Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

On this day ten years ago…
via The largest Last Supper

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Topic: Early cookbook

A 12th-century manuscript contains the oldest known European Medieval food recipes, according to new research.

The recipes, which include both food and medical ointment concoctions, were compiled and written in Latin. Someone jotted them down at Durham Cathedral’s monastery in the year 1140.

It was essentially a health book, so the meals were meant to improve a person’s health or to cure certain afflictions. The other earliest known such recipes dated to 1290.

NEWS: Early Human Ancestors Ate Grass

Many of the dishes sound like they would work on a modern restaurant menu. Faith Wallis, an expert in medical history and science based at McGill University, translated a few for Discovery News:

“For “hen in winter’: heat garlic, pepper and sage with water.”

“For ‘tiny little fish’: juice of coriander and garlic, mixed with pepper and garlic.”

For preserved ginger, it should kept in “pure water” and then “sliced lengthwise into very thin slices, and mixed thoroughly with prepared honey that has been cooked down to a sticky thickness and skimmed. It should be rubbed well in the honey with the hands, and left a whole day and night.”

Re – the “hen in winter” dish, Giles Gasper from Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies said, “We believe this recipe is simply a seasonal variation, using ingredients available in the colder months and specifying ‘hen’ rather than ‘chicken,’ meaning it was an older bird as it would be by that time of year.”

Gasper added, “The sauces typically feature parsley, sage, pepper, garlic, mustard and coriander, which I suspect may give them a Mediterranean feel when we recreate them. According to the text, one of the recipes comes from the Poitou region of what is now modern central western France. This shows the extent to which international travel and exchange of ideas took place within the medieval period. And what more evocative example of cultural exchange could there be than food?”

NEWS: Iron Age Feast Found in England

Gaspar and colleagues are recreating some of the dishes for a workshop to be held on April 25 at Blackfriars Restaurant in Newcastle, U.K. A lunch the following Saturday will feature the same dishes. The researchers are also putting together a translation of the cookbook under the title “Zinziber” (Latin for ginger).

While much of the food is still tasty to modern palates, not all of the medical cures would work today.

Gaspar explained, “Some of the medical recipes in this book seem to have stood the test of time, some emphatically haven’t! But we’re looking forward to finding out whether these newly-discovered food recipes have done so and whether they also possess what you might call a certain Je Ne Sais Quoi — or Quidditas, to use the Latin.”

(Image: Samuel Woods, Jacqueline Pankhurst, Samantha Ellis, Lydia Harris, Andy Hook, Daniel Duggan and Giles Gasper preparing one of the Medieval dishes; Credit: Durham University)

discovery news
APR 17, 2013 12:05 PM ET // BY JENNIFER VIEGAS

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Topic: Ancient grains and Vegetables

Food archaeologist gives new life to nearly extinct grains, veggies.

Original article:

by Richard Ruelas – Oct.  1, 2011

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Topic: New Mexico Puff Bread

Earlier today I saw a recipe on a freshly pressed blog for Easy Sopapillas pumpkin cheesecake bars-well after leaving a comment explaining that Sopaipillas are a New Mexican deep-fried bread and not a bread pudding type desert bread I decided to deviate from my normal ancient foods post and give you a recipe for these delicious breads. Note: the recipe I  spotted originally came from Pillsbury who should have changed the name to something else, or explained what an sopapilla was and where it came from.

Sopaipillas are a New Mexico speciality, served like green and red sauces with almost every spicy dish in the state. Traditionally they are drizzled with honey to “cut” the heat of the local cuisine. Since when properly puffed they are hollow ( like a pita), they are frequently served stuffed as well.

The following recipe is from Southwestern Kitchen by Jane Butel.

Note: In the recipe it calls for 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. If you choose to not use yeast in the recipe I would recommend changing this to 1 teaspoon baking power.

Also many recipes use water instead of scalded milk. I used an electric skillet to fry the dough


2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons solid vegetable shortening, lard or butter

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast ( optional)

1.4 cup warm water ( 110F. 45C)

About 1/2 cup scalded milk, cooled to room temperature

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, and cut in the shorting until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

If you are using yeast, dissolve it in the warm water in a small bowl and add it to the cooled milk sitting well. ( If not using yeast, use 3/4 to 1 cup milk and omit the 1/4 cup water.) Add 1/4 cup of the milk to the dry ingredients and work into the dough. Add more liquid gradually until the dough is firm and springy and holds its shape.

Knead dough thoroughly, about 5 minutes, until smooth, firm, and elastic. Invert a bowl over the dough and let rest 10 minutes or until the dough is softened. Heat 3 to 4 inches of oil in a deep-fat fryer to 375F ( 190C).

Work with one-half of the dough at a time, keeping the balance well covered with the bowl. Roll one section to 1/4 thickness or slightly thinner, then cut into triangles or 2-1/2 inch squares; do not reroll any of the dough. Fry sopaipillas, a few at a time, in hot fat. They should puff and become hollow soon after they are immersed in the oil. If they do not puff up, keep holding under the surface of the oil with tongs or spoon hot oil over the surface until they puff. Makes 24 small puffs. Drain on a paper towel.

I agree with Jane Butel’s belief that the inspiration for sopaipillas probably came from Navaho Fry Bread, which the seventeenth century Spaniards who came to New Mexico would have seen them cook; or visa versa. Anyway that puts this wonderful bread  in the ancient foods category, although neither the Navaho’s or anyone else would have had baking powder at this time. Both were probably done either without leaving, or possibly with baking soda( using sour milk,for the chemical reaction)  or possibly with wild yeast. 

Here is a photo of the finished product:


Original Material:

Recipe from SouthwesternKitchen by Jane Butel

Photo on gabrielaskitchen  

It seems this is also a wordpress blog, so thank you as I did not have a photo of sopaipillas.

Article by Joanna Linsley-Poe

Oct 3, 2011

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Topic: Roman 0nboard fish tank-

My Thoughts:

Salting which was an ancient method of preserving fish would seem to be a bit more practical in the long run-and more profitable too!

Hand-operated pump would have kept catch alive during long trips.

This lead tube is all that remains of what could have been a tank for transporting live fish

A Roman ship found with a lead pipe piercing its hull has mystified archaeologists. Italian researchers now suggest that the pipe was part of an ingenious pumping system, designed to feed on-board fish tanks with a continuous supply of oxygenated water. Their analysis has been published online in the  International Journal of Nautical Archaeology1.

Historians have assumed that in ancient times fresh fish were eaten close to where they were caught, because without refrigeration they would have rotted during transportation. But if the latest theory is correct, Roman ships could have carried live fish to buyers across the Mediterranean Sea.

The wrecked ship, which dates from the second century AD, was discovered six miles off the coast of Grado in northeastern Italy, in 1986. It was recovered in pieces in 1999 and is now held in the Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Grado. A small trade ship around 16.5 metres long, the vessel was carrying hundreds of vase-like containers that held processed fish, including sardines and salted mackerel.

Carlo Beltrame, a marine archaeologist at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice in Italy, and his colleagues have been trying to make sense of one bizarre feature of the wreck: a lead pipe near the stern that ends in a hole through the hull. The surviving pipe is 1.3 metres long, and 7–10 centimetres in diameter.

The team concludes that the pipe must have been connected to a piston pump, in which a hand-operated lever moves pistons up and down inside a pair of pipes. One-way valves ensure that water is pushed from one reservoir into another. The Romans had access to such technology, although it hasn’t been seen before on their ships, and the pump itself hasn’t been recovered from the Grado wreck.

Archaeologists have previously suggested that a piston pump could have collected bilge water from the bottom of the boat, emptying it through the hole in the hull. But Beltrame points out that chain pumps — in which buckets attached to a looped chain scooped up bilge water and tipped it over the side — were much safer and commonly used for this purpose in ancient times. “No seaman would have drilled a hole in the keel, creating a potential way for water to enter the hull, unless there was a very powerful reason to do so,” he writes.

Another possible use is to pump sea water into the boat, to wash the decks or fight fires. A similar system was used on Horatio Nelson’s flagship,  HMS Victory, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But Beltrame and his colleagues argue that the Grado wreck wasn’t big enough to make this worthwhile. They say that the ship’s involvement in the fish trade suggests a very different purpose for the pump — to supply a fish tank.

Fast turnover

The researchers calculate that a ship the size of the Grado wreck could have held a tank containing around 4 cubic metres of water. This could have housed 200 kilograms of live fish, such as sea bass or sea bream. To keep the fish alive with a constant oxygen supply, the water in the tank would need to be replaced once every half an hour. The researchers estimate that the piston pump could have supported a flow of 252 litres per minute, allowing the water to be replaced in just 16 minutes.

Tracey Rihll, a historian of ancient Greek and Roman technology at Swansea University, UK, cautions that there is no direct evidence for a fish tank. The researchers “dismiss fire-extinguisher and deck-washing functions too easily in my view”, she says. But although no trace of the tank itself remains, Rihll says the pipe could have been used for such a purpose in the ship’s younger days. Literary and archaeological evidence suggests that live fish were indeed transported by the Greeks and Romans “on a small but significant scale”, she adds.

The first-century Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote that parrotfish taken from the Black Sea were transported to the Neopolitan coast, where they were introduced into the sea. And the second- and third-century Greek writer Athenaeus described an enormous ship called the  Syracousia, which supposedly had a lead-lined saltwater tank to carry fish for use by the cook.

However, a fish tank on board a small cargo ship such as the Grado wreck might mean that transport of live fish was a routine part of Roman trade, allowing the rich to feast on fish from remote locations or carrying fish shorter distances from farms to local markets.

“It would change completely our idea of the fish market in antiquity,” says Beltrame. “We thought that fish must have been eaten near the harbours where the fishing boats arrived. With this system it could be transported everywhere.”

Original article:


Jo Marchant


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Topic: This years batch:



 Sunday: February 13, 2011

This year I will be making an Oregon Blackberry Mead using White Labs liquid sweet mead yeast # WLP720.  As I mentioned previously it is better to make a larger quaintly of mead because less is lost during the racking process it must go through several times to get rid of dead yeast cells (called the lee) that build up on the bottom of the must as it is turned from honey water into honey wine. I started out to make 3 gallons of mead but ended up making 5 gallons. I use the no boil method but got my must a little warm for the yeast and had to add more cold water to equalize the temperature and of course I had to add more honey.

The plan was for 3 gallons of water and 11 ½ pounds of honey. I ended up with 4 gallons and 14 ½ pounds of honey, which should make a medium sweet,(with the emphasis on sweet), mead. Just to clarify a point I forgot to figure in; the dissolved honey will increase your volume so if 3 gallons is what your looking to make use only 2 gallons of water to start and if you fall below you can always add a little. Of course the more honey, the sweeter the mead.

So— 14 ½ pounds of honey and 4 gallons of water should make the mead I want. Add to this a yeast nutrient called Fernaid K and that’s all the ingredients you need. Now this will make what is known as a show mead, (one without any added fruit, spices etc.).

I also took the specific gravity, which indicates how much sugar is in the must to start. This is taken several times down the line and will let you know by the reading how much of the must has been converted to alcohol at each reading. One important step to not be forgotten-keep a log or journal of the steps you use to make your mead. I have found mine from last year to be invaluable to this years brew. Here is my log for this year:

Mead Log Day 1-Feb 13, 2pm:

Cleaned and sanitized my equipment with One Step-No Rinse and Iodophor. Do this at every stage for the best results!

Dissolved 11 ½ pounds of Blackberry honey in 3 gallons of warm 96 degrees water (won’t do that again it took to long to cool-use water about 75-85 degrees instead). Aerated the must and added 1 1/2 teaspoons of the nutrient and aerated again. Kept aerating for about 30 minutes to cool the mixture down but I finally decided to add 1 gallon more of cold water, about 65 degrees. This brought the must temp down to around 85 degrees. Pitched (added) all the yeast, 35 ml., and aerated vigorously-and I do mean vigorously!

Note: This is the time you want to add oxygen to your must-helps the yeast, later you must leave it alone!

  Covered fermenter bucket with plastic wrap, to watch the initial process like last year.

Day 1- Feb 13, 11 pm:

Uncovered must. A small amount of bubbles are on the surface, honey, musty sweet smell. Aerated with plastic coated wire whip and covered.

Day 2- Feb 14, 9am:

Strong C02 smell. Bubbles on the surface, more than yesterday.

Went to the market to buy more honey. 11 ½ pounds in 4 gallons will make a dry mead and so I bought 3 pounds more Blackberry honey to make medium sweet mead. Added ½ teaspoon more of nutrient.

11am Added 3 pounds of Blackberry honey to the must. Amazing reaction; the must exploded in foam-not sure why but as soon as the yeast start to become active, as I learned last year, the must will have some foam on it, just not this much. I must have had at least 3 inches or more of foam. It dissolved back into the must in a little while. Aerated the must and covered once again.

Day 2- Feb 14, 11 pm:

A good amount of bubbles on the surface. Sweet honey alcohol smell. Foamed again like this morning when I aerated the must.

Covered again with plastic wrap.

Day 3- Feb 15, 10am:

A few bubbles on the surface. Nice honey musty smell. Tiny carbonation bubbles showing just at and below the surface. This looks a lot like both meads last year when they were already in the 1 gallon carboys. Aerated the must once again, and again it foamed. Not much CO2 distention in the plastic but this could be in part because the yeast are just in entering their aerobic (taking on oxygen) stage and also the container I am using to start the fermentation has a larger surface on top and the CO2 gases would be more spread out than last year.


No aeration tonight I will do the final aeration tomorrow before putting on the plastic lid and air lock. Bubbles on surface and a sweet honey smell.

Day 4-Feb 16, 9am:

Waited for the last aeration until today so I could use my blender to give the must one last good kick of oxygen. I am concerned that my plastic-coated wire whisk is not doing a full job since there is so much liquid. Three or four cups, whipped in the blender and sired into the must should do it. 

Bubbles on top-carbonation showing just below the surface and a sweet honey smell.

Put aprox 3 cups of mead into the blender and whipped it into a frenzy. The entire 3 cups turned into foam.

Stirred the foam into the must with a long handled spoon (you will see it in the photos).

Couldn’t get the lid to seal, so back on with the plastic until my husband can help.


With the lid and airlock sanitized for the second time today my husband was able to get the lid on with the help of a hammer!

It’s a good thing the fermenter has a spigot to drain the mead because otherwise we could be in trouble here. I put the air lock with its rubber stopper in the hole on the lid and right away it started bubbling. -Good Sign!

Now it’s a waiting game, as the mead will stay in its frementer for a couple of weeks during the primary fermentation phase.

I will continue to monitor the mead each day but that is all, until I rack it, or transfer it,(leaving the lee or dregs behind), into a glass carboy (3- 10 gallon glass bottle just like large water bottles, though you can get them in plastic like the fermenter).

Note: The air lock get a small amount of water put in it to act as a barrier to any wild yeast, bacteria etc, while permiting the CO2 to be expelled.

More to come at racking time in a couple of weeks.

In the mean time I have some info you might find helpful.

gotmead.com This is a fantastic site, it helped me a lot.

The Compleat Meadmaker, by Ken Schramm is a great guide and like the gotmead site-very helpful.

ckick on the link and go to Amazon.

Original article:

By Joanna Linsley-Poe

copyright 2011


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Topic: Oldest winery

An apparent wine press (in front of sign) and fermentation vat (right) emerge during a dig in Armenia.

Barefoot winemakers likely worked in cave where oldest leather shoe was found.

As if making the oldest known leather shoe wasnt enough, a prehistoric people in whats now Armenia also built the world’s oldest known winery, a new study says.

Undertaken at a burial site, their winemaking may have been dedicated to the dead—and it likely required the removal of any fancy footwear.

Near the village of Areni, in the same cave where a stunningly preserved, 5,500-year-old leather moccasin was recently found, archaeologists have unearthed a wine press for stomping grapes, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups, and withered grape vines, skins, and seeds, the study says.

“This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production,” said archaeologist Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

“For the first time, we have a complete archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years,” he said.

The prehistoric winemaking equipment was first detected in 2007, when excavations co-directed by Areshian and Armenian archaeologist Boris Gasparyan began at the Areni-1 cave complex.

In September 2010 archaeologists completed excavations of a large, 2-foot-deep (60-centimeter-deep) vat buried next to a shallow, 3.5-foot-long (1-meter-long) basin made of hard-packed clay with elevated edges.

The installation suggests the Copper Age vintners pressed their wine the old-fashioned way, using their feet, Areshian said.

Juice from the trampled grapes drained into the vat, where it was left to ferment, he explained.

The wine was then stored in jars—the cool, dry conditions of the cave would have made a perfect wine cellar, according to Areshian, who co-authored the new study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Wine Traces

To test whether the vat and jars in the Armenian cave had held wine, the team chemically analyzed pottery shards—which had been radiocarbon-dated to between 4100 B.C. and 4000 B.C.—for telltale residues.

The chemical tests revealed traces of malvidin, the plant pigment largely responsible for red wine’s color.

“Malvidin is the best chemical indicator of the presence of wine we know of so far,” Areshian said.

Ancient-wine expert Patrick E. McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, agrees the evidence argues convincingly for a winemaking facility.

One thing that would make the claim a bit stronger, though, said McGovern, who wasn’t involved in the study, is the presence of tartaric acid, another chemical indicator of grapes. Malvidin, he said, might have come from other local fruits, such as pomegranates.

Combined with the malvidin and radiocarbon evidence, traces of tartaric acid “would then substantiate that the facility is the earliest yet found,” he said.

“Later, we know that small treading vats for stomping out the grapes and running the juice into underground jars are used all over the Near East and throughout the Mediterranean,” he added.

Winery Discovery Backed Up by DNA?

McGovern called the discovery “important and unique, because it indicates large-scale wine production, which would imply, I think, that the grape had already been domesticated.”

As domesticated vines yield much more fruit than wild varieties, larger facilities would have been needed to process the grapes.

McGovern has uncovered chemical and archaeological evidence of wine, but not of a winery, in northern Iran dating back some 7,000 years—around a thousand years earlier than the new find.

But the apparent discovery that winemaking using domesticated grapevines emerged in what’s now Armenia appears to dovetail with previous DNA studies of cultivated grape varieties, McGovern said. Those studies had pointed to the mountains of Armenia, Georgia, and neighboring countries as the birthplace of viticulture.

McGovern—whose book Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages traces the origins of wine—said the Areni grape perhaps produced a taste similar to that of ancient Georgian varieties that appear to be ancestors of the Pinot Noir grape, which results in a dry red.

To preserve the wine, however, tree resin would probably have been added, he speculated, so the end result may actually have been more like a Greek retsina, which is still made with tree resin.

In studying ancient alcohol, he added, “our chemical analyses have shown tree resin in many wine samples.”

Ancient Drinking Rituals

While the identities of the ancient, moccasin-clad wine quaffers remain a mystery, their drinking culture likely involved ceremonies in honor of the dead, UCLA’s Areshian believes.

“Twenty burials have been identified around the wine-pressing installation. There was a cemetery, and the wine production in the cave was related to this ritualistic aspect,” Areshian speculated.

Significantly, drinking cups have been found inside and around the graves.

McGovern, the ancient-wine expert, said later examples of ancient alcohol-related funerary rituals have been found throughout the world.

In ancient Egypt, for example, “you have illustrations inside the tombs showing how many jars of beer and wine from the Nile Delta are to be provided to the dead,” McGovern said. (Also see “Scorpion King’s Wines—Egypt’s Oldest—Spiked With Meds.”)

“I guess a cave is secluded, so it’s good for a cemetery, but it’s also good for making wine,” he added. “And then you have the wine right there, so you can keep the ancestors happy.”

Future work planned at Areni will further investigate links between the burials and winemaking, study leader Areshian said.

Winemaking as Revolution

The discovery is important, the study team says, because winemaking is seen as a significant social and technological innovation among prehistoric societies.

Vine growing, for instance, heralded the emergence of new, sophisticated forms of agriculture, Areshian said.

“They had to learn and understand the cycles of growth of the plant,” he said. “They had to understand how much water was needed, how to prevent fungi from damaging the harvest, and how to deal with flies that live on the grapes.

“The site gives us a new insight into the earliest phase of horticulture—how they grew the first orchards and vineyards,” he added.

University of Pennsylvania archaeologist Naomi Miller commented that “from a nutritional and culinary perspective, wine expands the food supply by harnessing the otherwise sour and unpalatable wild grape.

“From a social perspective, for good and ill,” Miller said, “alcoholic beverages change the way we interact with each other in society.”


The ancient-winery study was led by UCLA’s Hans Barnard and partially funded by the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)

Original article:



James Owen

for National Geographic News

Published January 10, 2011

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Me at the astoria farmers market in September


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Topic: Mayan-Maze agriculture





Much archaeological attention on ancient Maya agriculture has tended to centre around one particular food crop, namely maize. Likewise, in recent decades, a great deal of interest has been paid to the role of intensive water and soil management in Maya cultivation. Initial analyses of a series of agricultural terraces in the Maya Mountains of southern Belize encourage us to expand our thinking on these fronts.

Discovered in 1996, the Maya Mountains terraces are beginning to provide key insights into alternative techniques of intensive agriculture employed by the Classic Maya (AD 250-900). Although terraces have been noted in the southern Maya Lowlands, in which the Maya Mountains chain is situated (Healy et al. 1983; Dunning & Beach 1994), the complex way in which these particular terraces were used is unique. It suggests that the southern Maya Mountains were a region teeming with a large population employing a mixture of different intensive agricultural strategies in order to sustain itself.

Archaeological background

Terra incognita to archaeologists before the 1990s, the southern Maya Mountains (Figure 1) began to be thoroughly investigated by the Maya Mountains Archaeological Project (MMAP). Between 1992 and 2000, nineteen previously undocumented population centres were recorded by the MMAP nestled deep in the folds of the Maya Mountains’ rugged topography (Dunham et al. 2000). The ancient inhabitants of this region exploited its unique montane mineral and biotic resources (Dunham 1996; Abramiuk & Meurer 2006). They sustained themselves through cultivating the few flatlands available to them.

By the mid-1990s, the MMAP began to focus archaeological operations on the Classic Maya site of Muklebal Tzul located in the upper reaches of the Bladen Branch (Figure 2) of the southern Maya Mountains (Dunham et al. 1996). This site is modest in size compared to the great centres of the Maya heartland, but it is much larger and more complex than had previously been expected for such a rugged and remote setting with little arable flatland. Not long after the discovery of Muklebal Tzul, a means by which such a large settlement could be sustained revealed itself during reconnaissance of the surroundings: a significant complex of agricultural terraces located approximately 2km southwest of the Muklebal Tzul site core was identified (Dunham & Pesek 2000). The terraces originally dubbed Sahonak Tasar, were subsequently mapped and preliminary soil samples were taken.

Over a decade later and under the auspices of the Maya Mountains Ethnobotany and Ecology Project (MMEEP) (Pesek et al. 2006), these terraces and their soils are being evaluated for new insights into ancient Maya agricultural strategies.


The terraces in question (Figure 3) are located on a hillside alongside a nearby stream. They consist of a series of stone retaining walls supporting flat earthen shelves. The stone walls are made of neatly bedded limestone which provided the building material for most of the structures in the region. The terraces’ proximity to the site of Muklebal Tzul suggests that food crops were grown for the expanding population of that community.

Preliminary results from the analysis of the phytoliths in the soils of the terraces are compelling. They point to the fact that a myriad of different species were being cultivated, not just maize. Although it was likely that maize was grown, since phytoliths of the subfamily Panicoideae were present, the grass phytoliths are dominated by a morphotype that is diagnostic of bamboo species of the subfamily Bambusoideae. The most abundant morphotype identified (even more abundant than that which characterises the grasses) is the rugose sphere, a morphotype that in our case appears to be derived from the genus Canna (order Zingiberales). Other plant families can be identified but they will take some time to narrow to particular species. Pollen analysis indicates cultivation of avocado on one of the terraces.

Another surprising aspect of the terraces was evidence of a complex cultivation strategy that was previously undocumented and may have been of wider use to the Maya. Careful analysis of the stratigraphy, as well as the pollen analysis, has suggested a sequence of intentional burning and flooding. Nine strata representing alternating episodes of growing, burning and flooding have been identified. Evidence of the burning can be inferred from the presence of varying amounts of charcoal and vitrified plant tissue in the soil layers, and the presence of diatoms and fresh water sponge spicules in the sandy clay loam layers analysed suggests that the water from the adjoining stream flooded the terraces at different points in time (Figure 4). There appears to be a system of canals and possibly even water regulation gates for the purpose of dispersing water over the terraces and recharging the soils.

To date, agriculture in the Maya area traditionally has been seen as consisting of four mutually exclusive strategies employed by the ancient Maya, namely: slash-and-burn, raised fields, irrigation and terracing (Flannery 1982). Of the four strategies, the latter three would have constituted the intensive approaches necessary to support the immense populations that flourished during the Late and Terminal Classic period (AD 600-900). Recent research conducted by Atran (1993), Fedick et al. (2000) and others (e.g. Demarest 1996) suggests, however, that ancient Maya agricultural techniques need not be limited to these four techniques. The evidence we have collected supports this assessment; it suggests that the Muklebal terraces were not simple run-off catchments, but constructions engineered in such a way as to allow for innovative soil building techniques. They were not simply soil retention devices but also hydroengineering facilities aimed at soil building from growing cycles interspersed with carbon and nitrogen deposition via cyclical burning and flooding (alluvial deposition).

More research needs to be conducted to reconstruct the precise details of the agricultural methods practiced on the Muklebal terraces, in particular documenting the water regulation system and deducing the time elapsed between the growing phases and the flooding and burning events, which are believed to be soil enrichment episodes. Provided this fine chronology can be reconstructed, an entirely ‘forgotten’ method by which the ancient Maya managed to harness the environment to sustain large populations may come to light, and perhaps be applied to benefit the contemporary Maya of the region in sustainable healthful cultivation scenarios.

Original article:



By Peter S. Dunham, Marc A. Abramiuk, Linda Scott Cummings, Chad Yost & Todd J. Pesek

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Topic: Honey

This is not an ancient story but an alarming one for today. Honey and Mead lovers take note.

Hives and bee keepers




RALEIGH, N.C. – You might call them the Honey Police — beekeepers and honey producers ready to comb through North Carolina to nab unscrupulous sellers of sweet-but-bogus “funny honey.”

North Carolina is the latest state to create a standard that defines “pure honey” in a bid to curb the sale of products that have that label but are mostly corn syrup or other additives. Officials hope to enforce that standard with help from the 12,000 or so Tar Heel beekeepers.

“The beekeepers tend to watch what’s being sold, they watch the roadside stands and the farmer’s markets,” said John Ambrose, an entomologist and bee expert at North Carolina State University who sits on the newly created Honey Standards Board.

Florida was the first state to adopt such standards in 2009. It’s since been followed by California, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Similar efforts have been proposed in at least 12 other states, including North and South Dakota, the nation’s largest producers of honey, together accounting for roughly one-third of U.S. output.

Beekeepers and honey packers around the country are fuming about products masquerading as real honey, and they hope the state-by-state strategy will secure their ultimate goal: a national rule banning the sale of any product as pure honey if it contains additives.

Americans consume about 350 million pounds of honey per year, but just 150 million pounds are made domestically, creating a booming market for importers and ample temptation to cut pure honey with additives such as corn syrup that are far less expensive to produce.

This month, the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago announced the indictments of 11 German and Chinese executives and six companies on charges that they avoided nearly $80 million in honey tariffs and sold honey tainted with banned antibiotics.

The scale of the problem nationwide is hard to gauge. It’s largely a concern for the big producers who make most of America’s honey, said Bob Bauer, vice president of the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association.

“The honey industry is looking to be proactive and take whatever steps are necessary not only to keep it from becoming a widespread problem, but to get rid of it entirely,” he said.

The most passionate supporters of the laws tend to be beekeepers and other small producers outraged at what they see as the corruption of their craft.

“They’re trading on the good name of honey to sell their product,” Kenosha, Wis., beekeeper Tim Fulton said of phony honey peddlers.

Ambrose said the North Carolina board — formed by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the state Beekeepers Association — won’t be a “honey patrol.”

The board will instead respond to complaints about improperly marketed honey, which under state law is now defined as what honeybees produce: no more, no less. Once a complaint has been received, a state-approved lab will test the product. If it’s not pure honey, the state can order it to be removed from sale and impose fines for subsequent violations.

“You can go to roadside stands throughout the western part of the state and they’ll try to sell you Karo syrup and swear it’s sourwood honey,” said Charles Heatherly, a North Carolina beekeeper.

Sourwood — Heatherly calls it “the Cadillac of North Carolina honey” — is mostly found in the state’s mountainous west. It can cost up to $10 a pound, making it an attractive target for adulteration.

It was a similar impersonation of local honey that provoked Nancy Gentry, a beekeeper who owns Cross Creek Honey in Interlachen, Fla., to launch a bid to get a honey standard not just in her home state, but around the country.

“People were taking raw honey, adding high fructose corn syrup and marketing it as grade A USDA No. 1 honey, but there is no such thing,” said Dick Gentry, Nancy’s husband and a retired trial lawyer who helped steer the campaign in Florida.

But the real sting in the Florida provision, and in standards adopted in California, Wisconsin and North Carolina, is that it makes it easier to file lawsuits against purveyors of bogus honey.

Agencies have been reluctant to create standards for honey ever since a Michigan jury in 1995 found in favor of a honey processing firm that had been accused of cutting the product with an additive. The jurors said there weren’t enough regulations governing honey to make the charge stick and that the government failed to identify the additive.

Under the new laws, it isn’t necessary to know out what’s being added to honey. Any additive, from cane sugar to corn syrup, deprives it of the label “pure honey.”

That could prompt retailers or beekeepers to file more lawsuits.

“For us, it is through the civil courts, then, that we take back the product,” Nancy Gentry told an industry group in Fresno, Calif., according to a transcript of her speech. “We crush unscrupulous packers and throw out honey pretenders.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has worked to block the sale of honey contaminated with potentially harmful chemicals, and it’s reviewing a petition seeking a national honey standard, spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said.

In the meantime, North Carolina beekeepers promise to keep on the lookout to ensure every jar of honey holds what the label says.

“Some of the people who think they’ve been buying sourwood all these years have actually been buying corn syrup, and they have no idea what they’re missing,” Ambrose said.

Original article:

yahoo news

By Tom Breen AP 9/2010

honey bees on a comb

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