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A new study describes the earliest-known use of nutmeg as a food ingredient, found at an archaeological site in Indonesia.

Source: 3,500-year-old pumpkin spice? Archaeologists find the earliest use of nutmeg as a food

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Analysis of fatty residue in pottery from the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia revealed evidence of fermented dairy products — soft cheeses and yogurts — from about 7,200 years ago, according to an international team of researchers.

Source: Evidence of 7,200-year-old cheese making found on the Dalmatian Coast

the above article is similar to the post yesterday but I thought it worthwhile to give everyone both to read. JLP

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The dig site where the traces of cheese were found

 

original article:

By Kenneth Macdonald

BBC.com

Scientists have found traces of what they believe is the world’s oldest cheese.

It was made 7,000 years ago in what is now Croatia.

An international team, including Heriot-Watt university researchers, say it led to the transformation of Europe.

It is neither a sturdy cheddar nor a cheeky brie, rather some traces of fatty acids found on fragments of pottery from an archaeological site at Pokrovnik on the Dalmatian coast.

But it is enough for the researchers from Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh and Pennsylvania State universities, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Šibenik City Museum to conclude the sieve-like pottery objects were used for straining curds out of whey to make cheese.

Traces of ancient milk fats have been found before but the new study has used carbon dating to produce a definitive chemical diagnosis that the Pokrovnik samples are from the cheese making process.

The team says their discovery means humans were making cheese 2,000 years earlier than previously thought, pushing the date back from the Bronze Age to the Neolithic era.

Cheese making was a breakthrough technology which transformed humanity.

More portable and longer lasting than liquid milk, it enabled early farming to spread into cooler central and northern areas.

Dr Clayton Magill, a research fellow at the Heriot-Watt’s Lyell Centre, says the discovery is both astounding and delightful.

‘Reduced infant mortality’

He is sure cheese lovers everywhere will be interested to find out more about the origins and antiquity of their cheese.

“We know that the consumption of milk and dairy products would have had many advantages for early farming populations because milk, yogurt and cheese are a good source of calories, protein and fat,” Dr Magill said.

“They could have even been reliable food between harvests or during droughts and famines.”

Previous archaeological finds have offered tantalising clues that humans made cheese in the New Stone Age.

Some Neolithic objects have been tentatively identified as strainers or cheese graters but this is the first direct evidence that milk was being fermented.

Pennsylvania State’s associate professor of anthropology Dr Sarah McClure says that while young children of the era could drink milk, many adult farmers were lactose intolerant.

Cheese changed that because adults could digest it.

“We suggest that milk and cheese production among Europe’s early farmers reduced infant mortality,” Dr McClure says, “and helped stimulate demographic shifts that propelled farming communities to expand to northern latitudes.”

How cheese was first produced is lost in prehistory. One theory is that before pottery vessels were developed, milk was stored in bladders made from animals’ stomachs. The rennet in the skins would have reacted with the milk to create curds and whey.

 

 

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Source: The Neolithic PalatePrint

Europe’s historical hunger for tasty food—spices, specifically—helped drive the Age of Exploration. When did flavorful food become so important that it would eventually change the course of human history? It is difficult to say because plant remains rarely last, and it can be a fool’s errand to speculate how they were used thousands of years ago. Now, however, in 6,000-year-old pottery from Denmark and Germany, a team of researchers has found phytoliths, small bits of silica that form in the tissues of some plants, from garlic mustard seeds, which carry strong, peppery flavor but little nutritional value.

Because they were found alongside residues of meat and fish, the seed remnants represent the earliest known direct evidence of spicing in European cuisine. According to researcher Hayley Saul of the University of York, “It certainly contributes important information about the prehistoric roots of this practice, which eventually culminated in globally significant processes and events.”

 

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The limestone sinkers, each weighing between 14 to 52 grammes, would have been tied to the bottom of nets and used to catch small fish such as minnows in shallow streams

 

Original Article:

Phys.org

 

Archaeologists excavating a cave in South Korea have found evidence that suggests human beings were using sophisticated techniques to catch fish as far back as 29,000 years ago, much earlier than experts previously thought.

Carbon dating procedures on the fourteen limestone sinkers, unearthed in the eastern county of Jeongseon in June, have pushed back “the history of fishing by nets by some 19,000 years”, Yonsei University Museum director Han Chang-gyun told AFP.

Previously, researchers had excavated sinkers—stones used to weigh down nets for catching fish—in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture and South Korea’s Cheongju city, but those discoveries were all dated back to the Neolithic Era and believed to be around 10,000 years old, Han said.

“This discovery suggests humans in the Upper Paleolithic era were actively catching fish for their diet”, he added.

The limestone sinkers, each weighing between 14 to 52 grammes and with a diameter of 37 to 56 millimetres, had grooves carved into them so they could be tied to the bottom of nets and used to catch small fish such as minnows in shallow streams, he said.

Researchers also found fossilized bones belonging to fish and other animals, as well as stone tools and flakes, inside the Maedun cave, he said.

Prior to the South Korean find, the oldest fishing implements were believed to be fishing hooks, made from the shells of sea snails, that were found on a southern Japanese island and said to date back some 23,000 years.

pastedGraphic.png Explore further: Ancient fish hooks found on Okinawa suggest earlier maritime migration than thought

 

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Archaeologists have discovered seeds for the brewing of beer

 

Original Article:

tornosnews.gr

Ancient Greeks may be known for their love of wine, but it seems they also had an affinity to beer, according to a study by the Aristotle University of the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Two Bronze Age brewers that were recently unearthed prove that Greeks would brew beer on a regular basis 4,000 years ago.

Archaeologists from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki located several archaeobotanical remains of a cereal that could have been used in beer brewing. Similar remains found in the Archontiko area in the island of Corfu were also discovered in Argissa in Zakynthos.

At Archontiko, archaeologists found about 100 individual cereal seeds dating back to the early Bronze Age from 2100 to 2000 BC. In Argissa, they found about 3,500 cereal seeds going back to the Bronze Age, approximately from 2100 to 1700 BC.

Moreover, archaeologists discovered a two-room structure that seems to have been carefully constructed to maintain low temperatures in the Archontiko area, suggesting it was used to process the cereals for beer under the right conditions.

This discovery is the earliest known evidence of beer consumption in Greece, but not in the planet.

One of the oldest beverages humans have produced

Beer is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to at least the 5th millennium BC in Iran, and was recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and spread throughout the world.

As almost any cereal containing certain sugars can undergo spontaneous fermentation due to wild yeasts in the air, it is possible that beer-like beverages were independently developed throughout the world soon after a tribe or culture had domesticated cereal. Chemical tests of ancient pottery jars reveal that beer was produced as far back as about 7,000 years ago in what is today Iran. This discovery reveals one of the earliest known uses of fermentation and is the earliest evidence of brewing to date. In Mesopotamia, the oldest evidence of beer is believed to be a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet depicting people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl. A 3900-year-old Sumerian poem honouring Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing, contains the oldest surviving beer recipe, describing the production of beer from barley via bread. In China, residue on pottery dating from between 5400 and 4900 years ago shows beer was brewed using barley and other grains.

The invention of bread and beer has been argued to be responsible for humanity’s ability to develop technology and build civilization.The earliest chemically confirmed barley beer to date was discovered at Godin Tepe in the central Zagros Mountains of Iran, where fragments of a jug, from between 5400 and 5000 years ago was found to be coated with beerstone, a by-product of the brewing process.

Beer may have been known in Neolithic Europe as far back as 5,000 years ago, and was mainly brewed on a domestic scale.

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Original Article:

Szymon Zdziebłowski 

Scienceinpoland.pap.pl

 

The development of agriculture in Europe not only revolutionised food acquisition, but also brought changes in the light sources our ancestors used, says archaeologist Dr. Krzysztof Tunia.

In the area of present-day Poland, until about the 5th millennium BC, to light up the darkness people used light from bonfires and probably torches in the form of wooden fins. Lighting changed with the knowledge of agriculture and farming coming from the Middle East to Europe.

Why did this happen? “Along with the more advanced farming system, the capability to manufacture a variety of ceramic vessels appeared. During excavations in Poland territory – mainly on the Baltic coast – we find not only kitchen forms, but also items that had a different function. They were probably simple lamps” – explains archaeologist from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology PAS Dr. Krzysztof Tunia. He refers to items in the form of shallow “baths” or “boats”. He adds that their main part was a container for flammable substance. The light was obtained by igniting a submerged plant wick.

According to the scientist, the “brightest” area in the late Mesolith and early Neolithic was the Baltic Sea zone, including the northern part of present Poland, where archaeologists find many vessels that served as lamps. The deeper inland you go on the European continent, the less light sources are found. Inland, in his opinion, was dominated by torches. These are usually not preserved to our times and archaeologists do not encounter them during excavations.

Some ceramic lamps used in Central Europe were probably suspended with strings, as their appearance indicates. These objects are cubes with a few centimetres long edges, with a depression in the middle and four holes in the corners. Other lamps were made in the form of figures of bulls, also with a recess on the back and with holes.

“These objects come from areas south of the Carpathians, but perhaps they will be also found in Poland” – says Dr. Tunia.

He adds that so far very few ceramic forms have been discovered in southern Poland, in the shape of double-cone, small vessels with holes for hanging. It can not be ruled out that they were used as lamps, Dr. Tunia believes.

“The main problem was access to flammable substances. Only by the sea there was a sufficiently large amount of available raw material for the production of combustible material used in lamps – it was the fat obtained from marine animals”. The farther south of the Baltic coast, the more common torches were. “I think that torches were not wrapped or smeared with anything, people used the natural resins in the wood material” – said Dr. Tunia.

Archaeologists, like detectives, find indirect evidence for the use of torches in prehistory. For example, during the excavations at a striped flint mine in Krzemionki Opatowskie that was active already in the Neolithic period, they found charcoal – most likely the remains of torches or fires burned there. The first possibility is more likely, because a bonfire would consume too much oxygen miners needed to breathe. Fires were burned near the bottoms of vertical shafts, where torches necessary to illuminate the darkness in the shaft would be lit up – archaeologists believe.

Lines made with charcoal, visible on mine walls, are also considered evidence of the use of torches. Dr Tunia thinks these are traces of charred tips being removed by rubbing the torch against the wall to create a larger flame.

According to the archaeologist, starting from the Neolithic period one can gradually see the desire to light up the darkness among the inhabitants of Europe, but their life was still regulated by the natural rhythm of day and night. Lighting was usually needed in places the sunlight never reached – in the mines, caves or … huts. In households, hearths and fires were being replaced by more advanced clay furnaces. They generated less smoke, they kept warm longer, but they were bad sources of light.

“The darkness was deeper still because those houses did not have many openings. It seems that the main function of a hut was to provide shelter and heat for its inhabitants, and the aspect of interior lighting – especially through openings in the walls, windows and doors – was secondary. In any case, valuable heat would escape through these holes” – says Tunia. Artificial light, even to a limited extent, was needed at any time of the day, for example to prepare a meal.

Only the outlines of prehistoric houses and their foundations or underground parts survive to our times. Reconstructing them is very difficult. It most often is based on ethnographic analogies. “And here we often see that in communities still living outside the mainstream of civilization, the huts are dark, without window openings, smoky, but providing shelter and warmth. I had the opportunity to see such houses in Andean communities” – adds the archaeologist.

According to Dr. Tunia, specialized analyses of possible ceramic lamps could bring advances in research on prehistoric lighting. “They have not been analysed so far, so it will be the next step to understanding an important aspect of our ancestors` lives” – the scientist concludes.

PAP – Science in Poland

 

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