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Original article posted on https://www.heritagedaily.com

February 17, 2020

Credit : Xinying Zhou

Most people are familiar with the historical Silk Road, but fewer people realize that the exchange of items, ideas, technology, and human genes through the mountain valleys of Central Asia started almost three millennia before organized trade networks formed.

These pre-Silk Road exchange routes played an important role in shaping human cultural developments across Europe and Asia, and facilitated the dispersal of technologies such as horse breeding and metal smelting into East Asia. One of the most impactful effects of this process of ancient cultural dispersal was the westward spread of northeast Asian crops and the eastward spread of southwest Asian crops. However, until the past few years, a lack of archaeobotanical studies in Central Asia left a dearth of data relating to when and how this process occurred.

This new study, led by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, provides details of recently recovered ancient grains from the far northern regions of Inner Asia. Radiocarbon dating shows that the grains include the oldest examples of wheat and barley ever recovered this far north in Asia, pushing back the dates for early farming in the region by at least a millenium. These are also the earliest domesticated plants reported from the northern half of Central Asia, the core of the ancient exchange corridor. This study pulls together sedimentary pollen and ancient wood charcoal data with archaeobotanical remains from the Tiangtian archaeological site in the Chinese Altai Mountains to reveal how humans cultivated crops at such northern latitudes. This study illustrates how adaptable ancient crop plants were to new ecological constraints and how human cultural practices allowed people to survive in unpredictable environments.

The Northern Dispersal of Cereal Grains

The ancient relatives of wheat and barley plants evolved to grow in the warm and dry climate of the eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asia. However, this study illustrates that ancient peoples were cultivating these grasses over five and a half thousand kilometers to the northeast of where they originally evolved to grow. In this study, Dr. Xinying Zhou and his colleagues integrate paleoenvironmental proxies to determine how extreme the ecology was around the archaeological cave site of Tangtian more than five millennia ago, at the time of its occupation. The site is located high in the Altai Mountains on a cold,dry landscape today; however, the study shows that the ecological setting around the site was slightly warmer and more humid at the time when people lived in and around this cave.

The slightly warmer regional conditions were likely the result of shifting air masses bringing warmer, wetter air from the south. In addition to early farmers using a specific regional climate pocket to grow crops in North Asia, analysis showed that the crops they grew evolved to survive in such northern regions. The results of this study provide scholars with evidence for when certain evolutionary changes in these grasses occurred, including changes in the programed reliance of day length, which signals to the plant when to flower, and a greater resistance to cold climates.

The Trans-Eurasian Exchange and Crop Dispersal

The ancient dispersal of crops across Inner Asia has received a lot of attention from biologists and archaeologists in recent years; as Dr. Spengler, one of the study’s lead authors, discusses in his recent book Fruit from the Sands, these ancient exchange routes shaped the course of human history. The mingling of crops originating from opposite ends of Asia resulted in the crop-rotation cycles that fueled demographic growth and led to imperial formation. East Asian millets would become one of the most important crops in ancient Europe and wheat would become one of the most important crops in East Asia by the Han Dynasty. While the long tradition of rice cultivation in East Asia made rice a staple of the Asian kitchen, Chinese cuisine would be unrecognizable without wheat-based food items like steamed buns, dumplings, and noodles. The discovery that these plants dispersed across Eurasia earlier than previously understood will have lasting impacts on the study of cultivation and labor practices in ancient Eurasia, as well as the history cultural contact and shifts in culinary systems throughout time.

These new discoveries provide reason to question these views, and seem to suggest that mixed small-scale human populations made major contributions to world history through migration and cultural and technological exchange. “This study not only presents the earliest dates for domesticated grains in far North Asia,” says Professor Xiaoqiang Li, director of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, “it represents the earliest beginning of a trans-Eurasian exchange that would eventually develop into the great Silk Road”.

Dr. Xinying Zhou, who headed the study and directs a research team at the IVPP in Beijing, emphasizes that “this discovery is a testament to human ingenuity and the amazing coevolutionary bond between people and the plants that they maintain in their cultivated fields.”

MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN HISTORY

Header Image – Dr. Xinying Zhou and his team from the IVPP in Beijing excavated the Tangtian Cave site during the summer of 2016. Credit : Xinying Zhou

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Original article in archaeology.org

Korea

By MARLEY BROWN

November/December 2020Alcohol Korea Goryeo Celadon Bottle Flask(Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo, National Museum of Korea Collection)

Longnecked celadon bottle and celadon flaskAlthough the ancient city of Xi’an in what is now central China is often considered the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, the flow of goods, people, and ideas between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia did not end there. Drinking vessels that date to Korea’s Goryeo Period (ca. A.D. 918–1392) suggest that imported spirits, including grape wines, a distilled anise-flavored drink called arak, and a fermented dairy product known as kumis, inspired artisans to craft novel types of ceramic containers to hold these newly enjoyed beverages. “New kinds of alcohol led to a proliferation in vessel shapes,” says art historian In-Sung Kim Han of SOAS University of London. She explains that many traditional East Asian alcoholic substances made from grains such as rice, millet, and barley, were thick and porridge-like. Pre-Goryeo vessels uncovered during archaeological excavations, mostly of tombs, suggest that these were primarily consumed from drinking bowls. More delicate cups from the same period were probably reserved for drinking tea and filtered rice wine, which was relatively rare.

Han suggests that while medieval Korea is often thought of as having been closed off to the rest of the world, the Goryeo Kingdom’s contact with nomadic groups to the west kept it in touch with global trends and foreign commodities, including alcoholic beverages. Particularly after the kingdom became part of the Mongol Empire in 1270, elite members of Goryeo society adopted some of the consumption habits of their counterparts across Central Asia and the Islamic world, where alcohol was widely available despite its prohibition in the Koran. One particular type of long-necked bottle introduced during the Goryeo Period, which was used to store wine, appears to have come to Korea from Islamic Persia. “It seems that the tastes of the upper class in any era tend toward the cosmopolitan,” Han says. The Goryeosa, a history of the kingdom compiled in the fifteenth century, describes one Goryeo ruler who began wearing Mongolian clothing, sporting a pigtail hairstyle, and taking part in large-scale hunts, just like other princes across Eurasia. “Despite his courtiers’ criticisms,” Han says, “he and his immediate followers pursued a worldly lifestyle, including enthusiasm for exotic drinks.”

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First posted by Anahi.com

Photo/Illutration

KYOTO–No fancy machines here, just a lot of hard work. But this brewery still produced sake, and it’s believed to be the oldest ever found in Japan.

Excavation firm Kokusai Bunkazai Co. unearthed the brewery believed to be from the 15th century at the Saga archaeological site, formerly on the grounds of Tenryuji temple, in Kyoto’s Ukyo Ward.

Among the finds are a facility for squeezing the unrefined sake out and about 180 holes for holding storage jars.

The brewery is believed to have been used until the time of the Onin War (1467-1477).

The previously oldest-known brewery found in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, is estimated to have been built in the Edo Period (1603-1867).

“The discovery (in Kyoto) is likely the oldest sake squeezing facility,” said Masaharu Obase, director of an Itami city-run museum. “It is smaller but has the same structure as the one dating to the Edo Period, indicating that a similar sake squeezing method was used in the medieval period.”

It was already known that sake was produced at Tenryuji temple during the Muromachi Period (1336-1573), allowing it to earn major profits and lend the money out at high interest rates. However, it was the first time that an archaeological finding has corroborated the fact, according to Kokusai Bunkazai.

The Tokyo-based company surveyed a 700-square-meter area near the current grounds of Tenryuji ahead of apartment construction between May and August 2018.

During the research, part of a sake squeezing facility believed to be from the 15th century was unearthed. Researchers said unrefined sake in cloth bags was placed in a tank and squeezed out, using a wooden bar with stones as leverage.

A pillar 1 meter long and 45 centimeters across, as well as two crosspieces to support it, each 15 cm per side and 1.8 meters long, were discovered along with about 20 stones that would have been placed on the crosspieces.

A hollow 1.8 meters across and 1 meter deep for a pot to receive drops of pressed sake was also found.

A smaller pillar from around the 14th century, 30 cm across and 40 cm long, was spotted two meters east of the hollow. Researchers said it is likely that the brewery was rebuilt.

The 180 holes for jars that stored sake are 60 cm across and 20 cm deep. Fragments of 14th-century Bizen ware jars, apparently with a diameter of 60 cm and a height of 1 meter, were unearthed as well.

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First posted June23 2010
via 9,000 year old beer recreated

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Eleven Myanmar.com

The Phnom Penh Post/ANN)—-Scientific test results of black rice fossils found in the basement of the Preah Ko temple site in Thala Barivat district, Stung Treng province late last year show that Cambodians have been cultivating and producing rice since the early Neolithic period.

The Neolithic age began around 12,000 years ago and ended as civilizations started to rise around 3500BCE.

In July last year, Thuy Chanthourn, the deputy director of the Institute of Arts and Culture of the Royal Academy of Cambodia and deputy president of the Cambodian Historians Association, brought the mysterious samples of black rice fossils from Preah Ko temple to the laboratory of the Australian National University (ANU) to conduct experiments to date the fossils.

With technical support from Rachel Wood, an archaeological and anthropological specialist at the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, Chanthourn successfully examined the rice which has since become the earliest scientific dating of early rice cultivation in Cambodia.

“We have dated a rice seed sample which we cleaned with Scalpel and types of acid. We kept it for a while and then measured it with a special machine.

“Experimental results show that the black rice fossils date from about 900 years to 1,000 years ago. Therefore, this scientific experiment has unveiled the oldest example of rice production in Cambodia,” he said.

In addition to the new evidence, Chanthourn also presented results of other studies conducted on ancient rice husks at Banteay Kou Circular Earthwork sites, east of the Mekong River at the red plateau areas, a site dating to around 2,000BC.

“The rice husks and the evidence on the temple carvings show that in Cambodia, we had a lot of rice production in the Angkor period. The inscription also mentions rice gifts evidencing that rice was not only being cultivated but had cultural value,” he said.

Chanthourn’s study showed that rice has been the mainstay cereal of Southeast Asians since the Neolithic period.

Many varieties of rice seeds come from Asia, such as Indica and Japonica rice seeds – the same variety that originated from about 8,200 to 13,500 years ago in the Pearl River valley region of China.

The black rice fossils sampled at the ANU’s laboratory came from the Tuol Ang Khmao or Preah Ko Temple located in Kaing Techo village in Thala Barivat commune of the district, behind the old district hall, about 300m away. The wonder of this rice is not decayed in water and buried for hundreds of years.

According to research books of the Stung Treng Provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts, during French colonial era, black rice was so rich people would collect and scatter it on the ground to wish well to one another.

Thala Barivat natives have regarded the black rice sample used in the experiment as a cultural treasure left behind from the ancient ancestors since the construction of Preah Ko Temple.

The black rice is still referred to today as the ‘glorious rice’ locally.

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On this day ten years ago…
via A History of Rice in the Mediterranean

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Sciencedaily.com

Despite the growing importance of farmed fish for economies and diets around the world, the origins of aquaculture remain unknown. The Shijing, the oldest surviving collection of ancient Chinese poetry, mentions carp being reared in a pond circa 1140 BC, and historical records describe carp being raised in artificial ponds and paddy fields in East Asia by the first millennium BC. But considering rice paddy fields in China date all the way back to the fifth millennium BC, researchers from Lake Biwa Museum in Kusatu, Japan, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in Norwich, U.K., and an international team of colleagues set out to discover whether carp aquaculture in China was practiced earlier than previously thought.

Carp farming goes way back in Early Neolithic Jiahu

Jiahu, located in Henan, China, is known for the early domestication of rice and pigs, as well the early development of fermented beverages, bone flutes, and possibly writing. This history of early development, combined with archaeological findings suggesting the presence of large expanses of water, made Jiahu an ideal location for the present study.

Researchers measured 588 pharyngeal carp teeth extracted from fish remains in Jiahu corresponding with three separate Neolithic periods, and compared the body-length distributions with findings from other sites and a modern sample of carp raised in Matsukawa Village, Japan. While the remains from the first two periods revealed unimodal patterns of body-length distribution peaking at or near carp maturity, the remains of Period III (6200-5700 BC) displayed bimodal distribution, with one peak at 350-400 mm corresponding with sexual maturity, and another at 150-200 mm.

This bimodal distribution identified by researchers was similar to that documented at the Iron Age Asahi site in Japan (circa 400 BC — AD 100), and is indicative of a managed system of carp aquaculture that until now was unidentified in Neolithic China. “In such fisheries,” the study notes, “a large number of cyprinids were caught during the spawning season and processed as preserved food. At the same time, some carp were kept alive and released into confined, human regulated waters where they spawned naturally and their offspring grew by feeding on available resources. In autumn, water was drained from the ponds and the fish harvested, with body-length distributions showing two peaks due to the presence of both immature and mature individuals.”

Species-composition ratios support findings, indicate cultural preferences

The size of the fish wasn’t the only piece of evidence researchers found supporting carp management at Jiahu. In East Asian lakes and rivers, crucian carp are typically more abundant than common carp, but common carp comprised roughly 75% of cyprinid remains found at Jiahu. This high proportion of less-prevalent fish indicates a cultural preference for common carp and the presence of aquaculture sophisticated enough to provide it.

Based on the analysis of carp remains from Jiahu and data from previous studies, researchers hypothesize three stages of aquaculture development in prehistoric East Asia. In Stage 1, humans fished the marshy areas where carp gather during spawning season. In Stage 2, these marshy ecotones were managed by digging channels and controlling water levels and circulation so the carp could spawn and the juveniles later harvested. Stage 3 involved constant human management, including using spawning beds to control reproduction and fish ponds or paddy fields to manage adolescents.

Although rice paddy fields have not yet been identified at Jiahu, the evolution of carp aquaculture with wet rice agriculture seems to be connected, and the coevolution of the two is an important topic for future research.

Materials provided by Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

 

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On this day ten years ago…
via Rice, Origin and History

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