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World's oldest domesticated fava seeds found at Ahihud

World’s oldest domesticated fava seeds found at Ahihud

Original Article:

mfa.gov.il

World’s oldest domesticated fava seeds

A study of seeds exposed in archaeological excavations in recent years at Neolithic sites in the Galilee shows that the inhabitants’ diet at the time consisted mainly of fava beans, as well as lentils, various types of peas and chickpeas.

According to researchers of the Weizmann Institute and Israel Antiquities Authority, ancient man living in the Galilee specialized in cultivating legumes in general and fava beans (ful) in particular. “This is an important discovery, enabling a deeper understanding of the agricultural revolution in the southern Near East.”

A joint study by researchers of the Weizmann Institute and the Israel Antiquities Authority, which examined fava seeds exposed in archaeological excavations in recent years at Neolithic sites in the Galilee, sheds light on the nutritional habits of the people that lived in the area 10,000 years ago. Seeds found at the prehistoric sites show that the inhabitants’ diet at the time consisted mainly of fava beans, as well as lentils, various types of peas and chickpeas.

The excavation site at Ahihud Copyright: Yaron Bibas, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority

The excavation site at Ahihud
Copyright: Yaron Bibas, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority

The study was conducted by archaeobotanist Valentina Caracuta, of the Weizmann Institute, together with Dr. Elisabetta Boaretto and Dr. Lior Regev, and in cooperation with archaeologists Dr. Kobi Vardi, Dr. Yitzhak Paz, Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily, Dr. Ianir Milevski and Dr. Omri Barzilai of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The multitude of fava seeds found at the Neolithic sites excavated in the Galilee during the past few years indicates the preference placed on growing fava beans. The dating of the seeds, which was done at the Kimmel Center in the Weizmann Institute, indicated a range of dates between 9,890-10,160 YBP. These well-preserved seeds were found in excavations, inside storage pits (granaries) after they had been husked. The seeds’ dimensions are a uniform size-a datum showing they were methodically cultivated, and were harvested at the same period of time, when the legumes had ripened. According to the researchers, keeping the seeds in storage pits is also reflective of long-term agricultural planning, whereby the stored seeds were intended not only for food, but also to ensure future crops in the coming years.

The researchers added, “The identification of the places where plant species that are today an integral part of our diet were first domesticated is of great significance to research. Despite the importance of cereals in nutrition that continues to this day, it seems that in the region we examined (west of the Jordan River), it was the legumes, full of flavor and protein, which were actually the first species to be domesticated. A phenomenon known as the agricultural revolution took place throughout the region at this time: different species of animals and plants were domesticated across the Levant, and it is now clear that the area that is today the Galilee was the main producer of legumes in prehistoric times. This is a process that lasted thousands of years, during which certain characteristics of wild species changed, and domesticated plant species were created. To this day, most of the chickpeas grown in the country are cultivated in the Galilee region.”

According to the archaeologists, the accurate dating of the fava seeds, utilizing advanced techniques, led to the conclusion that they found the world’s oldest domesticated fava seeds, dating to 10,125-10,200 YBP.

 

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The size of the human brain had a great deal to do with the food choices of our ancestors. Credit: Shutterstock

The size of the human brain had a great deal to do with the food choices of our ancestors. Credit: Shutterstock

Original Article:

Phys.org

August 31, 2015 by Norman Owen-Smith, The Conversation

 

Much attention is being given to what people ate in the distant past as a guide to what we should eat today. Advocates of the claimed palaeodiet recommend that we should avoid carbohydrates and load our plates with red meat and fat. Its critics, on the other hand, argue that these are the same ingredients that would set us up for heart attacks. Moreover, these animal-derived foods require more space to produce on our crowded planet filled with starving humans.

A factual foundation for the debate is provided by a review of the eating patterns of early humans and how we adapted to digest starches softened by cooking. The researchers contend that it was digestible starches that provided extra energy needed to fuel the energy needs of bigger brains, rather than extra protein from meat to grow these brains.

But the most striking thing about human diets is just how variable they have been and the adaptations that have taken place. Furthermore, the American evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk in her book Paleofantasy contends that these dietary adaptations are not fixed on what our ancestors ate in caves at some time in the past.

So are our energy, or protein, needs much different from other mammals of similar size? Brains demand a lot of energy but so does the liver and the digestive tract. The extra nutrition that we need for brain work may be counterbalanced, at least partially, by a lesser need for:

a long gut to process poor quality foods, or
a large liver to handle nasty chemicals in these plant parts.
Once built, a large brain does not require extra sources of protein to maintain its activities.

My studies on the dietary requirements of savanna-inhabiting herbivores highlight how these animals must cope with the dry season when most herbage is brown and indigestible even with the aid of microbial symbionts in the gut.

But carnivores do not have this problem because the dry season is when weakened herbivores are most readily killed, especially when they concentrate around scarce waterholes.

The role of carbs among early humans
Meat has long been part of human diets, along with carbohydrates provided by fruits, tubers and grains. We can get by without it, obtaining protein from milk or, with some planning, from legumes.

The early humans that consumed most meat were the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe many thousand years ago, but were not our ancestors. Meat formed the crucial lean-season food for the Neanderthal people during successive winters when plants were seasonally buried under deep snow, but later also for the modern humans who spread through Eurasia and displaced them around 40 000 years ago.

Unlike tropical Africa, meat could be stored during the freezing winters of the far north to provide a reliable food source, especially in the form of large carcasses of elephant-like proboscideans.

This led to a wave of large mammal extinctions as humans spread rapidly into Australia and entered the Americas towards the end of the last Ice Age. By that time hunting technology had been honed and meat routinely supplemented plant food, but the latter remained the dietary staple for African hunter-gatherers like the Bushmen or San people into modern times.

The food journey within evolution

Coping with the intensifying dry season in the expanding African savanna was a critical issue for human ancestors during the evolutionary transition from ape-men to the first humans between three and two million years ago. How did our ape-men ancestors gather sufficient to eat during this time of the year when nutritious fruits and leaves were scarce?

This was when meat, or at least the marrow left within bones, could have become a nutritional fallback, probably acquired by scavenging from animal carcasses not completely consumed by big fierce carnivores, along with underground storage organs of plants.

Obtaining this meat required more walking and hence longer limbs, hands freed to carry, security in numbers and stone weapons to throw at threatening carnivore fangs, but not much expansion in cranial capacity. These were features of the early Australopithicines.

At this early time, another branch of ape-men, placed in the genus Paranthropus, took a different adaptive route. They developed huge jaws to chew on tough plant foods extracted from underground storage organs to get them through the dry season.

The last representative of this genus faded out nearly a million years ago when this strategy eventually became unviable. About that time the lineage leading to early humans discovered cooking, or at least how to use it effectively to make starches stored by plants more readily digestible, according to the article in The Quarterly Review of Biology.

Adding this reliably found source of energy to the proteins acquired more opportunistically by hunting animals or gathering shellfish provided the means to survive through seasonal bottlenecks in food availability and build even bigger brains and the adaptations that followed.

A supporting adaptation was to store more body fat to get through the lean periods, especially among women supporting dependent offspring. This works against us now that foods supplying carbohydrates are plentiful.

The modern day dilemma

The problems we currently face are that we retain a craving for sugar, which was scarce the past, while most of the starchy carbohydrates we eat are highly refined. This means losing out on the other nutrients in plant parts like minerals and vitamins, and most basically fibre.

A meat-based diet could have a role to play for people who have a propensity to store fat by filling the gut for longer and alleviating desires to snack on sweets between meals. More important generally is the need to exercise so that we are hungry enough to consume sufficient food to provide the scarce micronutrients that we also require for healthy bodies.

The best advice is to eat lots of things: meat if you can afford it and justify its planetary costs to produce, but also all kinds of good food, as least refined and processed as you can obtain (apart from wines).

Explore further: Hunger for meat pushing food security to the edge

This story is published courtesy of The Conversation (under Creative Commons-Attribution/No derivatives).

 

 

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20130515-120149.jpg

Wild Emmer

Wild Emmer

 

The importance of dietary carbohydrate in human evolution

Original Article:

PUBLIC RELEASE: 06-AUG-2015
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS JOURNALS

press.uchicago.edu

 

Understanding how and why we evolved such large brains is one of the most puzzling issues in the study of human evolution. It is widely accepted that brain size increase is partly linked to changes in diet over the last 3 million years, and increases in meat consumption and the development of cooking have received particular attention from the scientific community. In a new study published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, Dr. Karen Hardy and her team bring together archaeological, anthropological, genetic, physiological and anatomical data to argue that carbohydrate consumption, particularly in the form of starch, was critical for the accelerated expansion of the human brain over the last million years, and coevolved both with copy number variation of the salivary amylase genes and controlled fire use for cooking.

With global increase in obesity and diet-related metabolic diseases, interest has intensified in ancestral or ‘Palaeolithic’ diets, not least because – to a first order of approximation – human physiology should be optimized for the nutritional profiles we have experienced during our evolution. Up until now, there has been a heavy focus on the role of animal protein and cooking in the development of the human brain over the last 2 million years, and the importance of carbohydrate, particular in form of starch-rich plant foods, has been largely overlooked.

Hardy’s team highlights the following observations to build a case for dietary carbohydrate being essential for the evolution of modern big-brained humans:

(1) The human brain uses up to 25% of the body’s energy budget and up to 60% of blood glucose. While synthesis of glucose from other sources is possible, it is not the most efficient way, and these high glucose demands are unlikely to have been met on a low carbohydrate diet;

(2) Human pregnancy and lactation place additional demands on the body’s glucose budget and low maternal blood glucose levels compromise the health of both the mother and her offspring;

(3) Starches would have been readily available to ancestral human populations in the form of tubers, as well as in seeds and some fruits and nuts;

(4) While raw starches are often only poorly digested in humans, when cooked they lose their crystalline structure and become far more easily digested;

(5) Salivary amylase genes are usually present in many copies (average ~6) in humans, but in only 2 copies in other primates. This increases the amount of salivary amylase produced and so increases the ability to digest starch. The exact date when salivary amylase genes multiplied remains uncertain, but genetic evidence suggests it was at some point in the last 1 million years.

Hardy proposes that after cooking became widespread, the co-evolution of cooking and higher copy number of the salivary amylase (and possibly pancreatic amylase) genes increased the availability of pre-formed dietary glucose to the brain and fetus, which in turn, permitted the acceleration in brain size increase which occurred from around 800,000 years ago onwards.

Eating meat may have kick-started the evolution of bigger brains, but cooked starchy foods together with more salivary amylase genes made us smarter still.

###

Karen Hardy, Jennie Brand Miller, Katherine D. Brown, Mark G. Thomas, and Les Copeland. “The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution.” The Quarterly Review of Biology: September 2015.

For further information contact:
Karen Hardy for the overall context of the study +44 780 976 6164, khardy@icrea.cat or karhardy2@googlemail.com
Mark Thomas for questions related to genetics, +44 020 7679 2286, m.thomas@ucl.ac.uk
Jennie Brand Miller for questions related to nutrition and pregnancy, +61 2 9351 3759, jennie.brandmiller@sydney.edu.au
Les Copeland for questions related to starchy foods and carbohydrates, +61 2 8627 1017 les.copeland@sydney.edu.au

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Since my absence many articles on ancient foods have piled up on my desk. I shall endeavor to get to them all starting with last August and working my way forward to the present.

Thank you. JLP

20130515-120149.jpg

The above photo is from my library, J LP

Original Article in The Huffington Post

 By Jacqueline Howard
Posted: 07/10/2015

What was the culinary experience like for our prehistoric forebears?

No one knows for sure. But a provocative new study suggests that any meat our distant ancestors scavenged would have been teeming with harmful bacteria.

What’s more, the study suggests, early hominins would have had trouble avoiding food-borne illness unless they cooked the carrion or opted to consume bone marrow rather than flesh.

“Some would argue the archaeological record indicates that meat was scavenged before the earliest accepted dates of controlled fire-use, but our research suggests that cooking might be more ancient,” Alex Smith, the study’s lead author and a researcher in Harvard University’s department of human evolutionary biology, told The Huffington Post in an email.

Most scientists agree that cooking dates back about 1.9 million years.

To take a closer look at the possible link between scavenging and cooking, the researchers measured the growth of bacteria on raw boar meat and bone marrow over a 24-hour period and how effectively roasting the meat eliminated the bacteria.

What did the researchers find?

The number of bacteria on the raw meat spiked to potentially dangerous levels within 24 hours, but roasting the meat over hot coals killed most of the bacteria. As for the bone marrow, fewer bacteria grew on it than on the meat, which suggests that it would have been somewhat safer to eat than meat.

“The accumulation of bacteria on exposed tissue and the reduction of this bacterial load via cooking were not surprising findings,” Smith said in the email. “What is surprising is that two processes known to influence the biological value of food (bacterial decomposition and cooking) are often absent from discussions about hominin scavenging ecology… We hope this research brings the importance of cooking and its effects to discussions on early hominin carnivory.”

A paper describing the research was published in the July 2015 edition of the Journal of Human Evolution.

 

 

 

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New research led by archaeologists at Cardiff University has showcased “globally unparalleled” evidence of a unique prehistoric pork-focused feasting practice in South Wales.

After 10 years of excavation and research, analysis of animal bones deposited in a ‘midden’ or rubbish heap at a prehistoric feasting site in Llanmaes, Vale of Glamorgan, has revealed the novel custom of mass feasting focused specifically on pigs’ right forequarters.

The research – a collaboration between the University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion and National Museum Wales – has provided extraordinary insights into the lives of Wales’ prehistoric ancestors.

Published this week in archaeology journal Antiquity, the research details results from the analysis of more than 70,000 fragments bone – the largest collection of prehistoric animal bones ever discovered in Wales.

This, the researchers say, is a remarkably rare survival in a country where the acid nature of soils normally means the loss of this evidence of past ways of life.

Equally significant is the discovery that the majority of the pig bones were from just one quarter of the animal – the right forequarter – suggesting a selective feasting pattern.

Biomolecular analysis of teeth and bones has also demonstrated that many of the pigs were not locally-raised and may have been brought to the site from a substantial distance away, a monumental feat in prehistoric Britain.

Using the latest scientific methods, university osteoarchaeologist Dr Madgwick helped reconstruct these ceremonial feasts, which drew people and their animals from the locality and beyond to engage in conspicuous consumption on a grand scale.

The research was undertaken by Dr Madgwick, a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow, and co-author Dr Jacqui Mulville, Reader in Bioarchaeology, in partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, which led the research excavations.

Dr Madgwick said: “Surprisingly, nearly 80% of the animal remains at Llanmaes were from pigs, at a time when sheep and cattle were the main food animals and pork was not a favoured meat. What is perhaps more remarkable is that the majority of the pig bones were from just one quarter of the animal – the right forequarter. It might be that each household had to donate the same cut of meat to be included in the feast – that way everyone would have to slaughter a pig in honour of the feast.

“This selective pattern of feasting principally on just one quarter of one species is genuinely globally unparalleled and particularly startling as it continued over a period of centuries during the Iron Age.”

Dr Madgwick believes these tightly-controlled practices would have had a role to play in community cohesion.

He added: “The Early Iron Age communities of South Wales and beyond would have been small and dispersed, but these feasts would have represented a time of solidarity, when people came together to feast on pig right forequarters, just as their fathers and their fathers’ fathers had done.”

Adam Gwilt, Principal Curator for Prehistory at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, and one of the museum co-directors of the project added: “Middens speak not just of the everyday and filled bellies, but also about the ways of thinking and being, the customs, values and beliefs of the time. Communal feasting connected distant parts of Atlantic Europe during the later Bronze Age, offering opportunities for expressing and negotiating power relations, maintaining and binding contacts, alliances and exchanges.”

The research is ongoing and Dr Madgwick is currently undertaking further scientific analysis to reveal seasonal patterns of feasting and the methods of cooking and food preparation used.

animal remains

 

Original Article:

cardiff.ac.uk

 

 

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wooden butter churn lid unearthed at Norton Bridge is from the Saxon period following scientific tests.
Evidence of prehistoric activity was uncovered in the same area of the site and archaeologists believed the butter churn could be from the same period.
But radiocarbon tests have revealed the lid of the butter churn dates from the early medieval period when the area was part of the Mercian kingdom.
The tests have put a fragment of wood found with the lid as dating between AD715-890, so the lid is from the same period as the Staffordshire Hoard.

archaeologist at the site where Network Rail is building a new flyover and 11 bridges to remove the last major bottleneck on the West Coast main line as part of the £250m Stafford Area ImprovementsProgramme. The work is being delivered by the Staffordshire Alliance – a partnership of Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, Network Rail and VolkerRail.
Dr Tetlow said she was surprised but delighted by the news as there was so little evidence of the period archaeologically.
She said: “During this period this part of Staffordshire was part of the Mercian heartland and was populated by a pagan tribe called the Pencersaete.
“Existing knowledge of this period for the north and east of the Midlands and the UK in general is very scarce, so this find is fantastic and of regional significance.”
Dr Tetlow, of Headland Archaeology, added the tribe would have experienced similar weather conditions to us with unsettled and stormy weather.
“This was a period of dynamic climate change culminating in the Medieval Warm Period. The weather patterns were similar to those we are experiencing today.
“It was increasingly unsettled and stormy with flooding and an increase in temperature.”

further evidence of worked wooden stakes and wood chips – were made in a section of waterlogged peat close to Meece Road.
A number of Victorian stoneware bottles bearing the names of breweries from Bristol to Manchester have also been unearthed.
Residents will have the chance to view some of the objects and discuss them with Dr Tetlow and other colleagues working on the site at an information day in June. She is also preparing a paper on the finds for the Stafford and Mid-Staffs Archaeological Society.
Staffordshire Alliance manager Matt Clark said: “Despite a challenging workload and at times some challenging weather we’ve worked hard with Emma to safeguard archaeology at the site and it’s been fascinating so see what she’s uncovered.
“We’re looking forward to sharing and discussing some of these finds with the community.”

By Staffordshire Newsletter

Original article:

Staffordshirenewsletter

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It may not be an implausible leap to imagine a small band of hunter-gatherers composed of extended family and friends having a seasonal picnic on the beach about 100,000 years ago on what is today’s western South African Atlantic coast. It is a picture that could be painted with the help of results from a recent research study conducted by archaeologist Katharine Kyriacou of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and colleagues from the University of Tübingen and the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Following renewed excavations in 2011 under the University of Tûbingen’s N. J. Conard at the open-air coastal site of ‘Hoedjispunt 1’ (HDP1) located on a peninsula jutting out into the Saldanha Bay of South Africa’s southwestern Cape, Kyriacou and her colleagues performed extensive analysis and additional dating on assemblages of lithic artifacts and associated shellfish remains systematically collected from that site and other related sites in the region, such as the nearby sites of Lynch Point and Sea Harvest. These are sites that have yielded evidence of human occupation during the Middle Stone Age (MSA, or 280,000 – 50,000 BP), a time range within which anatomically modern humans (AMH), or early modern humans, were present on the African landscape. Their results showed clear collection and consumption/preparation of selected types of high meat-yielding shellfish using stone artifacts, some made locally and others transported from distant locales, within a pattern of short-term periodic encampments or stays. The HDP1site has been tentatively dated, based on past uranium series, infrared stimulated luminescence, and electron spin resonance dating, including new dating that is yet to be completed, to as early as 115 – 130 ka.

Kyriacou and colleagues reinforce an emerging view among scholars on the nature of early modern human habitation and movement in the coastal areas and their diets, which has significant implications for human evolution during this time period.

“Small groups of foragers engaged in the selective exploitation of a narrow range of mussels and limpets, particularly large species from the mid-intertidal, during relatively short excursions to the coast,” concluded the authors. “The integration of simple marine resources into the diets of people visiting the Atlantic west coast probably had major implications for the evolution of modern humans in this region. Shellfish represent an easily accessible and reliable source of nutrition on a landscape characterized by seasonal fluctuations in the availability of terrestrial resources [other prey further inland]. The consumption of even small quantities of mussels and limpets would have helped prehistoric people meet their requirements for essential nutrients, especially trace elements and polyunsaturated fatty acids [critical for brain development].”*

saldanha bay, South Africa

 

 

Original article:

Popular Archaeology

march 23, 2015

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