Friday, October 25, 2013

Food and drink news from the ancient world

I concluded Food Day on campus with this throwaway program note.
As a parting shot, I might just post another installment of food (and drink) news from the ancient world at midnight.  Stay tuned.
As you can see, I've followed through.  Follow over the jump for food stories from archeology and history from the past three months of Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos.

National Geographic News: Hard Times Followed Booms for Europe's Ancient Farmers
Radiocarbon dating points to centuries-long population cycles.
Dan Vergano
Feast or famine was the rule for Europe's first farmers, archaeologists report. A population bust followed boom times in early agriculture from France to Ireland, a catalog of radiocarbon dates reveals.

Farming first moved into Europe from Greece around 8,500 years ago, spreading to Ireland and northern Europe over the next several thousand years. The switch from hunting and gathering to farming was a giant step forward for humanity, but the results from early Europe point to tough times for early farmers.
The next story from Nature shows that things didn't change much over the centuries: If hunger doesn't kill you, it doesn't make you stronger.
Low crop yields in preindustrial Finland led to decreased fertility and survival during nineteenth-century famine.
Amanda Mascarelli
05 August 2013
People who were undernourished during infancy or in the womb are less resilient during famines later in life, have shorter lifespans and are less likely to reproduce than those who were well fed, a study of Finnish church records from the 1800s has found. The results contradict an often-cited hypothesis about the effects of prenatal under-nutrition.

The predictive adaptive response (PAR) hypothesis posits that people who are deprived of food during prenatal development or infancy compensate physiologically, storing fats and using sugars more efficiently. This, in turn, is thought to make them better able to withstand food scarcity later in life, and it has been suggested that these traits would be passed on to their offspring.

The PAR hypothesis could offer one explanation for the high rate of metabolic diseases such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes among people who experience food scarcity early in life. It proposes that if these individuals encounter plentiful food resources when they are older, they are more apt to store abdominal fat and gain weight, leading to a plethora of metabolic disorders.

Instead, the Finnish study, which appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that people who were undernourished during early development are less able to cope with famine as older children and adults.
And now, some food and drink firsts and other fun news.

LiveScience: Ancient Humans Dined on Bacon from Weird, Spotted Pigs
Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor
August 27, 2013
Ancient hunter-gatherers in Europe, whose meat intake was once limited to wild game, may have enjoyed bacon, ham, pork chops and other tasty bites from pigs they owned starting about 7,000 years ago, researchers say.

The new findings suggest these hunter-gatherers had domesticated pigs about 500 years earlier than previously thought, yielding new insights into the movements and interactions of prehistoric humans and the exchange of technologies and knowledge, scientists said.
University of York (UK): Hunter-gatherers’ taste for spice
Posted on 21 August 2013
Our early ancestors had a taste for spicy food, says new research led by the Department of Archaeology's Hayley Saul

Archaeologists at York, working with colleagues in Denmark, Germany and Spain, have found evidence of the use of spices in cuisine at the transition to agriculture. The researchers discovered traces of garlic mustard on the charred remains of pottery dating back nearly 7,000 years.
The Huffington Post: 6,000-Year-Old Wine Found In Greece; Ancient Samples May Be Oldest Unearthed In Europe
By Meredith Bennett-Smith
Conventional wisdom agrees that a fine wine generally gets better with age -- good news for the 6,200-year-old wine samples unearthed in Greece, huh?

Researchers working at an ongoing dig site in northern Greece recently announced that the final results of residue analysis from ancient ceramics showed evidence of wine dating back to 4200 B.C., according to the Greek Reporter. The excavation, located at a prehistoric settlement known as Dikili Tash, is situated 1.2 miles from the ancient city of Philippi and has been inhabited since 6500 B.C., according to the researchers' website.
Lancaster Online: Enjoy ancient beers that are fresh
What Ales Ya: Ancient recipes
Staff Writer
Intelligencer Journal
Lancaster New Era
Sep 04, 2013 06:00
"Ancient Ales."

The term has a ring to it.

It's a marketing name given to a series of products made by Delaware's Dogfish Head Brewery, but it does carry some weight; a sort of archaeological panache.

The beers in question — the line has expanded to include six bottled products — are brewed according to recipes cobbled together by conducting chemical analysis of ancient pottery fragments.
The Herald (UK): Earliest Bronze Age sheepskin is found in the Highlands
David Ross
Highland Correspondent
Friday 30 August 2013
ARCHAEOLOGISTS are claiming a highly significant discovery in the Highlands in the form of a 4000-year-old sheepskin that is believed to be the earliest surviving example in Britain.

It was recovered from a burial cist in Spinningdale, on the east coast of Sutherland, which was discovered when a septic tank was being installed in 2011. Since then archaeologists have been undertaking a sophisticated analysis of what they found and are only now publishing the resulting data.
LiveScience: Evidence of 3,000-Year-Old Cinnamon Trade Found in Israel
Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor
August 20, 2013
How far would you go to get your cinnamon fix? If you lived in the Levant 3,000 years ago (a region that includes modern day Israel), very far indeed new research indicates.

Researchers analyzing the contents of 27 flasks from five archaeological sites in Israel that date back around 3,000 years have found that 10 of the flasks contain cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor, indicating that the spice was stored in these flasks.

At this time cinnamon was found in the Far East with the closest places to Israel being southern India and Sri Lanka located at least 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometers) away. A form of it was also found in the interior of Africa, but does not match the material found in these flasks.
The Guardian (UK): Italian archaeologists have grape expectations of their ancient wine
Scientists plant vineyards with the aim of making wine using techniques from classical Rome described by Virgil
Tom Kington, Thursday 22 August 2013
Archeologists in Italy have set about making red wine exactly as the ancient Romans did, to see what it tastes like.

Based at the University of Catania in Sicily and supported by Italy's national research centre, a team has planted a vineyard near Catania using techniques copied from ancient texts and expects its first vintage within four years.
The Art Newspaper: Row erupts in Mexico over chocolate museums at Mayan sites
National archaeology institute’s management of Unesco heritage sites called into question
By Laurie Rojas. Web only
Published online: 29 August 2013
A row in Mexico about the construction of museums of chocolate at Chichen Itza, the Mayan complex in the Yucat√°n peninsula that is a Unesco World Heritage site, and in nearby Uxmal, has revealed deep divisions within the National Institute of Archaeology and History and called into question the institute’s management of such sites.

Opponents of the planned museums, some of whom work for the institute, organised a public campaign that resulted in the institute ordering work to stop on the Choco-Story Museum at Chichen Itza. The chocolate museum was being built on private property but within the site’s protected archaeological zone—around 30 metres from the Great Ball Court of Chichen Itza. Starting construction without a permit breaks a law that protects Mexican national heritage.

The institute ordered the building to be dismantled this month. However, it granted permission to the same company to finish building a museum at Uxmal. Both Choco-Story museums are owned by the Van Belle family, who are the founders of Puratos Group, a Belgian chocolate company.
Lexington Herald-Leader via Woodford distillery's past comes to light with archaeology dig
By Janet Patton
Published: October 14, 2013
VERSAILLES — One of Kentucky early distillers, Oscar Pepper, is making history again, this time about what early farm life was like in the Bluegrass.

Brown-Forman owns the Woodford Reserve Distillery near Versailles, on the site of the original Pepper distillery. Late this summer, archaeologists began excavating around the 1812 log cabin built by Elijah Pepper on a hill above Glenn's Creek, where the first distillery and grist mill were built. Prohibition-era note found in FDU wall: 'Have a good drink on us'
By Justin Zaremba/
FLORHAM PARK —” What were blue-collar tradesmen who were working on the estate that would later become Fairleigh Dickinson University thinking about in 1932?

Apparently, according to a recently unearthed time capsule, they were looking forward to a drink.

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