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Posts Tagged ‘Middle Ages’

 

This is a market stall in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar (Xinjiang, China) in 2003.
Credit: Photo by Michael Frachetti

Original article:

Eurekalert.org

 

27-Mar-2018

Washington University in St. Louis

Like passionate foodies who know the best places to eat in every town, Silk Road nomads may have been the gastronomic elites of the Medieval Ages, enjoying diets much more diverse than their sedentary urban counterparts, suggests a new collaborative study from Washington University in St. Louis, the Institute of Archaeology in Samarkand, Uzbekistan and Kiel University in Germany.

“Historians have long thought that urban centers along the Silk Road were cosmopolitan melting pots where culinary and cultural influences from far off places came together, but our research shows that nomadic communities were probably the real the movers and shakers of food culture,” said Taylor Hermes of Kiel University, lead author of the study forthcoming in Scientific Reports and a 2007 graduate of Washington University.

Based on an isotopic analysis of human bones exhumed from ancient cemeteries across Central Asia, the study suggests that nomadic groups drew sustenance from a diverse smorgasbord of foods, whereas urban communities seemed stuck with a much more limited and perhaps monotonous menu — a diet often heavy in locally produced cereal grains.

“The ‘Silk Road’ has been generally understood in terms of valuable commodities that moved great distances, but the people themselves were often left out,” Hermes said. “Food patterns are an excellent way to learn about the links between culture and environment, uncovering important human experiences in this great system of connectivity.”

Said Cheryl Makarewicz, an archaeology professor at Kiel and Hermes’ mentor: “Pastoralists are stereotypically understood as clinging to a limited diet comprised of nothing but the meat and milk of their livestock. But, this study clearly demonstrates that Silk Road pastoralists, unlike their more urbane counterparts, accessed all kinds of wild and domesticated foodstuffs that made for a unexpectedly diverse diet.”

“This study provides a unique glimpse into the important ways that nomads cross cut regional settings and likely spread new foods and even cuisine along the Silk Roads, more than a thousand years ago,” said study co-author Michael Frachetti, associate professor of anthropology at Washington University.

“More specifically, this study illustrates the nuanced condition of localism and globalism that defined urban centers of the time, while highlighting the capacity of more mobile communities — such as nomadic herders — to be the essential fiber that fueled social networks and vectors of cultural changes,” Frachetti said.

For this study, human bones exhumed at archaeological digs in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan were transported to Kiel University in Germany, where they were analyzed by Hermes. To be thorough, he also collected previously published isotopic data for the time period to bring together a complete regional picture.

“Prior to this study, there were massive gaps in what we knew about human dietary diversity along the Silk Roads,” Hermes said. “The datasets were simply not there. We were able to greatly increase the geographical coverage, especially by adding samples from Uzbekistan, where many of the important routes and population centers were located.”

The study draws upon field work and museum collections as part of a longstanding scientific partnership between Washington University and the Institute of Archaeology in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

The study’s assessment of individual dietary regimens is made possible by studying the isotopic signatures in ancient human bones, allowing the researchers to unlock a trove of information about the food sources, including the proportions and types of plants and animals consumed by individuals over the last decades of life.

Stable isotope analysis is the “gold standard” for tracing ancient diets. Makarewicz, a specialist in the technique, has applied it to understanding major evolutionary transitions from hunting and gathering to agriculture in the Near East. She is starting a new interdisciplinary ERC research project exploring the spread of herding across Eurasia.

Other co-authors include Elissa Bullion, a doctoral student in anthropology at Washington University and two researchers from the Uzbek partnership: Farhod Maksudov and Samariddin Mustafokulov.

Hermes, who has worked with Frachetti on archaeological digs across Central Asia for more than a decade, used these isotopic analysis techniques on human bones recovered from about a dozen nomadic and urban burial sites dating from the 2nd to 13th centuries A.D.

The burial sites were associated with a wide range of communities, climates and geographic locations, including a recently discovered settlement high in the mountains of Uzbekistan, the Otrar Oasis in Kazakhstan and an urban complex on the lowland plains of Turkmenistan.

While previous archaeological excavations at these sites have confirmed the ancient presence of domesticated crop plants and herd animals, their importance in urban diets was unknown. Isotopic analysis, however, shows how important these foods were over the long-term.

“The advantage of studying human bones is that these tissues reflect multi-year dietary habits of an individual,” Hermes said. “By measuring carbon isotope ratios, we can estimate the percentage of someone’s diet that came from specific categories of plants, such as wheat and barley or millet. Millets have a very distinctive carbon isotope signature, and differing ratios of nitrogen isotopes tell us about whether someone ate a mostly plant-based diet or consumed foods from higher up on the food chain, such as meat and milk from sheep or goats.”

This study discovered interesting dietary differences between urban settlements along the Silk Road, but surprisingly little dietary diversity among individuals living within these communities. Perhaps driven by the limits of local environments, food production networks or cultural mandates, most people within each urban setting had similar diets.

Diets of individual nomads within the same community were found to be much more diverse. These differences, perhaps a function of variable lifetime mobility patterns, the availability of wild or domesticated food options or personal preferences, suggest that nomadic groups were not as bound by cultural limitations that may have been imposed on urban dwellers, Hermes said.

“Nomads and urbanites had different dietary niches, and this reflects a combination of environment and cultural choices that influenced diet across the Silk Roads,” Hermes said. “While many historians may have assumed that interactions along the Silk Road would have led to the homogenization of culinary practices, our study shows that this was not the case, especially for urban dwellers.”

For now, Hermes, Frachetti, Makarewicz and their collaborators in Samarkand look forward to applying these isotopic techniques to new archaeological mysteries across Central Asia.

“We hope our results lead to a paradigm shift in how historical phenomena can be examined through the very people who made these cultural systems possible,” Hermes said. “The results here are exciting, and while not the final word by any means, pave a new way forward in applying scientific methods to the ancient world.”

“For close to 10 years our academic collaboration has yielded fascinating new discoveries in archaeology and has also fostered new international partnerships, such as the one spearheaded by Taylor Hermes, to carry out archaeological science at Kiel,” Frachetti said. “This international approach is what enables us all — as a team — to maximize the scientific potential of our collaborative fieldwork and laboratory studies in Uzbekistan for the advancement of historical and environmental knowledge more globally.”

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Edible gold, which was first used as a food ingredient by the ancient Egyptians, is now seen as a sign of wealth.

Original article:

Dailysabah.com

İKLIM ARSIYA
ISTANBUL
Published November 29, 2017

 

The obsession with edible gold is taking the luxury cuisine world by storm, as flavorless, odorless, nontoxic, edible gold is used as a garnish for desserts, cocktails and even main courses such as hamburgers and sushi
While coating your food with gold may seem like a modern, innovative delicacy, the technique isn’t a new gastronomical trend but has been around for many centuries. According to gold leaf producer Manetti, edible gold dates back to ancient times; in Europe, the product was used for decorating dishes in the Middle Ages. Historically, the Elizabethan English embellished their meals with pure gold leaf. Gold dust tea has also been traditional for centuries in Kanazawa, Japan, which is well regarded for its production of gold leaf.
Ever since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs, gold has been considered to be the only way to win the favor of the Gods. In ancient Egypt, gold leaf was used to decorate the tombs of pharaohs, as well as sarcophagi. The first use of gold has been traced to Alexandria, Egypt, over 5,000 years ago. The Egyptians were the first to use gold as a precious metal, and they made the first iterations of what we today consider jewelry. The Egyptians also consumed gold for the mental, bodily and spiritual purification that was associated with it. The alchemists of Alexandria developed an elixir made of liquid gold that they believed was capable of rejuvenating, restoring youth and ridding the body of all earthly diseases. It is thought that Cleopatra slept in a pure gold facemask every night as a means to enhance her bewitching beauty.
Although some people are still skeptical about the consumption of gold and see it purely as a way of feeding the ego, there are neither side effects nor benefits from eating the thinned out invaluable metal. Gold is considered biologically inert, meaning it passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed into the body. This means you can eat your fill of 24-karat gold, whether in the form of leaf, flake, dust or petal, without falling ill.
Mundane meals with a hint of gold
Whether it be a glimmer of gold on a piece of chocolate cake or a stunning metallic hint on a truffle, edible gold is commonly seen as a decorative element for a luxury loving sweet tooth. However, finding that edible gold is used in meals as mundane as a hamburger or a pizza has certainly led to both doubts and curiosity. Many restaurants, likely for publicity, have created a dish of newsworthy expense featuring gold. In 2012, a New York City food truck sold a $666 “douche burger” that wrapped truffles, lobster, caviar and a beef patty inside six sheets of gold leaf. Margo’s Pizzeria on the Mediterranean island of Malta sells a pizza for nearly $2,000 that has 100 grams of white truffle and edible gold.
The most extravagant dessert In NYC
The gilded ingredient has provided a helping hand in elevating the status of one New York-based restaurant, Serendipity 3, after it received a number of Guinness World Records for its gold infused dishes. During its history, Serendipity 3 has been known for creating the world’s most expensive dessert: A $25,000 ice cream sundae containing edible 23-karat gold and 28 cocoas, called “Frozen Haute Chocolate.” The sundae, created in 2007, overtook the restaurant’s previous record for the “most expensive dessert:” Their “Golden Opulence Sundae,” which they still sell for $1,000. According to the restaurant’s founder and owner, Stephen Bruce, “Everything looks better covered in gold,” with the restaurant beginning its relationship with the ingredient in 2004.
Nestle stepping up the gameSimilarly, a limited edition golden Kit Kat was produced in Australia and sold for AU$88 to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Inside the Kit Kat bar there were Phoenix Oolong tea leaves from Guangdong Province in China, combined with lychee and rose petals. The bar was then wrapped in a 24-karat gold leaf and topped with whole rosebuds and rose jelly.
A delicacy fit for a sultanWhen you think of the Ottoman Empire, luxury and history come to mind. It’s no surprise to have some of the finest edible gold desserts served in the ornate, former Ottoman palace overlooking the Bosporus, the Çırağan Palace Kempinski. The Sultan’s Golden Cake is available in the Çırağan Palace Kempinski Hotel located in Istanbul, for the hefty price of $1,000 and is made of figs, pears, apricot and quince that are put into a Jamaican Rum and soaked for two years. To finish, the cake is topped with French Polynesia vanilla bean, caramel, black truffles and a 24-karat gold leaf. It is said that the cake takes about 72 hours to make, and once it is ready to be served, it is placed inside a sterling silver cake box with a golden seal. However, the cake is usually only made per request: Usually for a wedding, celebration, or for a sultan himself.

 

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Original Article:

news.com.au

 

Religious dogma in the Middle Ages helped create the modern domestic chicken, research suggests.

Scientists found traits such as reduced aggression, faster egg-laying and an ability to live in close proximity to other birds emerged in chickens in about AD 1000.

Chicken evolution might have been strongly influenced by the impact of Christian beliefs on what people ate.

During the Middle Ages, religious edicts enforced fasting and the exclusion of four-legged animals from menus.

However, the consumption of chickens and eggs was permitted during fasts.

Increasing urbanisation might have helped drive the evolution of modern domesticated chickens, the study, published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, said.

“Ancient DNA allows us to observe how genes have changed in the past, but the problem has always been to get high enough time resolution to link genetic evolution to potential causes,” Oxford University lead researcher Dr Liisa Loog said.

“But with enough data and a novel statistical framework, we now have timings that are precise enough to correlate them with ecological and cultural shifts.”

Chickens were domesticated from Asian jungle fowl around 6000 years ago.

But the new study, which combined DNA data from archaeological chicken bones with statistical modelling, showed some of the most important features of the present-day chicken arose in the high Middle Ages during a time of soaring demand for poultry.

They traced the evolutionary history of more than 70 chickens, looking for changes in the THSR gene that determines levels of aggression.

Natural selection favoured chickens with THSR variants that helped them cope with living close to one another, the study found.

THSR variants also led to faster egg laying and a reduced fear of humans.

A thousand years ago, just 40 per cent of the chickens studied had this gene, which is present in all modern domesticated chickens.

“We tend to think that there were wild animals and then there were domestic animals rather than thinking about the selection pressures on domestic plants and animals that varied through time,” Dr Loog said.

“This study shows how easy it is to turn a trait into something that becomes fixed in an animal in an evolutionary blink of an eye.”

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