Showing posts with label Archaeology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archaeology. Show all posts

Monday, January 17, 2022

Making the invisible visible: tracing the origins of plants in West African cuisine

Excavated Nok vessels are cleaned and photographed at the Janjala research station, shown in the picture: Dr Gabriele Franke, Goethe University
Credit: Peter Breunig

A team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, in co-operation with colleagues from Goethe University, Frankfurt, has uncovered the first insights into the origins of West African plant-based cuisine, locked inside pottery fragments dating back some 3,500 years ago.

West African cuisine has long been known for its distinct ingredients and flavors, often enhanced by the addition of a large and diverse range of plant foods.

A traditional meal comprises a starchy staple cooked in a pot, served with a sauce prepared from vegetables, fish and/or meat, often accompanied by pulses.

These starchy staples include root crops such as yams, cassava, sorghum, pearl millet and maize. In the northern Sahel and savanna zones, pearl millet is mainly prepared as porridge, while in the southern forest zone, a pounded mash from tuber crops such as yam, called fufu, is the major starch-rich element.

Excavating Nok terracotta pottery vessel at Ifana 3 site
Credit: Peter Breunig
Indigenous vegetables, eaten at almost every West African meal, include eggplant, pumpkin and watermelon, okra (used as a thickener for soups and stews), as well as a staggering variety of both farmed and foraged green leafy vegetables, little known or used outside of the African continent.

These include leaves from the amaranth, roselle and baobab tree. However, investigating the origin of vegetables and leafy greens is difficult as they do not generally survive over archaeological timescales.

The Bristol team carried out chemical analysis of more than 450 prehistoric potsherds from the Central Nigerian Nok culture to investigate what foods they were cooking in their pots. The Nok people are known for their remarkable large-scale terracotta figurines and early iron production in West Africa, around the first millennium BC.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Researchers find low oxygen and sulfide in the oceans played greater role in ancient mass extinction

Seth Young’s research group collecting and describing limestone samples from a field site in the Roberts Mountains, Nevada.
Credit: Anders Lindskog/Florida State University

Florida State University researchers have new insight into the complicated puzzle of environmental conditions that characterized the Late Ordovician Mass Extinction (LOME), which killed about 85% of the species in the ocean.

Their work on the 445-million-year-old mass extinction event was published online in the journal AGU Advances.

“We found that reducing conditions — with low to no oxygen and little to no hydrogen sulfide levels — are probably playing a much more important role than we previously thought,” said lead author Nevin Kozik, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science and researcher at the FSU-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. “If you imagine a pie chart of the causes of this extinction, we’re increasing that wedge that signifies oxygen deficiency, which is happening in concert with a cooling climate and widespread habitat loss due to sea-level change.”

The research is the first study to use measurements of multiple elements from several sites to examine the conditions that led to the LOME, the second-largest extinction event in the Earth’s history and the only mass extinction to occur during what are called icehouse conditions, when Earth’s climate is cold enough at the poles to support ice sheets year-round.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Europe’s Earliest Female Infant Burial Reveals a Mesolithic Society that Honored Its Youngest Members

Photo Credit: TK

Working in a cave in Liguria, Italy, an international team of researchers uncovered the oldest documented burial of an infant girl in the European archaeological record. The richly decorated 10,000-year-old burial included over 60 pierced shell beads, four pendants, and an eagle-owl talon alongside the remains. The discovery offers insight into the early Mesolithic period, from which few recorded burials are known, and the seemingly egalitarian funerary treatment of an infant female.

“The evolution and development of how early humans buried their dead as revealed in the archaeological record has enormous cultural significance,” says Jamie Hodgkins, PhD, paleoanthropologist and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver.

The new study is published in Scientific Reports.

The crew first discovered the burial in 2017 and fully excavated the delicate remains in July 2018. Hodgkins worked alongside her husband Caley Orr, PhD, paleoanthropologist and anatomist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Their team of project co-directors included Italian collaborators Fabio Negrino, University of Genoa, and Stefano Benazzi, University of Bologna, as well as researchers from the University of Montreal, Washington University, University of Ferrara, University of Tubingen, and the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University.

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