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Plant particles found during the excavation of this Neolithic cemetery in Nubia (Sudan) turned out to be traces of domestic cereals when analysed in a lab. copyright: D. Usai/ S. Salvatori

A research team successfully identified ancient barley and wheat residues in grave goods and on teeth from two Neolithic cemeteries in Central Sudan and Nubia, showing that humans in Africa were already exploited domestic cereals 7,000 years ago and thus five hundred years earlier than previously known.

The results of the analyses were recently published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

Barley and wheat crops

Dr. Welmoed Out from Kiel University said, “With our results we can verify that people along the Nile did not only exploit gathered wild plants and animals but had crops of barley and wheat.”

These types of crops were first cultivated in the Middle East about 10,500 years ago and spread out from there to Central and South Asia as well as to Europe and North Africa – the latter faster than expected.

The diversity of the diet was much greater than previously assumed,” states Out and adds: “Moreover, the fact that grains were placed in the graves of the deceased implies that they had a special, symbolic meaning.”

The research team, coordinated by Welmoed Out and the environmental archaeologist Marco Madella from Barcelona, implemented, among other things, a special high-quality light microscope as well as radiocarbon analyses for age determination. Hereby, they were supported by the fact that mineral plant particles, so-called phytoliths, survive very long, even when other plant remains are no longer discernible. In addition, the millennia-old teeth, in particular adherent calculus, provide evidence on the diet of these prehistoric humans due to the starch granules and phytoliths contained therein.



One of the graves at the Neolithic cemetery in Nubia (Sudan), containing a skeleton and plant material deposited behind the skull (white area at the left picture margin). Copyright: D. Usai/ S. Salvatori

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Past horizons



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Topic:Water

(Phys.org) —Researchers have solved the riddle of how one of Africa’s greatest civilisations survived a catastrophic drought which wiped out other famous dynasties. Geomorphologists and dating specialists from The Universities of Aberystwyth, Manchester, and Adelaide say that it was the River Nile which made life viable for the renowned Kerma kingdom, in what is now northern Sudan.

Kerma was the first Bronze Age kingdom in Africa outside Egypt.

Their analysis of three ancient river channels where the Nile once flowed shows, for the first time, that its floods weren’t too low or too high to sustain life between 2,500 BC and 1,500 BC, when Kerma flourished and was a major rival to its more famous neighbour downstream.

They also show that the thousand year civilisation came to end when the Nile’s flood levels were not high enough and a major channel system dried out – though an invasion by resurgent Egyptians was the final cause of Kerma’s demise.

Downstream in Egypt, a catastrophic 30 year drought 4,200 years ago, which produced low Nile floods, created chaos in the old kingdom for at least a century.

Other civilisations in the near east and Mesopotamia were also severely hit by this drought.

The team’s findings, funded by the Sudan Archaeological Research Society (SARS) and the Australian Research Council, are published in the journal Geology.

Professor Mark Macklin from The University of Aberystwyth said: “This work is the most comprehensive and robustly dated archaeological and palaeoenvironmental dataset yet compiled for the desert Nile.

“The relationship between climate change and the development of Old World riverine civilizations is poorly understood because inadequate dating control has hindered effective integration of archaeological, fluvial, and climate records.”

Professor Jamie Woodward from The University of Manchester said: “In Nubia four thousand years ago the Kerma people farmed what we might call the Goldilocks Nile: its floods were just large enough to support floodwater farming, but not so big as to cause damage to the riverside settlements.

“It’s quite remarkable that the Kerma civilization was able to flourish, produce amazing craftsmanship and wealth, at a time when their Egyptian rivals to the North were struggling with environmental, social, and political strife.

“Until now we didn’t understand why that was – but thanks to our field work in Sudan, this riddle has now been solved.”

The team used cutting edge geological dating methods to analyse the dried up channels, now 20 km from the today’s river course. It is the first time individual flood events on the desert Nile have been dated.

Using hundreds of deep irrigation pits dug by modern Sudanese farmers, Macklin and Woodward were able to observe the geological history of the old channels. In places, these old channel belts are well preserved at the modern land surface. They are between 1 and 3 km wide with Kerma sites on their margins.

According to Derek Welsby from the British Museum who led the archaeological survey, Kerma’s wealth and power may have been underpinned by its agriculturally-rich hinterland utilising the banks of the ancient channels.

Archaeological surveys of the floodplain in the Dongola Reach to the south of Kerma have discovered more than 450 sites spanning the Neolithic (pre–3500 B.C.) to the Medieval Christian period (A.D. 500–1500). Many sites are associated with the Nile’s ancient channels.

He said: “Kerma’s success was also down to their reliance on animal husbandry practices that are less susceptible to changes in flood level, more mobile, and better able to cope with environmental stress.

“They were a truly remarkable civilisation, producing some of the most exquisite pottery in the Nile Valley.”

The paper is titled “Reach-scale river dynamics moderate the impact of rapid Holocene climate change on floodwater farming in the desert Nile.”

Original article:
Phys.org

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Topic:  Good to drink( I prefer Wine myself) it seems Beer is good for you too!!

Green fluorescence in Nubian skeletons indicated tetracycline-labeled bone, the first clue that the ancients were producing the antibiotic

 

 

A chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Nubians showed they were regularly consuming tetracycline, most likely in their beer.Emory anthropologist George Armelagos and medicinal chemist Mark Nelson of Paratek Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

The finding is the strongest evidence yet that the art of making antibiotics, which officially dates to the discovery of penicillin in 1928, was common practice nearly 2,000 years ago.

The research, led by

“We tend to associate drugs that cure diseases with modern medicine,” Armelagos says. “But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this prehistoric population was using empirical evidence to develop therapeutic agents. I have no doubt that they knew what they were doing.”

Armelagos is a bioarcheologist and an expert on prehistoric diets.

In 1980, he discovered what appeared to be traces of tetracycline in human bones from Nubia dated between A.D. 350 and 550. The ancient Nubian kingdom was located in present-day Sudan, south of ancient Egypt.

Armelagos and his fellow researchers later tied the source of the antibiotic to the Nubian beer. The grain used to make the fermented gruel contained the soil bacteria streptomyces, which produces tetracycline.

A key question was whether only occasional batches of the ancient beer contained tetracycline, which would indicate accidental contamination with the bacteria.

Nelson, a leading expert in tetracycline and other antibiotics, became interested in the project after hearing Armelagos speak at a conference.

“I told him to send me some mummy bones, because I had the tools and the expertise to extract the tetracycline,” Nelson says. “It’s a nasty and dangerous process. I had to dissolve the bones in hydrogen fluoride, the most dangerous acid on the planet.”

The results stunned Nelson.

“The bones of these ancient people were saturated with tetracycline, showing that they had been taking it for a long time,” he says. “I’m convinced that they had the science of fermentation under control and were purposely producing the drug.”

The first of the modern day tetracyclines was discovered in 1948. It was given the name auereomycin, after the Latin word “aerous,” which means containing gold.

“Streptomyces produce a golden colony of bacteria, and if it was floating on a batch of beer, it must have look pretty impressive to ancient people who revered gold,” Nelson theorizes.

The ancient Egyptians and Jordanians used beer to treat gum disease and other ailments, Armelagos says, adding that the complex art of fermenting antibiotics was probably widespread in ancient times, and handed down through generations.

The chemical confirmation of tetracycline in ancient bones is not the end of the story for Armelagos. He remains enthused after more than three decades on the project.

“This opens up a whole new area of research,” he says. “Now we’re going to compare the amount of tetracycline in the bones, and bone formation over time, to determine the dosage that the ancient Nubians were getting.”

Source: Emory Univ. 

Original article: 

laboratoryequipment.com
09/01/2010

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