. But until archaeologists started the dig in Lø, they had few clues as to where this Viking-age commercial powerhouse might be found.

1000 years of dirt and development

Archaeologists seeking to find a 1000-year-old trading place have precious few leads to pursue.

Almost certainly there were no permanent buildings, which would be the easiest to find, and many items that would have been traded would be made of organic materials that might not survive the ravages of the centuries.

Apart from finding obvious clues, such as coins or metal or glass items that were clearly from foreign lands, archeologists have to rely on much more subtle evidence that can stand the test of time.

One such hint that a location might be a trading place is the geography of the place itself, the researchers wrote in Vitark.

“Even though there is no archaeological proof that there was a trading place in Steinkjer during Viking times, there are several aspects that support this idea,” the researchers wrote.

Most importantly, they note, Steinjker is located in a natural trading areas, at the mouth of a river at the innermost part of Trondheim fjord. It is also in a place where farmers have been working flat fields for centuries.

Swords, beads and jewelry

Another clue that archaeologists use to locate the possible trading place is a detailed map of the locations of all kinds of different archaeological finds that might suggest trade.

The logic here is that greater numbers of traded goods are more likely to be found in close proximity to a place of trade, with fewer traded goods found farther and farther from trading areas.

So the researchers plotted all relevant finds from Nord-Trøndelag County, and again and again, the finds suggested a major trading area in Steinkjer.

Beads made of amber and glass are commonly traded, and the area around Steinkjer was rich with finds of these goods, with 254 beads found in 28 different locales, the researchers said.

While nearby Stjørdal had a higher number of bead finds – 485 beads, all told – the researchers noted that most of those beads came from two large finds, which makes it less likely that the beads were linked directly to a trading place.

Twenty-two examples of a special kind of Viking-age sword, called the H sword based on the design of its hilt and one that is associated with trade, were also found in Steinkjer, the most of any area in Nord-Trøndelag.

Five of six pieces of imported jewelry found in Nord-Trøndelag were found in Steinkjer, while six of 10 imported brooches from Nord-Trøndelag also came from Steinkjer.

Scales and a button

While beads, swords and imported jewelry help suggest that Steinkjer was home to a major trading place, two specific finds, in boat graves in Lø, were among the most persuasive finds.

One, a silver button made of braided silver threads that appears to have originated in the British Isles, suggests that the person in the grave had a high status.

The second is a set of balance scales found in another boat grave. The balance scales were constructed in a way that led the archaeologists to believe it came from the west – not from Norway.

Scales themselves naturally suggest trade, and when the researchers looked at all the scales found in Nord-Trøndelag, they again found a clear concentration in the Steinkjer area.

Under the church, in the city centre

If all of these concentrations of finds support the location of a major trading place in Steinkjer as mentioned in the Norse sagas, then where is it?

Here, the archaeologists can only make an educated guess. Based on the fact that sea levels were four or five metres higher in this area 1000 years ago, the location of the existing church in Steinkjer is the most logical place for the trading place to have been, the researchers say.

But confirmation of the fact that Steinkjer was a major trading area in the Viking age raises yet another puzzle: If Steinkjer was such an important area for international trade, why did trade eventually shift to Trondheim, as it did?

Grønnesby says that the shift in trading areas was surely due to the tremendous power struggles between different rulers in the area. Nidaros along with Levanger, another trading area, simply had more support than Steinkjer. “We see that Steinkjer disappears in the sources in the Middle Ages while the same sources show that (nearby) Levanger was a trading post,” he notes.

Nevertheless, determining the exact answer will require finding more than silver buttons, scales and beads – and may be an answer that we will never really know.

Original article:

Phys.org
July10, 2013

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Topic Viking diet

Greenland’s viking settlers, the Norse, disappeared suddenly and mysteriously from Greenland about 500 years ago. Natural disasters, climate change and the inability to adapt have all been proposed as theories to explain their disappearance. But now a Danish-Canadian research team has demonstrated the Norse society did not die out due to an inability to adapt to the Greenlandic diet: an isotopic analysis of their bones shows they ate plenty of seals.

“Our analysis shows that the Norse in Greenland ate lots of food from the sea, especially seals,” says Jan Heinemeier, Institute of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University.

“Even though the Norse are traditionally thought of as farmers, they adapted quickly to the Arctic environment and the unique hunting opportunities. During the period they were in Greenland, the Norse ate gradually more seals. By the 14th century, seals made up between 50 and 80 per cent of their diet.”

The Danish and Canadian researchers are studying the 80 Norse skeletons kept at the University of Copenhagen’s Laboratory of Biological Anthropology in order to determine their dietary habits. From studying the ratio of the isotopes carbon-13 and carbon-15, the researchers determined that a large proportion of the Greenlandic Norse diet came from the sea, particularly from seals. Heinemeier measured the levels of carbon isotopes in the skeletons, Erle Nelson of Simon Fraser University, in Vancouver, Canada, analysed the isotopes, while Niels Lynnerup of the University of Copenhagen, examined the skeletons.

“Nothing suggests that the Norse disappeared as a result of a natural disaster. If anything they might have become bored with eating seals out on the edge of the world. The skeletal evidence shows signs that they slowly left Greenland. For example, young women are underrepresented in the graves in the period toward the end of the Norse settlement. This indicates that the young in particular were leaving Greenland, and when the numbers of fertile women drops, the population cannot support itself,” Lynnerup explains.

Hunters and farmers

The findings challenge the prevailing view of the Norse as farmers that would have stubbornly stuck to agriculture until they lost the battle with Greenland’s environment. These new results shake-up the traditional view of the Norse as farmers and have given archaeologists reason to rethink those theories.

“The Norse thought of themselves as farmers that cultivated the land and kept animals. But the archaeological evidence shows that they kept fewer and fewer animals, such as goats and sheep. So the farming identity was actually more a mental self-image, held in place by an over-class that maintained power through agriculture and land ownership, than it was a reality for ordinary people that were hardly picky eaters,” Jette Arneborg, archaeologist and curator at the National Museum of Denmark, says.

The first Norse settlers brought agriculture and livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs from Iceland. While they thought of themselves as farmers, they were not unfamiliar with hunting.

They quickly started to catch seals, as they were a necessary addition to their diet. Toward the end of their stay, they became as accustomed to catching seals as the Inuit, who had travelled to Greenland from Canada around the year 1200 and inhabited the island alongside the Norse. Seals became more important for Norse survival as the climate began to change over time and it became increasingly difficult to sustain themselves through farming.

“The Norse could adapt, but how much they could adapt without giving up their identity was limited. Even though their diet became closer to that of the Inuit, the difference between the two groups was too great for the Norse to become Inuit,” Arneborg says.
Original article:
news.ku.dk

Photos 1&2 by Jette Arneborg

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Topic: Neolithic hord

ScienceDaily (Nov. 6, 2012) — Jewelry and female figurines from Belica, Serbia, to be exhibited for the first time at Tübingen University Museum.

Archeologists from the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Prehistory are working with the Serbian Archeological Institute in Belgrade to analyze the most comprehensive Early Neolithic hoard ever found. Work on the nearly 8000 year old collection of jewelry and figurines is funded by the Thyssen Foundation.

The unique hoard is composed of some 80 objects made of stone, clay and bone. “This collection from Belica, in all its completeness, provides a unique glimpse into the symbols of the earliest farmers and herdsmen in Europe,” says Tübingen archeologist Dr. Raiko Krauss, who heads the German side of the project.

The objects include stylized female figures, parts of the human body, as well as miniature axes and abstract figures. Much attention has been given to the rotund female figures of water-smoothed stone given human features by human hands. Were they idols, lucky charms or fertility symbols? Their purpose is unknown.

The stone objects are mainly of serpentinite from an ophiolite belt running some 40km west of the Belica site. The rock was washed out of the mountains and worn smooth by rivers and streams. Neolithic artists then selected the pebbles they wanted from the valleys.

Archeologists mapped the outline of an Early Neolithic settlement in June of this year using the distribution of finds on the surface as a guide. In the middle, they found the largely undisturbed hoard. Using modern geophysical prospection methods, they were able to bring buried parts of the settlement to light during summer excavations.

“Important finds like this should be prominently displayed in the Serbian National Museum,” says Krauss of the hoard. “But the National Museum in Belgrade has been closed since the civil war.” So Krauss is working with his Serbian colleagues on an exhibition at the University of Tübingen Museum in Hohentübingen Castle. The modern world will first get to see the Belica hoard there in the winter semester of 2013/14. The hoard, and the results of the current investigation, are to be published in German and Serbian.

Original article:

sciencedaily.com
November 6, 2012

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