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Original article:

Popular archaeology

CNRS—At the foot of the hill on which sits the ancient city of Cumae, in the region of Naples, Priscilla Munzi, CNRS researcher at the Jean Bérard Centre (CNRS-EFR), and Jean-Pierre Brun, professor at the Collège de France, are exploring a Roman-era necropolis. They now reveal the latest discovery to surface in the archaeological dig they have led since 2001: a painted tomb from the 2nd century B.C. In excellent condition, the tomb depicts a banquet scene, fixed by pigments.

Twice the size of Pompeii, the ancient city of Cumae is located 25 km west of Naples on the Tyrrhenian Sea facing the island of Ischia, at the Campi Flegrei Archaeological Park. Ancient historians considered Cumae the oldest Ancient Greek settlement in the western world. Founded in the latter half of the 8th century B.C. by Greeks from Euboea, the settlement grew quickly and prospered over time.

In recent years, French researchers have focused on an area where a Greek sanctuary, roads and a necropolis were found. Among the hundreds of ancient sepulchers unearthed since 2001, they have discovered a series of vaulted burial chambers made of tuff, a volcanic stone found in the area. People entered the tomb through a door in the façade sealed with a large stone block. The space inside was generally composed of a chamber with three vaults or funerary beds. The tombs were raided in the 19th century, but recovered remains and traces of funerary furnishings, which archaeologists have used to date the tombs to the second century B.C., indicate the high social status of those buried within.

Until now, only tombs painted red or white had been found, but in June 2018 researchers discovered a room with exceptionally executed figure painting. A naked servant carrying a jug of wine and a vase is still visible; the banquet’s guests are thought to have been painted on the side walls. Other elements of the banquet can also be distinguished. In addition to the excellent state of conservation of the remaining plaster and pigments, such a décor in a tomb built in that period is rare; its “unfashionable” subject matter was in vogue one or two centuries earlier. This discovery is also an opportunity to trace artistic activity over time at the site.

To preserve the fresco, archaeologists removed it, along with fragments found on the ground, in order to re-assemble the décor like a puzzle.

The digs were carried out with financial support from the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Ecole française de Rome and the Fondation du Collège de France. This research is part of a concession granted by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities in partnership with the Phlegraen Fields archaeological site.

 

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Ancient winepress in Tzippori.

 

By Mara Vigevani/TPS

jewishpress.com

An ancient winepress dating back to the Byzantine period was discovered two weeks ago at the Tzippori National Park in the central Galilee region an during archaeological excavations, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said Sunday.

The excavations, led by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, in cooperation with the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Israel Antiquities Authority, took place in a 3.5 meter deep ancient water reservoir with a ceiling that rests on five arches from the Roman period.

The archaeologists were very surprised when they found the wine press as they had never previously encountered a winepress installed in secondary use in an ancient water reservoir.

“This is the first time we found a wine press in a place that was previously used as a water reservoir. Probably the owners of the vineyards thought it was a convenient location as it was close to their vines,” Dr. Zvika Zuk, chief archaeologist of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority told Tazpit Press Service.

According to the researchers, the water reservoir was adapted to a winepress in the 4th century C.E.

“The winepress was found in the largest water reservoir in the Tzippori National Park, which is part of the impressive water system at the site that also includes long aqueducts that provided water to the ancient city of Tzippori,” Zuk said.

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Original Article:

By JASON URBANUS

Thursday, March 22, 2018

archaeology.org

Pompeii, Italy

Evidence continues to reveal much about the quality of life of the residents of ancient Pompeii. The city created an intricate and robust system for the local production of food and wine. Researchers have long been aware of frescoes, found in many surviving houses and villas, depicting plants and the pleasure of eating and drinking. Remains of triclinia, or dining rooms, and of food stalls, bakeries, and shops selling the fish sauce garum are abundant.

 

 

Garden archaeology as a discipline was pioneered in Pompeii in the 1950s when archaeologist Wilhelmina Jashemski began to excavate areas between the remaining structures. She discovered that homeowners planted flowers, dietary staples, and even small vineyards. “From the oldest type of domestic vegetable garden, the hortus, to ornate temple gardens,” explains Betty Jo Mayeske, director of the Pompeii Food and Wine Project, “you see evidence of cultivation in nearly every available space in Pompeii.” It appears that both grain and grapes were grown in small, local contexts. “There was a bakery on practically every single corner and the mills were there too, as well as a counter room and large ovens,” she says. “The whole production process took place there, and there are also several similar examples of small-scale vineyards.” One of Jashemski’s innovations was to apply the practice of making molds of the dead, known since the 1860s, to making molds of individual plants. “Casting had been done in cement and plaster on human remains for years,” Mayeske says, “but Jashemski used that technology to cast the plants’ roots, which helped definitively identify all of these gardens and vineyards.”

 

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Researchers pack the shaft at Augusta Raurica with snow. File photo: Peter-Andrew Schwarz

 

Original article:

Thelocal.ch

 

 

Archaeologists near the Swiss city of Basel are trying to definitively establish if mysterious shafts discovered at Switzerland’s extensive Augusta Raurica site in 2013 could have been ancient refrigerators.

The Romans used shafts like the four-metre deep examples at Augusta Raurica – some 20 kilometres from Basel – as cool stores during summer.

The shafts were filled with snow and ice during winter and then covered with straw to keep the space cool well into the summer months. This then allowed for everything from cheese to wine – and even oysters – to be preserved during warm weather.

Now a team lead by Peter-Andrew Schwarz from the University of Basel is attempting, for the third time, to demonstrate that the Augusta Raurica shafts were indeed used as fridges, Swiss news agency SDA/ATS reports.

A first attempt to recreate the ancient cool box failed after archaeologists at the dig filed the shaft with snow all in one go. But that experiment showed temperatures in the shaft were above freezing point even in winter.

The second try was more successful: the shaft was gradually filled with snow and ice blocks were placed inside as well. Using these methods, snow remained until June.

Now, however, researchers plan to use methods developed by the so-called ‘nevaters’ or ice-makers on the Spanish island of Majorca. This will see Schwarz and his team placing 20–30-centimetre-thick layers of snow into the shaft. These individual layers will then be compacted down with a straw cover placed on top of each one.

“With this method, people in Majorca could keep food cool in summer before the arrival of electric fridges,” Schwarz told regional daily Basler Zeitung in 2017.

Work at the site of the ‘fridge’ will continue until Friday with the dig open to the public.

The experiment won’t prove that the mysterious shaft was actually a Roman fridge but will show that this is possible, Schwarz told the SDA/ATS news agency.

A final evaluation will be made in August.

 

 

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Archaeologists have unearthed a bronze kettle containing liquor from a Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) tomb, dating back more than 2,000 years in West China’s Shaanxi province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Original article:

China.org.cn

 

Archaeologists have unearthed a bronze kettle containing liquor from a Qin Dynasty tomb, dating back more than 2,000 years in West China’s Shaanxi

The kettle is a sacrificial vessel. It was among among 260 items unearthed from a graveyard of commoners’ tombs from the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC). Most of the relics were for worshiping rituals.

Xu Weihong, a researcher with the provincial archeological institute, said about 300 ml of liquor was found in the kettle, which had its opening sealed with natural fibers.

The liquor is a transparent milky white. Researchers believed it was made using fermentation techniques, as it was composed of glutamic acid substances.

 

Researchers need to further study the liquor to better understand the brewing technology and wine drinking culture in Xianyang, the ancient capital of the Qin Dynasty.

Also discovered in the tombs was a bronze sword 60-centimeters long. The sword has octahedrons in the middle, which increases the weapon’s effectiveness. There are also breaches on the edge of the sword, suggesting it was used in war.

Another important finding is a turtle plastron shell 14-centimeters long. There are a dozen punches inside the shell, and burn marks on its edge. The characters suggest that it was used by a fortune-teller for divination.

Researchers are trying to build up a picture of life in the capital of China’s first empire by studying the relics.

Link: http://www.china.org.cn/arts/2018-03/20/content_50727357.htm

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Researchers stored 17th-century foodstuffs aboard the 19th-century tall ship Elissa as part of an investigation into how well food preservation worked during the age of discovery. Photo by age fotostock/Alamy Stock Photo

 

An unprecedented archaeology experiment is putting historical shipboard food and drink to the test.

Original article:

Hakaimagazine.com

by Jeremy Hsu

In 1619, a hurricane sank the English merchant ship Warwick in Bermuda’s Castle Harbor. The struggling settlers of Jamestown, Virginia, were desperately awaiting the shipload of fresh supplies, and keenly felt the loss. Almost 400 years later, artifacts from the wreck are helping archaeologist Grace Tsai uncover if unrefrigerated food and drink remained edible and nutritious during long sea voyages.

Since 2012, Tsai, a doctoral candidate in nautical archaeology at Texas A&M University, has been studying archaeological records of provisions from three different shipwrecks from the 16th and 17th centuries and analyzing shipboard diets based on modern nutritional guidelines.

Now, Tsai and her colleagues are going one step further: for two months, they stored period-accurate provisions aboard the closest thing to the Warwick they could find—the 19th-century tall ship Elissa, docked in Galveston, Texas.

“The whole premise is to see how things age aboard ships,” Tsai says. Researchers, including her, have typically studied how to prepare food based on historical recipes, “but nobody has been testing how well they lasted on a transatlantic voyage.”

The two-month shipboard study took place from August to October 2017, and included its own hurricane scare, when Harvey swept through just a week into the experiment.

Now, Tsai and her colleagues are back in the lab, analyzing the provisions’ surviving nutritional value and investigating the microbes that grew on them. Chemical analyses could even reveal any remaining—or acquired—flavors.

Yet before they could get to this point, Tsai and her team had to make all the foodstuffs that would have sustained a 17th-century English sailor, such as salted meats, peas, oatmeal, tough ship biscuits, beer, wine, and a barrel of natural spring water. The project also included a variety of heirloom rice, which was more common in the diets of Spanish or Portuguese sailors.

To better understand the salted meats, Tsai traveled to Bermuda to study animal bones recovered from the Warwick’s wreck. Her examination of butcher marks on cattle bones helped her identify the best size to cut beef to enable preservation. The team also imported sea salt from Guérande, France, a region that has been producing salt for more than 1,000 years, which remains a chefs’ favorite.

Previously, scientists have tried to re-create food and drink from various historical periods. But independent experts agree that this project is an unprecedented experiment in maritime archaeology.

“[The experiment] would certainly be the closest we could come to replicating the stowage conditions of a sailing ship in that environment,” says Chuck Meide, director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program in Florida.

James Delgado, a maritime archaeologist and senior vice president at SEARCH, an independent archaeological consultancy in Florida, agrees. “While we’ve studied food waste and food based on archaeological remains, this is the first time, as far as I know, that someone has done experimental archaeology with shipboard provisions from that period.”

After their stint in the Elissa’s hold, many of the provisions still seem edible. For safety reasons, nobody will actually be tasting the experimental results, but the baked ship biscuits are in the best shape by far, a testament to their legendary hardiness. The salted beef, however, has taken on a pinkish center resembling prosciutto. It has a pungent smell, says Tsai, though it isn’t rotten.

A big exception is the natural spring water, which has turned cloudy with greenish bits and “smelled pretty disgusting,” Tsai says. Sailors may have preferred quenching their thirst with beer and wine, which remained more palatable. Still, a surprising amount of lingering yeast fermentation and carbonation caused the beer barrel to leak and grow mold.

Yet the biggest surprise came from the diversity of microbes found in some of the food. Early genomic sequencing analyses, mostly from the salted beef, suggest that many of the bacteria are neither illness-causing pathogens nor beneficial probiotics—most seem to be relatively neutral. The unexpected microbial bounty, however, has forced the researchers to expand their genomic sequencing efforts.

Even though no one is eating the food and drink stored aboard the Elissa, the team is organizing a fundraising event aboard the ship later this month to sample beer based on the historical recipe.

The event illustrates the project’s benefits beyond the research findings by getting more people interested in history and archaeology, says Meide. “There is something compelling about literally re-creating the past in order to learn about it.”

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“They’ll definitely be tasted, but we’re taking our time.” BY VITTORIA TRAVERSO FEBRUARY 16, 2018

Original Article:

atlasobscura.com

These champagne bottles were last seen 118 years ago. Michael Boudot/Champagne Pol Roger

At the beginning of 1900, French wine-making brothers Maurice and Georges Roger had an estimated 1.5 million champagne bottles and 500 casks of other wine safely stored in the cellar below their family estate in Épernay, in northern France. But during a particularly damp February that year, part of the estate collapsed—right into the cellar, trapping the precious bottles under 80 feet of dirt and debris. Worried that attempting to dig survivors out would cause more damage to the estate, the brothers left them there.

So it was with great surprise that last month, 118 years after the collapse, the Roger family, which still makes champagne there, discovered a new passage into the long-lost cellar during the construction of a nearby packing facility. “In a moment of euphoria we decided to enlarge the passage and after further digging we found some fully preserved bottles,” Damien Cambres, deputy cellar manager at Pol Roger, told French news site franceinfo.

Bad weather conditions led to the collapse of part of the Roger estate in February 1900.
Bad weather conditions led to the collapse of part of the Roger estate in February 1900. Champagne Pol Roger

The bottles are estimated to date to the years between 1887 and 1898, according to a statement issued by the company. Because they have not been exposed to sunlight, and have been at a constant temperature, they may still be drinkable. “We will find a lot of roundness and freshness, because there has been no alteration of acidity,” Dominique Petit, the outgoing cellar master at Pol Roger, told franceinfo. “And some notes of maturity and grilled aromas.”

This would not be the first time that experts get to taste 19th-century wine. The record for oldest champagne tasted goes to a 1825 Perrier-Jouet opened in 2009. “Although there was only a hint of bubbles left, it was perfectly fresh, the color was fine and it resembled a very great chablis, with a note of white truffles and chocolate,” wine expert Olivier Cavil told U.K. daily The Times.

Further excavations of the Pol Roger cellar have now stopped due to weather conditions, but the company plans to dig further. “We found one bottle the first day, then five or six the next day, then we had 19, then we stopped,” CEO Laurent d’Harcourt told Wine Spectator. “They’ll definitely be tasted, but we’re taking our time.

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