The discovery of roots belonging to a tea tree have pushed tea cultivation to possibly 6,000 years ago. It was previously thought that tea was first consumed about 3,000 years ago in China. The recovery of broken ceramics and evidence of manual digging around the roots––found at the site of Ningbo in the Zhejiang province–– suggest that the tea plants were purposefully planted by people.
Plaque from 400,000 year old teeth recovered in Qesem Cave, Israel, has revealed fascinating information about the past. The dental plaque contained charcoal, which is considered evidence for indoor fires, and traces of essential fatty acids and starch suggest plants were also part of the diet. In addition, plant fibers that the investigators believe may be remnants of plants used to clean teeth, were also recovered during the analysis of the ancient teeth.
Pollen grains, belonging to basil and approximately 1500 years old, have been recovered in Japan. The pollen was recovered from an important context--- possibly the ruins of Queen Himiko's home, although the exact location continues to be debated. The pollen recovered in Japan resembles closely to a species native to Southeast Asia (other basil species are native to India).
Neanderthals living 50,000 ago in northern Spain apparently enjoyed flavoring their meats with herbs, namely chamomile and yarrow. While these plants are generally known for their medicinal properties, the authors of this new study, looking at previously studied dental calculus, suggest that they were likely added to flavor their food. Their argument is supported by observations of modern-day wild chimpanzees chewing on bitter herbs, among other things.
Archaeologists are investigating how local populations 500 years farmed in one of the driest parts of the world, Chile's Atacama Desert.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Opportunity for Conservation Botany and Ethnography Field School in two Yucatec Mayan-speaking Villages, Yucatan, Mexico
See below for an announcement regarding a field school opportunity for this summer. Please note I'm not in charge of this program, nor will I be there this summer. For any information please contact the organizers directly.
The Maya Research Program (MRP- www.mayaresearchprogram.org/) and the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT- www.brit.org) are hosting a Conservation Botany and Ethnography Field School in two Yucatec Mayan-speaking villages in Yucatán, Mexico July 17th to August 16th, 2015. The session will provide students (undergraduate and graduate levels) and participants with intensive field experiences in both conservation botany and ethnographic methods around ethnobotanical problems. The faculty consists of a professional ethnobotanist, pharmacologist, medical and environmental anthropologist, human ecologist, and archaeologist, plus local experts in Maya plant ecology, Maya cosmology, Maya ritual as related to botany, and Maya culture, past and present. Students will enhance their skills under realistic field conditions, learn to work in teams, explore the ethics of ethnobotanical research, and participate in service learning projects! In addition, students will experience home stays with community members and learn Spanish throughout the session, and visit famous archaeological sites. Space is limited so remember to apply early to ensure your spot in the course.
Link to website: https://sites.google.com/a/brit.org/conservation-field-school/home
Gladiators consumed beans and grains, and supplemented their diet by drinking ash tonics, which provided minerals such as calcium. This study was carried out measuring various stable isotope levels from bones of gladiators dating to the 2nd or 3rd century BC. The bones were excavated from Ephesos in modern-day Turkey; an important Roman city that once had a large population.
The domestication of trees is a topic that interests archaeologists as it is not as well understood as the processes involving other crops. However, the discovery of ancient peach pits from the Yangtze Valley in China has shed some light on this long process which started 7500 years ago. By around 4,300 to 5300 years ago, the peaches started to look like the domesticated peaches currently produced and consumed. According to the researchers, ancient Chinese farmers used techniques such as grafting and vegetative reproduction to develop specific types of peaches.
Cave dwellers living in Spain about 30,000 years ago consumed snails, according to new research. Often hard to identify consumption of snails in the archaeological record, new evidence supports the notion that ancient people in this region were consuming one species of snail-- Iberus aloneness-- the same species used in modern-day paella.
Moreover, the snails were collected and consumed when they were already adult, therefore, ensuring in a sustainable practice. It is clear that escargot is not a recent invention!
Archaeologists investigating the remains of King Richard III have obtained new data that elucidates the king's diet. According to isotope analyses, Richard III had a rich diet, which included wildfowl and fish. Moreover, he drank plenty of wine. Evidently, his meals were fit for a king.
Follow the latest discoveries from the world of archaeology, plants, and people.