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first published by archaeology.org

Greece

By BENJAMIN LEONARD

November/December 2020c(Angelafoto/Getty Images)

Symposium painting, Tomb of the Diver, Paestum, ItalyAlcohol Greece Kylix Skyphos(American School of Classical Studies at Athens: Agora Excavations)

Kylix (top), Skyphos (above)Ancient Greek vases frequently depict the revels of men participating in the symposium, an intimate drinking party held in a private home, as well as the consequences of excessive consumption that may have occurred during such gatherings. But just how much wine, mixed with water in a bowl called a krater, would a group have consumed in the course of a typical symposium in early fifth-century B.C. Athens? To answer this question, archaeologist Kathleen Lynch of the University of Cincinnati and independent scholar Richard Bidgood calculated the capacity of serving vessels and drinking cups, including kylikes and skyphoi, excavated from early fifth-century B.C. houses in the Athenian Agora, the city’s main marketplace. Assuming each kylix was filled to just over half an inch below its rim—a level at which reclining guests could swill, but not spill, their wine—they estimated that the average cup’s capacity was roughly equivalent to that of a can of soda. Thus, a single krater could hold a few rounds of drinks for a moderate-size group.

Even if the krater were refilled throughout the night, Lynch explains, this suggests that symposiasts wanted to prolong the evening’s festivities without going overboard. The researchers also discovered that kylikes from a given house held varying amounts, even if they appeared to all be around the same size. “The symposium’s emphasis on equality was underscored by everyone having the perception of the same amount of wine,” says Lynch. “Even if it was technically a bit different, they wanted to look around the room and see people with similar-size cups filled to a similar level, so that no one felt that somebody was getting too much.”

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First posted in archaeology.org
Iran

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

November/December 2020Alcohol Achaemenid Tribute Bearers Relief(HIP/Art Resource, NY)

Tribute bearers, Achaemenid reliefAlcohol Achaemenid Gold Rhyton(Museum of Iran/Bridgeman Images)

Gold rhytonFor the kings of the Achaemenid Empire, who ruled much of the ancient Near East from 550 to 330 B.C., there was little—apart from hunting lions and conquering the world—that rivaled a rhyton of fine wine. But for these powerful potentates, wine was not just a pleasurable pastime. It was also not, despite what the fifth-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus would have people believe, evidence of the kings’ profligate behavior and poor decision-making skills characterized by zealous over-imbibing. “Wine drinking and distribution not only embodied refinement, wealth, and power for the Achaemenids, but also provided an opportunity for rewarding loyalty and implementing political strategy,” says linguist Ashk Dahlén of Uppsala University. “Banquets were inherently public, political acts. They were central to the construction of royal identity and demonstrated that the empire was a supreme player on the world stage.”

At such splendid affairs, wine was served by the Royal Cup Bearer, a role known from records such as the Persepolis Administrative Archives to have been one of the highest trust. The bearer would have been an excellent sommelier and, says Dahlén, well versed in different wines and the particular customs associated with them. “The variety of wine at the king’s table was not a matter of sheer self-indulgence,” he says, “but served as a symbol of the king’s power and his capacity to attract tribute.” Unlike Greek symposiums, where the presence of “proper” women was not allowed, in the Achaemenid court, women were fully included, says Dahlén, all part of what he calls the “ancient Iranian dolce vita.”

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Article from archaeology.org

Egypt

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

November/December 2020Alcohol Egypt Nakht Tomb(Lebrecht History/Bridgeman Images)

Tomb of NakhtAs early as the Predynastic period, beginning in the mid-fifth millennium B.C., the Egyptians placed wine jars in tombs as offerings to the dead. References to wine dating to the 1st and 2nd Dynasties have been identified on ceramic jar seals found in the burial grounds at Abydos and Saqqara, and the word for wine, “irp,” appears on 2nd Dynasty stelas. By the 4th Dynasty, in the mid-third millennium B.C., tomb designers had begun to illustrate viticulture and winemaking on tomb walls. For archaeologist Sofia Fonseca of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, such imagery offers valuable insights into the vintner’s entire process. “We have this idea that viticulture and winemaking originated in the ancient Near East, and that European wine culture is a legacy from Greece and Rome,” she says. “But the truth is that, starting more than 4,500 years ago, and for the next two millennia of Egyptian history, we have images that show a traditional process similar to those winemakers in Mediterranean regions are still using. By studying these images, we can have a real change in the paradigm of wine history and bring awareness to the influence that Egyptian wine culture had on Mediterranean wine culture.”

While the Egyptians drank both red and white wine, only red wine is depicted in the tombs. “It’s interesting to see how the symbolism of wine is deeply related to the color red,” says Fonseca. “This recalls the relationship between wine and the blood of Osiris, the god of death and resurrection, who is called the Lord of Wine in the late Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts. It also recalls the relationship between wine and the reddish color of the Nile during the annual flood, when iron-rich sediment flows into the river from the mountains of Ethiopia at just the time when the grape harvest begins.”

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150 year old hunting kilt of the Kalahari San People

Science alert.com

From slaying centaurs to biblical mentions, poison-tipped arrows are a staple of cultural stories in the west. But they’ve also proved highly effective in reality, so much so that indigenous peoples around the world are still making use of them today, to successfully feed themselves and their families.

The Kalahari San of southern Africa hunt with small bone- or iron-tipped arrows that may look quite dainty, but when coated with poison, they also prove quite lethal. The hunter-gatherers daub their weapons with larvae entrails of a beetle called Diamphidia nigroonata. The larvae contain a diamphotoxin poison that is capable of bringing down an adult giraffe.

Some of the earliest solid evidence of poison use is traces of the highly toxic compound ricin on 24,000-year-old wooden applicators, found in South Africa’s Border cave. However, archaeologists have long suspected this hunting technique is much older, and new evidence now suggests humans have been shooting poison arrows through the last 72,000 years.

In a new study, archaeologist Marlize Lombard from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa examined the unique properties of known poison arrows, comparing them to those that don’t rely on poison, by analysing 128 bone pointed arrows.

Arrows that don’t use poison need to deeply pierce the bodies of prey to effectively kill or incapacitate, whereas those laced with poison just need to stab through an animal’s skin to access its bloodstream.

Using a measurement called the tip cross-sectional area (the part of the arrowhead important for both cutting into prey hide and the arrow’s flight dynamics) allowed Lombard to compare arrows through time. She focused her study on bone-tipped arrows because a lot of previous work looked only at stone-tipped arrows, given more of these have been preserved.

Lombard then assessed 306 Late Stone Age bone-point arrows, for these established properties.

Six of the bone-pointed arrows dated as far back as 72,000-80,000 years, from the Blombos Cave in South Africa. Three of these arrows have properties consistent with poisoned arrowheads.

“One is smaller, which if used as an un-poisoned arrowhead would have been ineffective,” Lombard wrote, which would make these the oldest known poison arrows in the world.

The sample size for the oldest arrows is small, and Lombard cautions that such a metric approach to weapons function can only tell us what the weapon had the potential to achieve, rather than the way they were actually used. Other clues are also required to establish probable use.

“When dealing with the human past, numbers alone can seldom reveal the nuances necessary for a deep understanding of techno-behaviours – for that a measure of qualitative assessment and interpretation is required,” she wrote.

Another of the bone points found at Klasies River Mouth in South Africa, older than 60,000 years, was found to have micro-cracks, which are consistent with use as an arrow.  This arrow was also found to have a black residue that Lombard and other researchers suspect is either poison, glue, or even both.

In more recent times, humans have made use of poisons from a large variety of life, including plants, poison dart frogs and even venomous lizards. Today, some of these poisons have the potential to be medically useful.

If Lombard’s findings hold true, they go to show how this ancient human technology became such an effective tool – one that has well and truly stood the test of time.

This research was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

 

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via Crocodile and Hippopotamus Served as ‘Brain Food’ for Early Human Ancestors

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First posted Aug 2, 2010
via Researchers: Cavemen feasted on lions

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