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Jaw with a durophagous dentition consisting of teeth with thick enamel of the gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata): The large molariform tooth was used for oxygen isotope analysis and to estimate the size of the fish. photo/©: Guy Sisma-Ventura, Israel

original article:

Popular-archaeology.com

 

JOHANNES GUTENBERG UNIVERSITAET MAINZ—Some 3,500 years ago, there was already a brisk trade in fish on the shores of the southeastern Mediterranean Sea. This conclusion follows from the analysis of 100 fish teeth that were found at various archeological sites in what is now Israel. The saltwater fish from which these teeth originated is the gilthead sea bream, which is also known as the dorade. It was caught in the Bardawil lagoon on the northern Sinai coast and then transported from Egypt to sites in the southern Levant. This fish transport persisted for about 2,000 years, beginning in the Late Bronze Age and continuing into the early Byzantine Period, roughly 300 to 600 AD. “Our examination of the teeth revealed that the sea bream must have come from a very saline waterbody, containing much more salt than the water in the Mediterranean Sea,” said Professor Thomas Tütken of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The geoscientist participated in the study together with colleagues from Israel and Göttingen. The Bardawil lagoon formed 4,000 years ago, when the sea level finally stabilized after the end of the last Ice Age. The lagoon was fished intensively and was the point of origin of an extensive fish trade.

As demonstrated by archeological finds, fishing was an important economic factor for many ancient cultures. In the southern Levant, the gilthead sea bream with the scientific name of Sparus aurata was already being fished by local costal fishermen 50,000 years ago. More exotic fish, such as the Nile perch, were already being traded between Egypt and Canaan over 5,000 years ago. However, the current study shows the extent to which the trade between the neighbors increased in the Late Bronze Age and continued for 2,000 years into the Byzantine Period. “The Bardawil lagoon was apparently a major source of fish and the starting point for the fish deliveries to Canaan, today’s Israel, even though the sea bream could have been caught there locally,” stated co-author Professor Andreas Pack from the University of Göttingen.

Fish teeth document over 2,000 years of trade

Gilthead sea bream are a food fish that primarily feed on crabs and mussels. They have a durophagous dentition with button-shaped teeth that enable them to crush the shells to get at the flesh. For the purposes of the study, 100 large shell-cracking teeth of gilthead sea bream were examined. The teeth originate from 12 archeological sites in the southern Levant, some of which lie inland, some on the coast, and cover a time period from the Neolithic to the Byzantine Period. One approach of the researchers was to analyze the content of the oxygen isotopes ^18O and ^16O in the tooth enamel of the sea bream. The ratio of ^18O to ^16O provides information on the evaporation rate and thus on the salt content of the surrounding water in which the fish lived. In addition, the researchers were able to estimate the body size of the fish on the basis of the size of the shell-cracking teeth.

The analyses showed that some of the gilthead sea bream originated from the southeastern Mediterranean but that roughly three out of every four must have lived in a very saline body of water. The only water that comes into question in the locality is that of the Bardawil lagoon, the hypersaline water of which has a salt content of 3.9 to 7.4 percent, providing the perfect environment for the growth of sea bream. The Bardawil lagoon on the Sinai coast is approximately 30 kilometers long, 14 kilometers wide, and has a maximum depth of 3 meters. It is separated from the Mediterranean by a narrow sand bar.

There was a mainland route from there to Canaan, but the fish were probably first dried and then transported by sea,” added Tütken. Even back then, sea bream were probably a very popular food fish, although it is impossible to estimate actual quantities consumed. However, it became apparent that the fish traded from the period of the Late Bronze Age were significantly smaller than in the previous era.

According to the researchers, this reduction in body size is a sign of an increase in the intensity of fishing that led to a depletion of stocks, which is to be witnessed also in modern times. “It would seem that fishing and the trade of fish expanded significantly, in fact to such a degree that the fish did not have the chance to grow as large,” continued Tütken, pointing out that this was an early form of the systematic commercial exploitation of fish, a type of proto-aquaculture, which persisted for some 2,000 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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180344_webThis is the site location and artifacts analyzed. (A) The location of Raqefet Cave and three additional Natufian sites in Mt. Carmel; (B) field photos of the studied boulder mortars (BM1,2) and the location of BM3 on the cave floor (scale bar and arrow: 20 cm); (C) a functional reconstruction of the mortars: a boulder mortar used to store plants in a basket with a stone slab on top, and a bedrock mortar used for pounding and cooking plants and brewing beer.

Source: A Prehistoric Thirst for Craft Beer

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Ancient winepress in Tzippori.

 

By Mara Vigevani/TPS

jewishpress.com

An ancient winepress dating back to the Byzantine period was discovered two weeks ago at the Tzippori National Park in the central Galilee region an during archaeological excavations, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said Sunday.

The excavations, led by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, in cooperation with the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Israel Antiquities Authority, took place in a 3.5 meter deep ancient water reservoir with a ceiling that rests on five arches from the Roman period.

The archaeologists were very surprised when they found the wine press as they had never previously encountered a winepress installed in secondary use in an ancient water reservoir.

“This is the first time we found a wine press in a place that was previously used as a water reservoir. Probably the owners of the vineyards thought it was a convenient location as it was close to their vines,” Dr. Zvika Zuk, chief archaeologist of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority told Tazpit Press Service.

According to the researchers, the water reservoir was adapted to a winepress in the 4th century C.E.

“The winepress was found in the largest water reservoir in the Tzippori National Park, which is part of the impressive water system at the site that also includes long aqueducts that provided water to the ancient city of Tzippori,” Zuk said.

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Discovery reveals plant-based menu of prehistoric man

 

Original Article:

popular- archaeology.com

780,000 year old remains of edible fruits and seeds discovered in the northern Jordan Valley. Credit: Yaakov Langsam

 

THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM—A tiny grape pip (scale 1mm), left on the ground some 780,000 years ago, is one of more than 9,000 remains of edible plants discovered in an old Stone Age site in Israel on the shoreline of Lake Hula in the northern Jordan valley, dating back to the Acheulian culture from 1.75-0.25 million years ago. The floral collection provides rich testimony of the plant-based diet of our prehistoric ancestors.

While around the world remains of Paleolithic plants are scarce, this unique macro-botanical assemblage has allowed researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University to study the vegetal diet of humans from early-mid-Pleistocene, which is central to understanding the evolution, adaptation and exploitation of the environment by hominins.
The findings were recovered during archeological excavations at the waterlogged site of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, where the earliest evidence of human-controlled fire in western Asia was discovered in recent years.
Prof. Naama Goren-Inbar of the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who conducted the excavations with colleagues, have long studied findings of hominid occupations in the Levantine Corridor, through which several hominin waves dispersed out of Africa.
In a research paper that will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on December 5, titled “The plant component of an Acheulian diet: a case study from Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, Israel”, Prof. Goren-Inbar reveals the discovery of the ancient macrobotanical remains, which for the first time indicate to the rich variety of plant assortments and subsistence opportunities that were available to the early humans on the transition from an African-based to a Eurasian diet.
“In recent years we were met with a golden opportunity to reveal numerous remains of fruits, nuts and seeds from trees, shrubs and the lake, alongside the remains of animals and man-made stone tools in one locality,” Prof. Goren-Inbar said.
Of the remains found on site, Prof. Goren-Inbar and Dr. Yoel Melamed of the Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar Ilan University have identified 55 species of edible plants, including seeds, fruits, nuts, leaves, stems, roots and tubers.

The findings, many of them minor in size, have been preserved for hundreds of thousands of years thanks to the damp conditions in the vicinity of the site, said Dr. Melamed. The basalts under and in the site were dated by Ar/Ar and the dates were further confirmed by results of paleomagnetic analyses.
“This region is known for the wealth of plants, but what surprised us were the sources of plant food coming from the lake. We found more than 10 species that existed here in prehistoric times but no longer today, such as two types of water nuts, from which seven were edible,” explained Dr. Melamed.

The site was submerged under the Jordan River and the Hula Lake in conditions of humidity and lack of oxygen, aided by the fast covering of layers of sediments, in which archaeologists also found stone tools and animal fossils.
Gesher Benot Ya’aqov is also the place where Prof. Goren-Inbar found the earliest evidence of the use of fire in Eurasia (LINK). “The use of fire is very important because a lot of the plants are toxic or inedible. Using fire, like roasting nuts and roots for example, allows the use of various parts of the plant and increases the diversity of the plant component of the Acheulian diet, alongside aquatic and terrestrial fauna,” said Prof. Goren-Inbar.
The use of fire and the availability of a diverse range of flora highlight the ability of prehistoric man to adjust to a new environment, to exploit the environment for his own benefit and to colonize beyond Africa.
Article Source: Hebrew University press release.

 

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Original Article:

Livescience.com

By Laura  Geggel

 

A previously overlooked inky inscription on a pottery shard found in Israel calls for the delivery of more wine, according to a new study, showing that not much has changed in 2,600 years for humanity, at least when it comes to wetting our whistles.

The pottery fragment — called an ostracon, or an ink-inscribed shard — was found in 1965 at the desert fortress of Arad in Israel. The shard was in poor condition, but researchers were able to date it to around 600 B.C., right before Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, destroyed the kingdom of Judah.

After discovering the shard, researchers noticed an ink inscription on its front, which begins with a blessing of Yahweh (a Hebrew name for God), then describes money transfers. Biblical scholars and archaeologists have extensively studied this inscription, so researchers were taken aback when they found the overlooked message on the ostracon’s backside.

While its front side has been thoroughly studied, its back was considered blank,” study co-principal investigator Arie Shaus, a doctoral student of applied mathematics and archaeology at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel, said in a statement.

Revealing hidden text
The research team used multispectral imaging, a technique that uses different frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum to capture data from an image. Study co-researcher Michael Cordonsky, a physicist at TAU, noticed the scribbled note on the ostracon’s backside.

“To our surprise, three new lines of text were revealed.” Shaus said.

Using the results from the multispectral imaging, the team deciphered 50 characters making up 17 words on the back of the shard, which had been on display at the Israel Museum for more than 50 years.

“The content of the reverse side implies it is a continuation of the text on the front side,” study co-principal investigator Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin, a doctoral student of applied mathematics at TAU, said in the statement.

Send wine
The newly discovered and translated inscription says, “If there is any wine, send … If there is any-thing (else) you need, send (= write me about it). And if there is still … gi[ve] them (an amount of) Xar out of it. And Ge’alyahu has taken a bat of sparkling (?) wine.”

“The new inscription begins with a request for wine, as well as a guarantee for assistance if the addressee has any requests of his own,” Shaus said. “It concludes with a request for the provision of a certain commodity to an unnamed person, and a note regarding a ‘bath,’ an ancient measurement of wine, carried by a man named Ge’alyahu.”

The note is “an administrative text, like most of the Arad inscriptions,” study co-researcher Anat Mendel-Geberovich, an archaeologist at TAU, said in the statement. “Its importance lies in the fact that each new line, word and even a single sign is a precious addition to what we know about the First Temple period.”

As for who the request was being made to, Mendel-Geberovich said that “many of these inscriptions are addressed to Elyashiv, the quartermaster of the fortress.”

The finding shows the power of multispectral imaging, especially its use on artifacts that have already been studied, but might have had overlooked components, the researchers said.

“This is ongoing research,” study co-researcher Barak Sober, a doctoral student of applied mathematics at TAU, said in the statement. “The future may hold additional surprises.”

The study was published online June 14 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Original article on Live Science.

 

 

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The Sima del Elefante site. Image: University of York

Original article:

New research conducted by scientists at the University of York and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona reveals for the first time that Europe’s earliest humans did not use fire for cooking, but had a balanced diet of meat and plants – all eaten raw.

Studying dental plaque from a 1.2 million year old hominin (early human species), recovered by the Atapuerca Research Team in 2007 in Sima del Elefante in northern Spain, archaeologists extracted microfossils to find the earliest direct evidence of food eaten by early humans.

These microfossils included traces of raw animal tissue, uncooked starch granules indicating consumption of grasses, pollen grains from a species of pine, insect fragments and a possible fragment of a toothpick.

All detected fibres were uncharred, and there was also no evidence showing inhalation of microcharcoal – normally a clear indicator of proximity to fire.

Fiery debate

The timing of the earliest use of fire for cooking is hotly contested, with some researchers arguing habitual use started around 1.8 million years ago while others suggest it was as late as 300,000-400,000 years ago.

Possible evidence for fire has been found at some very early sites in Africa. However, the lack of evidence for fire at Sima del Elefante suggests that this knowledge was not carried with the earliest humans when they left Africa.

The earliest definitive evidence in Europe for use of fire is 800,000 years ago at the Spanish site of Cueva Negra, and at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, Israel, a short time later.

Taken together, this evidence suggests the development of fire technology occurred at some point between 800,000 and 1.2 million years ago, revealing a new timeline for when the earliest humans started to cook food.

Diet implications

Dr Karen Hardy, lead author and Honorary Research Associate at the University of York and ICREA Research Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, said: “Obtaining evidence for any aspect of hominin life at this extremely early date is very challenging. Here, we have been able to demonstrate that these earliest Europeans understood and exploited their forested environment to obtain a balanced diet 1.2 million years ago, by eating a range of different foods and combining starchy plant food with meat.

“This new timeline has significant implications in helping us to understand this period of human evolution – cooked food provides greater energy, and cooking may be linked to the rapid increases in brain size that occurred from 800,000 years ago onwards.

“It also correlates well with previous research hypothesising that the timing of cooking is linked to the development of salivary amylase, needed to process cooked starchy food. Starchy food was an essential element in facilitating brain development, and contrary to popular belief about the ‘Paleodiet’, the role of starchy food in the Palaeolithic diet was significant.”

Dr Anita Radini, PhD student at the University of York said: “These results are very exciting, as they highlight the potential of dental calculus to store dietary and environmental information from deep in the human evolutionary past. It is also interesting to see that pollen remains are preserved often in better conditions than in the soil of the same age. Overall this is a very positive step in the discipline, in terms of preservation of material in the calculus matrix.”

Diet and environment 1.2 million years ago revealed through analysis of dental calculus from Europe’s oldest hominin at Sima del Elefante, Spain is published in Naturwissenschaften. To read, visit: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00114-016-1420-x

 

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A large and impressive winery dating to the Roman or Byzantine period with a pressing surface paved with a white mosaic was uncovered at the site which served the residents of a large manor house who engaged in wine production.

Alex Wiegmann, excavation director, views winepress uncovered in Schneller Compound

Alex Wiegmann, excavation director, views winepress uncovered in Schneller Compound

Terra cotta pipes indicate the existence of an ancient bathhouse

Terra cotta pipes indicate the existence of an ancient bathhouse

Original Article :

mfa.gov.il

 

A large and impressive winery dating to the Roman or Byzantine period with a pressing surface paved with a white mosaic was uncovered at the site which served the residents of a large manor house who engaged in wine production.

Unexpected finds more than 1,600 years old were uncovered during archaeological excavations financed by the Merom Yerushalayim Company, which the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in Schneller Compound prior to the construction of residential buildings for Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox population.

Schneller Orphanage operated in Jerusalem from 1860 until the Second World War. During the British Mandate, its German inhabitants were expelled and a military base was established there. After the British withdrawal in 1948 the compound was turned over to the Hagana and later served as an army base used by the Israel Defense Force until 2008.

Interesting and assorted finds from Jerusalem’s past were discovered in the archaeological excavation, most notably a large and impressive winery dating to the Roman or Byzantine period, some 1,600 years ago. The complex installation includes a pressing surface paved with a white mosaic. In the center of it is a pit in which a press screw was anchored that aided in extracting the maximum amount of must from the grapes. Eight cells were installed around the pressing surface. These were used for storing the grapes, and possibly also for blending the must with other ingredients thereby producing different flavors of wine. The archaeologists believe that this winery served the residents of a large manor house whose inhabitants made their living by, among other things, viticulture and wine production.

Evidence was unearthed next to the impressive winepress which indicates the presence of a bathhouse there. These finds included terra cotta pipes used to heat the bathhouse and several clay bricks, some of which were stamped with the name of the Tenth Roman Legion. This legion was one of four Roman legions that participated in the conquest of Jewish Jerusalem, and its units remained garrisoned in the city until c. 300 CE. Among the Roman legion’s main centers was the one in the vicinity of Binyanei Ha-Uma, located just c. 800 meters from the current excavation, where a large pottery and brick production center was situated. The archaeologists suggest that the Schneller site, in the form of a manor house, constituted an auxiliary settlement to the main site that was previously exposed at Binyanei Ha-Uma. As was customary in the Roman world, here too in the Schneller Compound, a private bathhouse was incorporated in the plan of the estate.

The current archeological exposure is actually a continuation of the salvage excavations that were carried out at the site half a year ago when evidence was uncovered there of a Jewish settlement that dated to the Late Second Temple period.

According to archaeologist Alex Wiegmann, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Once again, Jerusalem demonstrates that wherever one turns over a stone ancient artifacts will be found related to the city’s glorious past. The archaeological finds discovered here help paint a living, vibrant and dynamic picture of Jerusalem as it was in ancient times up until the modern era.”

According to Amit Re’em, the Jerusalem district archaeologist, “This is an excellent example of many years of cooperation and deep and close ties with the Haredi community. The general public is used to hearing of the clashes between the archaeologists and the orthodox community around the issue of the graves, but is unaware of the joint work done on a daily basis and the interest expressed by the ultra-orthodox sector. The Israel Antiquities Authority is working to instill our ancient cultural heritage in this population, as it does with other sectors.”

(Israel Antiquities Authority)

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