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Popular archaeology

 

 

Chemical analysis on these storage jars mark the earliest discovery of wine residue in the entire prehistory of the Italian peninsula. Credit: Dr. Davide Tanasi, University of South Florid

 

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA (USF HEALTH)—Chemical analysis conducted on ancient pottery could dramatically predate the commencement of winemaking in Italy. A large storage jar from the Copper Age (early 4th millennium BC) tests positive for wine.
This finding published in Microchemical Journal is significant as it’s the earliest discovery of wine residue in the entire prehistory of the Italian peninsula. Traditionally, it’s been believed wine growing and wine production developed in Italy in the Middle Bronze Age (1300-1100 B.C.) as attested just by the retrieval of seeds, providing a new perspective on the economy of that ancient society

Lead author Davide Tanasi, PhD, University of South Florida in Tampa conducted chemical analysis of residue on unglazed pottery found at the Copper Age site of Monte Kronio in Agrigento, located off the southwest coast of Sicily. He and his team determined the residue contains tartaric acid and its sodium salt, which occur naturally in grapes and in the winemaking process.
It’s very rare to determine the composition of such residue as it requires the ancient pottery to be excavated intact. The study’s authors are now trying to determine whether the wine was red or white.
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A large Byzantine-era wine press uncovered in the Negev region is only the second of its kind to be found

Source: 1,600 years ago, soldiers may have quaffed wine from this desert press

The wine press in Ramat Negev is intermeshed with a building, as seen above, summer 2017. (Davida Dagan, Israel Antiquities Authority)

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Original Article:

plymouthherald.co.uk

By Keith Rossiter

Photos: Emily Whitfield-Wicks

King Arthur and his knights may – or may not – have lived at Tintagel.

But archaeologists have uncovered evidence that whoever occupied the legendary castle on the North Cornwall coast did live like a king.

Excavations have revealed that the inhabitants feasted on a diet of oysters, roast pork and fine wine, dining and drinking from bowls imported from Turkey and glass goblets from Spain.

As archaeologists returned to Tintagel to continue their investigations today, English Heritage revealed the finds uncovered in last year’s dig by the Cornwall Archaeological Unit.

Part of a glass cup c550AD Photograph by Emily Whitfield-Wicks.

The 2016 work was the first research excavation at Tintagel Castle in decades, and unearthed a feast of historical finds from the centuries that have been called “Cornwall’s First Golden Age”.

During this period, Tintagel was almost certainly a royal site with trading links reaching from the Celtic Sea to the eastern Mediterranean.

The excavation also uncovered a selection of stone-walled structures on the southern terrace of Tintagel Castle’s island area, with substantial stone walls and slate floors, accessed by a flight of slate steps.

Significant finds included a section of a fine Phocaean red slipped ware bowl from Turkey, imported wares and amphorae thought to be from southern Turkey or Cyprus and fine glassware from Spain.

Archaeologists also found evidence which suggests that those living at Tintagel at the time were enjoying a rich diet, as shown by pig, cow and sheep or goat bones with signs of burning and butchering, oyster shells and a cod cranial bone, the first evidence of deep sea fishing at Tintagel.

 Win Scutt from English Heritage said: “These finds reveal a fascinating insight into the lives of those at Tintagel Castle more than 1,000 years ago.

“It is easy to assume that the fall of the Roman Empire threw Britain into obscurity, but here on this dramatic Cornish clifftop they built substantial stone buildings, used fine table wares from Turkey, drank from decorated Spanish glassware and feasted on pork, fish and oysters.

“They were clearly making use of products like wine and oil contained in amphorae traded from the eastern Mediterranean.”

Jacky Nowakowski, project director at the archaeological unit, said: “Our plan in 2017 is to open up a much larger area on the southern terrace so that we get a good look at the scale and size of the buildings and find out exactly when they were built and how they were used.

“All indications to date could suggest that they are residential buildings perhaps lived in by important members of the community who lived and traded at Tintagel more than 800 years ago.

“Visitors and those following the project online will be able to see the excavations in action and hear about new discoveries day by day and to share in the excitement of this new research.”

Archaeologists will be on-site until August 11, and the public can see them in action.

Find out more at english-heritage.org.uk/tintagel

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Original Article:

Livescience.com

By Laura  Geggel

 

A previously overlooked inky inscription on a pottery shard found in Israel calls for the delivery of more wine, according to a new study, showing that not much has changed in 2,600 years for humanity, at least when it comes to wetting our whistles.

The pottery fragment — called an ostracon, or an ink-inscribed shard — was found in 1965 at the desert fortress of Arad in Israel. The shard was in poor condition, but researchers were able to date it to around 600 B.C., right before Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, destroyed the kingdom of Judah.

After discovering the shard, researchers noticed an ink inscription on its front, which begins with a blessing of Yahweh (a Hebrew name for God), then describes money transfers. Biblical scholars and archaeologists have extensively studied this inscription, so researchers were taken aback when they found the overlooked message on the ostracon’s backside.

While its front side has been thoroughly studied, its back was considered blank,” study co-principal investigator Arie Shaus, a doctoral student of applied mathematics and archaeology at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel, said in a statement.

Revealing hidden text
The research team used multispectral imaging, a technique that uses different frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum to capture data from an image. Study co-researcher Michael Cordonsky, a physicist at TAU, noticed the scribbled note on the ostracon’s backside.

“To our surprise, three new lines of text were revealed.” Shaus said.

Using the results from the multispectral imaging, the team deciphered 50 characters making up 17 words on the back of the shard, which had been on display at the Israel Museum for more than 50 years.

“The content of the reverse side implies it is a continuation of the text on the front side,” study co-principal investigator Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin, a doctoral student of applied mathematics at TAU, said in the statement.

Send wine
The newly discovered and translated inscription says, “If there is any wine, send … If there is any-thing (else) you need, send (= write me about it). And if there is still … gi[ve] them (an amount of) Xar out of it. And Ge’alyahu has taken a bat of sparkling (?) wine.”

“The new inscription begins with a request for wine, as well as a guarantee for assistance if the addressee has any requests of his own,” Shaus said. “It concludes with a request for the provision of a certain commodity to an unnamed person, and a note regarding a ‘bath,’ an ancient measurement of wine, carried by a man named Ge’alyahu.”

The note is “an administrative text, like most of the Arad inscriptions,” study co-researcher Anat Mendel-Geberovich, an archaeologist at TAU, said in the statement. “Its importance lies in the fact that each new line, word and even a single sign is a precious addition to what we know about the First Temple period.”

As for who the request was being made to, Mendel-Geberovich said that “many of these inscriptions are addressed to Elyashiv, the quartermaster of the fortress.”

The finding shows the power of multispectral imaging, especially its use on artifacts that have already been studied, but might have had overlooked components, the researchers said.

“This is ongoing research,” study co-researcher Barak Sober, a doctoral student of applied mathematics at TAU, said in the statement. “The future may hold additional surprises.”

The study was published online June 14 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Original article on Live Science.

 

 

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Roman baths at Caracalla

Pbs.org
By Carla RaimerPosted 11.01.00NOVA
What foods did Romans feast upon 2,000 years ago? To get a flavor, peruse these ancient recipes, most of which come from the Roman chef Apicius. We also include modern interpretations of these recipes from two books: A Taste of Ancient Rome by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa and The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. Imagine yourself spending a luxurious day at a Roman bath, and as the Romans today say, buon appetito.

MULSUM (HONEYED WINE)
Romans were not averse to drinking alcohol, a habit they carried into the public baths. The Roman philosopher Seneca and the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder both opposed drinking at the baths. The poet Martial complains about one sloppy bather who “doesn’t know how to go home from the baths sober.” The sweet Roman drink mulsum, a mixture of wine and honey, is one of the mixtures that might have contributed to this particular man’s drunken evenings.
Modern Recipe: Mulsum
Warm 1/2 cup clear honey and add it to a bottle of medium-dry white wine. Chill before serving.
LUCANIAN SAUSAGES
This sausage was brought back to Rome by soldiers who had served in Lucania, located in the heel of southern Italy, probably around 200 B.C. Peppery, spicy, smoked sausages are still made in many parts of the world, from Palestine to Brazil, under names that can be traced back to Lucania. In Brazil, for example, these types of sausage are today called linguica.
Ancient Roman Lucanian Sausage Recipe
Pepper is ground with cumin, savory, rue, parsley, condiments, bay berries, and garum. Finely ground meat is mixed in, then ground again together with the other ground ingredients. Mix with garum, peppercorns, and plenty of fat, and pine nuts; fill a casing stretched extremely thin, and thus it is hung in smoke.
Modern Lucanian Sausage Recipe (serves six)
1 pound belly pork, minced
2 tablespoons pine kernels
20 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or dried rue
2 teaspoons dried savory
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
30 bayberries (if available)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons fish sauce
sausage skins
Combine all the filling ingredients and mix well. Use a food processor if available.
If you have fresh sausage skins, they will be preserved in salt and need to be washed.
You will need about six 12-inch lengths. Tie a knot in the end of each one.
Put a 1/2 inch plain tube in a piping bag and 1/2 fill with the mixture; do not put too much in at one time or it will be difficult to squeeze. Take the open end of the skin, pull it over the tube and push down repeatedly until the majority of the skin sits like a collar half way down the tube. Grip this with your finger and thumb and slowly release the skin as you squeeze the bag. Stop squeezing well before the skin runs out, leaving 2-3 inches of skin to allow for shrinkage. It will take some practice before you get this procedure right.
When you have used up all the meat, twist each length of sausage into 4 even or similar segments.
If you are able to smoke the sausages, drape them over a coat hanger or similar item and suspend in smoke. You can still give them a smoky flavor before grilling them. If you have an open fireplace, suspend them from the mantelpiece for a few hours while you burn wood. You can use your barbecue: Sprinkle wood chips over the coals and suspend the sausage at least 12 inches above the fire for an hour or so. Otherwise, cut them into individual sausages and grill them under a medium heat.
BOILED EGGS WITH PINE NUT SAUCE
Perhaps the most popular of all the Roman appetizers was the egg. In fact, the ancient Latin saying ab ovo usque ad malum literally means “from the egg to the fruit,” which translates loosely as “the beginning of the meal to the end.” In this recipe, the egg is adorned with lovely pine nut sauce.
Ancient Roman Egg Recipe
For medium-boiled eggs: Pepper, lovage, and soaked pine nuts. Pour on honey and vinegar; mix with garum fish sauce.
Modern Egg Recipe
4 medium-boiled eggs
2 ounces pine nuts
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch each of pepper and lovage (or celery leaf)
Soak the pine nuts 3-4 hours beforehand in the vinegar.
Mix all the sauce ingredients thoroughly in a blender. This exquisite sauce should be presented in a sauce boat so that each person can serve himself or herself, since the eggs cannot be sliced and placed on a dish in advance.
GARUM FISH SAUCE
As they are with modern Romans, sauces and marinades were an essential element in ancient Roman cuisine. One of the most popular was garum, a salty, aromatic, fish-based sauce. Like so many other Roman treasures, it was borrowed from the ancient Greeks. Apicius used it in all his recipes, and the poet Martial wrote of it: “Accept this exquisite garum, a precious gift made with the first blood spilled from a living mackerel.”
We won’t recommend you try the ancient version (see below). Instead, try the easier modern recipe.
Ancient Garum Recipe
Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a well-sealed (pitched) container with a 26-35 quart capacity. Add dried, aromatic herbs possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others, making a layer on the bottom of the container; then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat these layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid.
Modern Garum Recipe
Cook a quart of grape juice, reducing it to one-tenth its original volume. Dilute two tablespoons of anchovy paste in the concentrated juice and mix in a pinch of oregano.
SEASONED MUSSELS
With an empire that spanned both sides of the the Mediterranean Sea, Romans often feasted on seafood. Romans might salt, smoke, or pickle their fish, or even preserve it with honey. This recipe for seasoned mussels, though, calls for just a simple cooking before they are eaten.
Ancient Roman Seasoned Mussels Recipe
For mussels: Garum, chopped leek, cumin, passum, savory, and wine. Dilute this mixture with water and cook the mussels in it.
Modern Seasoned Mussels Recipe (serves 4)
40-50 mussels
2 tablespoons garum fish sauce
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup passum (a modern version of this raisin wine is the Italian dessert wine Vin Santo)
1 leek, chopped
1 handful of fresh cumin and savory, minced

Wash the mussels thoroughly to remove the sand, then boil them in sufficient water to cover, along with the remaining ingredients.
PEAR PATINA
The Romans referred to their dessert course as mensa secunda, or “second meal.” They satisfied their fondness for sweets with desserts such as fruitcakes, pudding, sweet egg-based dishes, and sweet cheeses—and in this case, a delicious pear patina.
Ancient Roman Pear Patina Recipe
A pear patina: Grind boiled and cored pears with pepper, cumin, honey, passum, garum, and a bit of oil. When the eggs have been added, make a patina, sprinkle pepper over, and serve.
Modern Pear Patina Recipe (serves 4)
4 pears
water or white wine (to cook the pears)
1 tablespoon honey
pinch each pepper and cumin
1/2 cup passum (a modern version of this raisin wine is the Italian dessert wine Vin Santo)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Poach the whole pears in water or white wine. When they are done, peel and core them, then crush them into a puree, mixing in the honey, pepper, cumin and passum. Beat the eggs, adding the milk if desired. Then blend this into the pear mixture with the olive oil. Pour into a casserole and bake for around 20 minutes at 350° F.
LIBUM (SWEET CHEESECAKE)
Libum was a sacrificial cake sometimes offered to household spirits during Rome’s early history. The recipe below comes from the Roman consul Cato’s agricultural writings, which included simple recipes for farmers. Libum, sometimes served hot, is a cheesecake he included.
Ancient Roman Libum Recipe
Libum to be made as follows: 2 pounds cheese well crushed in a mortar; when it is well crushed, add in 1 pound bread-wheat flour or, if you want it to be lighter, just 1/2 a pound, to be mixed with the cheese. Add one egg and mix all together well. Make a loaf of this, with the leaves under it, and cook slowly in a hot fire under a brick.
Modern Roman Libum Recipe (serves 4)
1 cup plain, all purpose flour
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
bay leaves
1/2 cup clear honey

Sift the flour into a bowl. Beat the cheese until it’s soft and stir it into the flour along with the egg. Form a soft dough and divide into 4. Mold each one into a bun and place them on a greased baking tray with a fresh bay leaf underneath. Heat the oven to 425° F. Cover the cakes with your brick* and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden-brown. Warm the honey and place the warm cakes in it so that they absorb it. Allow to stand 30 minutes before serving.
*The Romans often covered their food while it was cooking with a domed earthenware cover called a testo. You can use an overturned, shallow clay pot, a metal bowl, or casserole dish as a brick.

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photo: Iris

 

Original Article:

the local.dk

New research suggests the Vikings indulged in a bit of viticulture.

Studies of grape pips point to wine production in Denmark during the time of the Vikings.

The Vikings liked alcohol, but while it is easy enough to grow crops and produce beer in the Danish climate, wine is a different challenge and was thought to have always been imported from southern parts of Europe to northern countries.

But new research has showed that at least one of the two oldest grape cores found in Denmark was grown locally, reports science news site Videnskab.dk.

Results of the analysis could be the final piece of evidence needed to prove that wine was produced in Denmark during the Viking era, says the report.

“This is the first discovery and sign of wine production in Denmark, with all that that entails in terms of status and power. We do not know how [the grapes] were used – it may have been just to have a pretty bunch of grapes decorating a table, for example – but it is reasonable to believe that they made wine,” archaeological botanist and museum curator Peter Steen Henriksen of Denmark’s National Museum told Videnskab.dk.

 

Henriksen himself discovered the two centuries-old wine pips in a sample of earth at the site of a Viking settlement at Tissø. Analysis of the pips found one to date from the Viking era and the other from the Iron Age.

No evidence of grapes in Denmark prior to the Middle Ages was previously known.

Henriksen sent the pips to the National Museum, where they underwent strontium isotope tests similar to those that confirmed Danish preserved bodies the Skydstrup girl and the Egtved girl originated from geographical areas further south in Europe.

The tests showed that the Viking era grape was probably grown on Zealand, reports Videnskab.dk.

“Before we only had suspicions, but now we can see that they actually had grapes and therefore the resources to produce [wine] themselves. Suddenly it all becomes very real,” professor Karin Margarita Frei of the National Museum told Videnskab.dk.

The Tissø settlement is one of the richest Viking locations in Denmark and was home to a dynasty that stretched from the early Iron Age to the late Viking period, reports Videnskab.

Production of wine in the area may have been a way of expressing status, say researchers.

Although it is also possible that the grapes were grown to be consumed as fruit, the Vikings are known to have come across wine on their voyages abroad, and Roman wine cups and other remnants of wine have been found in Scandinavia. The climate in the region was also similar to the present-day climate, making it possible to grow grapes.

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Researchers comb over the ancient Roman containers called amphorae. (Photo: Credit: Laure Marest-Caffey)

Researchers comb over the ancient Roman containers called amphorae. (Photo: Credit: Laure Marest-Caffey)

 

Original Article:

usatoday.com

When workers began digging out the Roman cities torched by Mount Vesuvius, the exquisite wall paintings, sumptuous villas and golden jewelry they found quickly grabbed the spotlight. But archaeologists are now looking to a less glamorous feature of these cities: the garbage.

Over the last few years, a team of researchers has taken a systematic look at street trash, buckets and even storage containers from Pompeii and other ruins to understand the relationship between ordinary Romans and their stuff. The extraordinary preservation of objects by volcanic debris allows for extraordinary insights into humdrum possessions, the researchers say.

“We’re actually starting to see evidence of people’s choices and how they dealt with their objects,” says Caroline Cheung, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, involved in the project. “We get a sense of how people were using them, how they were storing them, whether they were throwing them away or keeping them.”

Modest farmhouses and swanky country houses alike were entombed by the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius, which killed an untold number of the 20,000-plus people living in Pompeii and the surrounding area. But the deadly volcanic flows also preserved artifacts with unprecedented fidelity.

The humble objects left behind show that people didn’t necessarily go easy on their possessions, even though the articles of everyday life were often purchased rather than homemade.

Take the objects discovered at a farmhouse near Pompeii, where the cooking range was so heaped with ashes that it’s clear “they just basically didn’t take out the garbage,” says Theodore Peña of the University of California, Berkeley. “Like frat boys.” Peña leads the project, which is taking a close look at artifacts found during previous excavations.

In a storeroom of the kitchen, shelves held gear that “had the hell beaten out of it,” Peña says. There was a bronze bucket full of dents, perhaps where it had banged into the side of the well just outside the farmhouse. There were pots with bits of the rims broken off and a casserole so badly cracked that it was close to falling apart, but people had kept them to use again.

At a complex near Pompeii that seems to have been a wine-bottling facility, there were more than 1,000 amphorae, ceramic vessels that were the shipping containers of their day. Many were patched and waiting to be refilled, presumably with wine, Peña says.

When the researchers delved into street rubbish, they expected to find lots of broken glass, used for perfume bottles and other common items. Instead they found almost none, a sign that even shards of glass were being collected and made into something else.

It’s too early to say whether the people of Pompeii were thrifty adherents of recycling. But the indications so far are that “ceramics and other types of objects were being reused, repurposed or at least repaired,” Cheung says, in contrast to today’s “throwaway society. … If I break a cheap mug, I probably throw it away. I don’t even think about repairing it.”

The research is “very exciting,” says archaeologist Leigh Anne Lieberman, a graduate student at Princeton University who also studies items from the region but was not involved with Peña’s research. The analysis, she says, “allows us to ask questions we didn’t even know we had.”

The analysis also summons the long-gone Romans who once held the same items now being scrutinized nearly 2,000 years later. “Sometimes you look at a pot or lamp and see fingerprints of the person who made the object,” Cheung says. “That’s a tangible piece of the past that connects you to antiquity.”

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