Chemical Analysis Confirms Discovery of Oldest Wine-Making Equipment Ever Found

ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2011)


Analysis by a UCLA-led team of scientists has confirmed the discovery of the oldest complete wine production facility ever found, including grape seeds, withered grape vines, remains of pressed grapes, a rudimentary wine press, a clay vat apparently used for fermentation, wine-soaked potsherds, and even a cup and drinking bowl.


The facility, which dates back to roughly 4100 B.C. -- 1,000 years before the earliest comparable find -- was unearthed by a team of archaeologists from Armenia, the United States and Ireland in the same mysterious Armenian cave complex where an ancient leather shoe was found, a discovery that was announced last summer.

"For the first time, we have a complete archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years," said Gregory Areshian, co-director of the excavation and assistant director of UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.

An analysis of the discovery, which received support from the National Geographic Society, is presented in an article published online Jan. 11 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Archaeological Science.

"This is, so far, the oldest relatively complete wine production facility, with its press, fermentation vats and storage jars in situ," said Hans Barnard, the article's lead author and a UCLA Cotsen Institute archaeologist.


The discovery in 2007 of what appeared to be ancient grape seeds inspired the team to begin excavating Areni-1, a cave complex located in a canyon where the Little Caucasus mountains approach the northern end of the Zagros mountain range, near Armenia's southern border with Iran. The cave is outside a tiny Armenian village still known for its wine-making activities.

Under Areshian and Boris Gasparyan, co-director of the project, the dig continued through September, when the vat was excavated.

Radiocarbon analysis by researchers at UC Irvine and Oxford University has dated the installation and associated artifacts to between 4100 B.C. and 4000 B.C., or the Late Chalcolithic Period, also known as the Copper Age in recognition of the technological advances that paved the way for metal to replace stone tools.

Archaeologists found one shallow basin made of pressed clay measuring about 3 feet by 3-and-a-half feet. Surrounded by a thick rim that would have contained juices, and positioned so as to drain into the deep vat, the basin appears to have served as a wine press. Similarly structured wine-pressing devices were in use as recently as the 19th century throughout the Mediterranean and the Caucasus, Areshian said. No evidence was found of an apparatus to smash the grapes against the wine press, but the absence does not trouble the archaeologists.

"People obviously were stomping the grapes with their feet, just the way it was done all over the Mediterranean and the way it was originally done in California," Areshian said.

All around and on top of the wine press archaeologists found handfuls of grape seeds, remains of pressed grapes and grape must, and dozens of desiccated vines. After examining the seeds, paleobotanists from three separate institutions determined the species to be Vitis vinifera vinifera, the domesticated variety of grape still used to make wine.

Telltale evidence of grapes

The vat, at just over 2 feet in height, would have held between 14 and 15 gallons of liquid, Areshian estimates. A dark gray layer clung to three potsherds -- two of which rested on the press and the third which was still attached to the vat. Analysis of the residue by chemists at UCLA's Pasarow Mass Spectrometry Laboratory confirmed the presence of the plant pigment malvidin, which is known to appear in only one other fruit native to the area: pomegranates.

"Because no remnants of pomegranates were found in the excavated area, we're confident that the vessels held something made with grape juice," Areshian said.

The size of the vessel during an era that predated mechanical refrigeration by many millennia points to the likelihood that the liquid was wine, the researchers stress.

"At that time, there was no way to preserve juice without fermenting it," Areshian said. "At this volume, any unfermented juice would sour immediately, so the contents almost certainly had to be wine."

The team also unearthed one cylindrical cup made of some kind of animal horn and one complete drinking bowl of clay, as well as many bowl fragments.

The closest comparable collection of remains was found in the late 1980s by German archaeologists in the tomb of the ancient Egyptian king Scorpion I, the researchers said. Dating to around 3150 B.C., that find consisted of grape seeds, grape skins, dried pulp and imported ceramic jars covered inside with a yellow residue chemically consistent with wine.

After the Areni-1 discovery, the next earliest example of an actual wine press is two and a half millennia younger: Two plaster basins that appear to have been used to press grapes between 1650 B.C. and 1550 B.C. were excavated in what is now Israel's West Bank in 1963.

Over the years, archaeologists have claimed to find evidence of wine dating as far back as 6000 B.C.-5500 B.C. And references to the art and craft of wringing an inebriant from grapes appear in all kinds of ancient settings. After Noah's Ark landed on Mount Ararat, for instance, the Bible says he planted a vineyard, harvested grapes, produced wine and got drunk. Ancient Egyptian murals depict details of wine-making. Whatever form it takes, early evidence of wine production provides a window into a key transition in human development, scientists say.

"Deliberate fermentation of carbohydrates into alcohol has been suggested as a possible factor that prompted the domestication of wild plants and the development of ceramic technology," said Barnard, who teaches in the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

Three lines of inquiry point to wine-making

In addition to its age and wealth of wine-making elements, the Areni-1 find is notable for its numerous levels of confirmation. In a field where claims often rest on one or two sets of collaborating evidence, this find is supported by radiocarbon dating, paleobotanical analysis and a new approach to analyzing wine residue based on the presence of malvidin. Most prior claims of ancient wine have rested on the presence of tartaric acid -- which is present in grapes but also, at least in some level, in many other fruits and vegetables -- or on the presence of tree resins that were added to preserve the wine and improve its taste, as is done today with retsina, a wine flavored with pine resin.

"Tartaric acid alone can't act as a reliable indicator for wine," Areshian said. "It is present in too many other fruits and vegetables, including hawthorn, which still is a popular fruit in the area, but also in a range of other fruits, including tamarind, star fruit and yellow plum."

"Resins could indicate wine, but because they were used for a large number of other purposes, ranging from incense to glue, they also are unreliable indicators for wine," Barnard said. "Moreover, we have no idea how wide the preference for retsina-like wine spread."

The beauty of malvidin, the UCLA team emphasizes, is the limited number of options for its source. The deeply red molecule gives grapes and wine their red color and makes their stains so difficult to remove.

"In a context that includes elements used for wine production, malvidin is highly reliable evidence of wine," Areshian said.

Areshian and Ron Pinhasi, an archaeologist at Ireland's University College Cork and a co-director of the excavation project, captured the world's imagination in June, when they announced the discovery of a single 5,500-year-old leather moccasin at the Areni-1 site. It is believed to be the oldest leather shoe ever found.

The precise identity of the wine-swilling shoe-wearers remains a mystery, although they are believed to be the predecessors of the Kura-Araxes people, an early Transcaucasian group. Nevertheless, archaeologists who have been excavating the 7,500-square-foot-plus site since 2007 think they have an idea of how the wine was used. Because the press and jugs were discovered among dozens of grave sites, the archaeologists believe the wine may have played a ceremonial role.

"This wine wasn't used to unwind at the end of the day," Areshian said.

The archaeologists believe wine-making for day-to-day consumption would have occurred outside the cave, although they have yet to find evidence for these activities. Still, they believe it is only a matter of time before someone does.

"The fact that a fully developed wine production facility seems to have been preserved at this site strongly suggests that there are older, less well-developed instances of this technology, although these have so far not been found," Barnard said.

Other foundations that contributed support to the excavation include the Steinmetz Foundation, the Boochever Family Trust, the Gfoeller Foundation Inc. and the Chitjian Family Foundation.

The scientific-analytical part of the project also received support from the National Center for Research Resources, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.



Amazing find of Stone Age village made by historians

By Cmallett@Derbytelegraph.Co.Uk


ARCHAEOLOGISTS have made the stunning discovery of a 5,500-year-old Stone Age village, home to Derbyshire's first farmers and potters.


Ben Johnson and his team made the ancient find during a painstaking dig in Peak District fields, near Wirksworth.


He said he was astonished when he discovered the first evidence – a shattered shard of pottery dating back to at least 3,500BC.


Ben said: "I pulled the piece of Stone Age pottery out of the ground and felt a sense of excitement and wonder.


"No-one had held that for more than 5,000 years."


The team spent weeks digging at the location after being drafted in to check the area by Longcliffe Quarries which will build a new headquarters on the site.


Finds such as pottery, tools and an ancient barley grain have been removed.


Ben, an archaeologist for 15 years, said: "You still get excited when you find something like this."


The finds came from the Neolithic period, when people settled for the first time instead of living by hunting and gathering.


Experts claimed that the find was "regionally significant".


When the Stone Age site at Curzon Lodge was last seen, Derbyshire was almost completely covered in forest and its population wore animal skins.


But now it has been uncovered by archaeologists who say it is an exciting piece of the county's historical puzzle.


Nestled in the hills near Wirksworth, Ben Johnson said he felt a sense of "excitement and wonder" as he found an ancient rubbish dump followed by hearths, and holes for posts thought to be part of Neolithic, or late Stone Age, homes.


Like so many of today's archaeological discoveries, the dig began when a company – in this case Longcliffe Quarries – began the process of applying for a new building.


The firm was required by law to get Mr Johnson's company, Archaeological Research Services (ARS), to investigate the proposed site, near Brassington.


Mr Johnson, 34, said he was felt a sense of wonder as he worked painstakingly to excavate the first discovery – a Stone Age midden, or rubbish dump.


He said: "Even after 15 years in the job I was excited. A digger took away the top soil and revealed charcoal and the kind of dark earth you would get if you threw away your vegetables and left them in the ground for thousands of years.


"From what I'd seen before, I realised this was probably a Neolithic site and almost straightaway thought this could be evidence of a settlement.


"You want to see what's there but you have to be painstaking – I worked with a hand trowel."


Mr Johnson, operations manager for the site, said the midden contained a piece of pottery, small pieces of flint, chipped into sharp tools and, perhaps most importantly, an ancient barley grain.


He said: "The grain had been through the process of being grown and threshed.


"Even though it was a small thing it had a very important meaning. It showed we were looking at the earliest farmers in the Peak District."


The pottery came from the early Neolithic Period, when people in England began to settle for the first time instead of living by hunting and gathering.


Prior to this time, people would not have made pottery as it is not portable. Mr Johnson said: "The shard dated from between 3,900BC and 3,500BC. This is pretty fragile stuff. Any ploughing nearby would destroy it, so it was a rare find. It was exciting because I knew I was the first person to hold the pottery since it was thrown in there thousands of years ago."


Once the discovery was made, Bakewell-based ARS wrote a report on the finds for the planning authority, Derbyshire Dales District Council.


As a condition of planning permission for Longcliffe's new head office and transport depot, the authority said ARS should have a closer look at the site.


In total, 83 pits and 13 trenches were dug as they searched for more remains, and a clearer picture of the site's importance developed.


Hearth pits, used for cooking and warmth, were found containing charcoal which could be accurately carbon-dated to the Neolithic Period. Several more small pieces of flint cut into sharp knives for things like skinning animals and butchery were discovered.


And three possible "post-holes" suspected to be part of a home's structure was found.


Jim Brightman, a 29-year-old senior archaeologist with ARS, was involved with assessing the finds.


He said a picture emerged of a small settlement which he was able to describe drawing on knowledge of others in Derbyshire and the UK.


He said: "Our best guess was that we were looking at a settlement of buildings built using posts. These homes may have been quite sturdy or they may have been more lightweight. They were probably rectangular like others in the area.


"People would have lived inside them. Hearths would have been either inside or outside the buildings.


"There would have been middens, perhaps a short distance away from the settlements, just as with rubbish dumps today."


The farming, he said, would have been in small plots, "more horticulture than agriculture" making families self-sufficient. He added: "There could well have been cattle because that is a mobile type of farming.


"Most of the country would have been covered with forest but people were beginning to clear the trees to keep cattle."


Mr Brightman said the site also provided more information about other finds made in the area, including several Neolithic flint axes, nine inches long, cut to a sharp point. He said: "They could quite possibly have been used on the site.


"It's still not known for certain whether they would have been prestige items, owned for the sake of being owned. But I think they would have been used because they are such useful tools."


Perhaps surprisingly, ARS did not object to Longcliffe Quarries' plans. But Mr Brightman explained that, once dug up, the site was "destroyed anyway".


Its importance, he said, was in the information gained from it rather than material finds from the trenches.


Curzon Lodge's Neolithic settlement, he said, formed another important piece of the Neolithic puzzle in Derbyshire's uplands.


Mr Brightman said: "The remains at Curzon Lodge are important but not unique. They are of local and probably regional significance but not national.


"The first important thing about it is that it was what we had come to expect of this kind of site – more proof of what we suspect to be the case and an important body of data.


"But it also fixes a point in the landscape around Brassington where we can say this is what was happening. It brings greater understanding of the area."


Mr Brightman said the opportunity to dig new sites often came because of developments.


He said: "It's a good thing this happens because it means we have the resources to see what's there. The developers pay for the work."


The digs were made in summer 2008 and winter 2009, but this is the first time details of the Curzon Lodge finds have been revealed to the general public.



House expected to reveal hidden secrets of an ancient city

By Bejay Browne

Published on January 9, 2011


WHAT is believed to be the most ancient house in Paphos has been uncovered amid excavations to discover the extent of walls of the ancient city of Nea Paphos.

For Dr Claire Balandier, the head of the French archaeological team which uncovered the house, complete with wall paintings, last year’s find was one of her most exciting during 20 years of excavating in Cyprus.

She believes the house is probably the oldest known of in Paphos, along with the first phases of the houses of Theseus and Dionysos, which date to the beginning of the Hellenistic period (fourth century BC). But, she pointed out that the latter two are underneath much later Roman houses.

“The importance of our discovery is that the house is on Fabrika hill.

This hill, which is the highest point of Paphos, must have been important in the urbanism of Nea Paphos,” Balandier told the Sunday Mail in an interview.

Balandier said that little is known about the hill, situated north of the harbour area and close to the Tomb of the Kings, apart from its Hellenistic theatre on its southern slope, which was excavated for 15 years by an Australian expedition. Balandier added that Fabrika hill was initially a necropolis, around the time of the foundation of the city at the end of the fourth century BC.

“I think this was then quickly abandoned, and the tombs then used for quarrying activities in the Hellenistic period.” The expedition leader said that the house was built at the bottom of an abandoned quarry with the area north of the hill becoming a residential area a few decades after the city had been established.

The French Archaeological Expedition began excavating in Paphos in 2008 and, as work began, they found a terraced wall of ashlar, or dressed stone blocks north of Fabrika hill.

They have since excavated that wall for more than 40 metres north and south. Balandier said that this wall, which was built at the very end of the first century BC, was an important find in helping to understand the ancient topography of the area.

“It was as we were looking for a possible return of this wall to the east that we found the back wall of the house,” she said.

In front of the terraced wall was an area of wild undergrowth and rubbish, which needed to be cleared.

“I had asked the municipality of Paphos for help to remove it during the summer. We then found another wall, three metres to the north of the previous one, which had some wall paintings on it.”

The exciting discovery meant that Balandier had to return to Cyprus in November, long after the season’s dig had ended, to ensure the frescoes were properly preserved before the rains arrived.

She said that two different kinds of wall paintings, which are both frescoes - made on quicklime and not on plaster - were found in the rooms around the house. Some walls were decorated with simple paintings, which consisted of a white background with red crossed lines.

“We still have to study the stratigraphy, but it seems that these paintings belonged to a phase of the house which is older, so the house could date to the third century BC. Indeed, it appears that the southern room had been blocked up after the back wall had partly fallen,” she said.

“In the courtyard, however, the wall paintings are much more colourful. The colours used are red, purple, and yellow panels with green frames,” she said.

“It is only the beginning of our study, but these drawings look very much like the so-called first Pompeian style, so they should date from the second century BC. But a non-expert hand has made them.”

According to Balandier the paintings are very similar, but better preserved, to wall paintings in houses found by a Polish expedition to the nearby Maloutena area in the 1980s.

Balandier believes that Fabrika hill became a residential area with terraces, with the upper part in the south and the lower one to the north and that this discovery has an important bearing on understanding the extent of the ancient city.

During the Hellenistic period, the residential area was usually always inside the city wall and the presence of a Hellenistic house on the northern part of Fabrika, close to the existing Agioi Arnagyroi avenue, could mean that the city wall is further to the north.

“So, the city was probably larger than supposed by scholars, and as I also thought until recently,” she said.

The discovery of the courtyard decorated by wall painting and surrounded by three or four rooms was significant for other reasons too.

“We have started to excavate two of the rooms, whose walls are preserved to three metres in height, which is very rare on the island, where ancient buildings have been destroyed and stones reused through the centuries.”

The archaeologist believes that the house, at least the back room, seems to have been abandoned before the first century AD, according to the material which now fills it.

The discovery of the house is one of the most exciting in a career that includes being part of the team that uncovered the northern city gate of Amathus in 1992.

“IT was a fantastic experience, especially when the wall paintings appeared in front of us. It was something very special and does not happen very often in the life of an archaeologist,” she said.

Balandier is certainly well qualified to lead the team working at Fabrika hill. She studied History and Archaeology at the University of Aix-Marseille and then in Paris at the Sorbonne. She completed her PhD on the fortifications and defence of the territories of Cyprus and she is currently the Maître de Conférences in Ancient Greek History and Archaeology at the University of Avignon, in France.

She has also undertaken a number of published studies from the city-wall of Apollonia in Albania, as well as in Georgia, to the defensive policies of the Achaemenid Persian and of the Ptolemies in Palestine. She is currently preparing the publication of her study of the ancient fortifications of Cyprus and will organise an international conference about ancient Paphos at the University of Avignon in 2012.

Balandier has led the French Archaeological Expedition in Paphos since 2008, and says she is grateful to the Department of Antiquities who granted them the permission to undertake their work. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs finances the expedition.


“I proposed to the Department of Antiquities to work in Paphos, and when I asked permission to create the French Archaeological Expedition, Dr Pavlos Flourentzos, the then director of the Department of Antiquities, asked me to try to find where the city wall on Fabrika hill was.“

Balandier will return to Paphos next June when the excavation of the house will continue, and its walls will be resorted. “We hope that the house will be restored quickly and protected by a roof, in order to be presented to the public. But all the area of Fabrika hill has to be preserved.”

Balandier said there are still many antiquities to uncover and discover in Paphos.

“Many antiquities could still be found in Paphos. Unfortunately, despite the hard work of the different curators, evidence has disappeared under the tourist area,” she said.

“Sometimes it is important to remember that our identity and wealth is also our cultural heritage. To go on, any generation has to understand where it comes from.”



Effective use of power in the Bronze Age societies of Central Europe

11 January 2011 University of Gothenburg


During the first part of the Bronze Age in the Carpathian Basin in Central Europe, a

large proportion of the population lived in what are known as tell-building societies.

A thesis in archaeology from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) shows that the

leaders of these societies had the ability to combine several sources of power in an

effective way in order to dominate the rest of the population, which contributed towards

creating a notably stable social system.


Tell-building societies are named after a distinct form of settlements with a high density of

population and construction, which over the course of time accumulated such thick cultural

layers that they took on the shape of low mounds.


On the basis of a discussion and analysis of previously published material from the

Carpathian Basin and new findings from the tell settlement Százhalombatta-Földvár in

Hungary, the author of the thesis, Claes Uhnér, describes the ways in which leaders could

exercise power. Tell-building societies had relatively advanced economies. The subsistence

economy, which was based on agricultural production and animal husbandry, produced

a good return, and the societies were involved in regional and long-distance exchange of

bronzes and other valuable craft products.


“By exercising a degree of control over these parts of the economy, it was possible for leaders

to finance political activities and power-exerting organisations,” says Uhnér.

He shows in his thesis that, through military power, leaders were able to control surrounding

settlements from fortified tells. As the majority of these settlements were situated next

to rivers and other natural transport routes, they could demand tribute from passing trade

expeditions and act as intermediaries in the exchange of goods that took place in the region.

In addition, a large tell was a manifestation of a successful society with a long history. This

situation made it possible for leaders to use the cultural traditions of the society in ideological

power strategies.


“The tells served as physical manifestations of a social system that worked well, which

legitimised the social position of the elites and their right to lead.

An important conclusion drawn by Uhnér is that the sources of power could be used in

strategies where they supported each other. Economic power made it possible to master

military and ideological means of power. Military power was utilised to safeguard economic

and ideological resources, while ideology legitimised the social system. This was largely

possible because the tell settlements served as political power centres. Redistribution of

staples and specialised production was attached to these sites, and they had key military and

ideological significance. “By controlling tells and the activities carried out in them, leaders had an organisational advantage over the rest of the population, and others found it very

difficult to build up competing power positions,” says Uhnér.


 “By exercising a degree of control over these parts of the economy, it was possible for leaders to finance political activities and power-exerting organisations,” says Uhnér.


He shows in his thesis that, through military power, leaders were able to control surrounding

settlements from fortified tells. As the majority of these settlements were situated next

to rivers and other natural transport routes, they could demand tribute from passing trade

expeditions and act as intermediaries in the exchange of goods that took place in the region.

In addition, a large tell was a manifestation of a successful society with a long history. This

situation made it possible for leaders to use the cultural traditions of the society in ideological

power strategies.


“The tells served as physical manifestations of a social system that worked well, which

legitimised the social position of the elites and their right to lead.

An important conclusion drawn by Uhnér is that the sources of power could be used in

strategies where they supported each other. Economic power made it possible to master

military and ideological means of power. Military power was utilised to safeguard economic

and ideological resources, while ideology legitimised the social system. This was largely

possible because the tell settlements served as political power centres. Redistribution of

staples and specialised production was attached to these sites, and they had key military and

ideological significance. “By controlling tells and the activities carried out in them, leaders

had an organisational advantage over the rest of the population, and others found it very

difficult to build up competing power positions,” says Uhnér.

The thesis has been successfully defended.





Major Archaeological Project For China Announced

By Chief_Editor 14/01/2011 16:50:00


The Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art and Culture, based in Oxford University’s School of Archaeology, has received its first major research award since its launch in October last year.

The project, led by Dame Jessica Rawson, Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford, will look at how the early Chinese societies made use of different foreign materials and technologies. Researchers will track how the Chinese, with their highly organised, relatively dense population, were able to react fast and on a large scale.

Bright red carnelian beads found in tombs of the early Chinese states (circa 850-650BC) are telling signs of major interactions between the Chinese elite of the day and the peoples further west in present-day Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Siberia. Nearest comparisons are fine beads found in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East in tombs of the third and second millennium BC.

Carnelian beads are not the only materials that the Chinese borrowed and then copied and developed in their own contexts. Faience beads, typical of Western Asia and not China, have been found in Chinese tombs alongside the carnelian and a new fashion for gold developed at the same time.

The project will focus on the continuous interactions between the highly populated Yellow River basin and the more marginal areas to the north and west of China. These sparsely inhabited areas were essential bridges between the early Chinese and the metal-rich Altai and Ural Mountains.

Extravagant use of bronze for casting food and wine vessels, the hundreds of chariots surviving in tombs and large scale iron foundries demonstrate the power of the Chinese to exploit innovation.

Professor Rawson said: ‘An understanding of these factors will enable a fuller appreciation of the ways in which China’s physical environment and geographical position have in the past affected and will continue today to affect, not only its technological, but also its social development.’

The research team, led by Professor Rawson, will follow the trail taken thousands of years ago to see how materials and technologies reached the Yellow River across the steppes and deserts of Eurasia.

The Oxford team, together with researchers from the University of Science and Technology in Beijing, will examine exciting recent finds housed in provincial museums and at archaeological sites in China, Iraq, Iran and Central Asia as well as in the British Museum, London, to establish what the Chinese have borrowed and how they refashioned what they had gained from their Asian and Middle Eastern neighbours.



Reviving the taste of an Iron Age beer

Barley grains offer savory insights into ancient Celtic malt beverage

By Bruce Bower Web edition : Friday, January 14th, 2011    Text Size


Early Celtic rulers of a community in what’s now southwestern Germany liked to party, staging elaborate feasts in a ceremonial center. The business side of their revelries was located in a nearby brewery capable of turning out large quantities of a beer with a dark, smoky, slightly sour taste, new evidence suggests.


Six specially constructed ditches previously excavated at Eberdingen-Hochdorf a 2,550-year-old Celtic settlement, were used to make high-quality barley malt, a key beer ingredient, says archaeobotanist Hans-Peter Stika of the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. Thousands of charred barley grains unearthed in the ditches about a decade ago came from a large malt-making enterprise, Stika reports in a paper published online January 4 in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.


Stika bases that conclusion on a close resemblance of the ancient grains to barley malt that he made by reproducing several methods that Iron Age folk might have used. He also compared the ancient grains to malt produced in modern facilities. Upon confirming the presence of malt at the Celtic site, Stika reconstructed malt-making techniques there to determine how they must have affected beer taste.


The oldest known beer residue and brewing facilities date to 5,500 years ago in the Middle East, but archaeological clues to beer’s history are rare (SN: 10/2/04, p. 216).


At the Celtic site, barley was soaked in the specially constructed ditches until it sprouted, Stika proposes. Grains were then dried by lighting fires at the ends of the ditches, giving the malt a smoky taste and a darkened color. Lactic acid bacteria stimulated by slow drying of soaked grains, a well-known phenomenon, added sourness to the brew.


Unlike modern beers that are flavored with flowers of the hop plant, the Eberdingen-Hochdorf brew probably contained spices such as mugwort, carrot seeds or henbane, in Stika’s opinion. Beer makers are known to have used these additives by medieval times. Excavations at the Celtic site have yielded a few seeds of henbane, a plant that also makes beer more intoxicating.


“These additives gave Celtic beer a completely different taste than what we’re used to today,” Stika says.


Heated stones placed in liquefied malt during the brewing process — a common practice later in Europe — would have added a caramelized flavor to this fermented Celtic drink, he adds. So far, no fire-cracked stones have been found at Eberdingen-Hochdorf but they may have been used to heat pulpy malt slowly, a practice documented at later brewing sites, Stika says. He suspects that fermentation was triggered by using yeast-coated brewing equipment or by adding honey or fruit, which both contain wild yeasts.


Celts consisted of Iron Age tribes, loosely tied by language and culture, that inhabited much of Western Europe from about the 11th to the first century B.C.


In the same report Stika describes another tidbit for fans of malt beverage history: A burned medieval structure from the 14th century A.D., recently unearthed in Berlin during a construction project, contains enough barley malt to have brewed 500 liters of beer, the equivalent of nearly 60 cases.


Classics professor Max Nelson of the University of Windsor in Canada, an authority on ancient beer, largely agrees with Stika’s conclusions. Malt-making occurred at Eberdingen-Hochsdorf and malt was probably stored in the medieval Berlin building, Nelson says.


Other stages of brewing occurred either at these sites, as suggested by Stika, or nearby, in Nelson’s view.


“Stika’s experiments go a long way toward showing how precisely barley was malted in ancient times,” he remarks.


Beer buffs today would regard Celtic beer as a strange brew not only for its flavor but because it would have been cloudy, contained yeasty sediment and been imbibed at room temperature, Nelson notes.


Stika’s insights into the range of techniques and ingredients available to Celtic beer makers should inspire modern “extreme brewers” to try out the recipe that he describes, says anthropologist Bettina Arnold of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.


Perhaps they’ll find out whether Roman emperor Julian, in a 1,600-year-old poem, correctly described Celtic beer as smelling “like a billy goat.”



2,100 year-old Greek coin may have marked rare astronomical event


New research suggests that this coin marks an eclipse of Jupiter by the moon.

It happened on January 17, 121 BC and was visible in Antioch, the capital of

the Seleucid Empire.  The coin itself show Zeus with a crescent moon above his head and

a star like object hovering above the palm of his right hand. 


An unusual Greek coin, minted around 120 BC, may have marked a moment in time when people in ancient Syria saw Jupiter being blocked out by the moon.

On one side is a portrait of Antiochos VIII, the king who minted it. On the reverse is a depiction of Zeus, either nude or half-draped, holding a sceptre in his left hand.  Above the god’s head is the crescent of the moon, and his right arm is outreached with a star like figure (that may in fact be Jupiter) hovering just above his palm.

“Nobody ever re-used this iconography again – it was a one off,” said Professor Robert Weir, of the University of Windsor in Canada, who presented his research recently at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Antiochos VIII was ruler of the Seleucid Empire, a kingdom created by one of Alexander the Great’s officers, after the great conqueror died in 323 BC. By the time of Antiochos this realm was composed of a rump of territory centred on the city of Antioch, in south-eastern Turkey.

The empire had been in decline for some time, with the Parthians gaining territory in the east, the Romans in the west and the Hasmoneans, a dynasty of Jewish kings, coming to power in the south.

Antiochos’s rise to the throne was brutal to say the least. His mother was a woman named Cleopatra Thea, and he started his rule having to share the throne with her. “She was a very oppressive, domineering sort of woman as far as we can gather,” said Professor Weir. “She had just killed his brother for no good reason.”

Perhaps fearing for his own life Antiochos VIII had her put to death in 121 BC, making him sole ruler of what was left of the Seleucid kingdom.

Why the cosmic iconography?

Weir is a Classics professor with an interest in astronomy and ancient coins. He was curious why Antiochos VIII would mint a piece of currency with such an unusual drawing – could there have been something going on in the night sky?

“I did some calculations to see what was visible from Antioch, the capital of the Seleucid Empire – I came up with some interesting patterns.” Weir found that on January 17, 121 BC, the city’s residents would have seen Jupiter blocked out by the moon, an event modern day astronomers call an “occultation.”

Also “Jupiter, when it was eclipsed by the moon, was in the constellation of Cancer, which is a very significant constellation,” he said. “This means that there might be a great king coming, or being born – in Syria, because Cancer governs that part of the world the ancient astrologers believed.”

That wasn’t all that was going on in the night sky.

“I noticed that there were other favourable occultations happening at the same time. There was another occultation of Jupiter within the year and just a week after the first one there was an occultation of Venus which is also a very good omen,” he said.

Antiochos VIII, a king ruling a shrinking empire alongside his murderous mother, may have felt that the heavens were finally with him. “It was significant in a good way – an occultation of Jupiter has to do with omens for kings.”

Weir pointed out that astrologers were powerful figures in the ancient world and the discipline they practiced was influential. “These people were everywhere and we know they were influential in influencing emperors in Rome for instance,” he said.

“I think it’s fair to say they probably had a foot in the door in the court of the Seleucids.”

The heavens turn against him

Unfortunately for Antiochos VIII his rule would be anything but great. In the years that followed his empire would endure conflict, with one of his brothers, Antiochos IX, disputing his right to the throne. Eventually the two had to agree to divide what was left of the Seleucid kingdom.

In the meantime the king’s run of cosmic good luck had come to an end. Weir said that “a few years after he killed his mom there were (all) sorts of really bad luck eclipses of Mars and Saturn.”

Even worse, shortly before the coin stopped being minted, around 114 BC, “something happened in the heavens that happens only once every 2,000 years or so,” he said. “The moon eclipsed Mars and Saturn at the very same time.” An event “that’s about the worst omen you can get.”

The heavens, it seemed, had turned against the king.



Stone Age artifacts found in Nepal

9 January 2011

The Department of Archeology (DoA) of Nepal has claimed that artifacts found in a cave at Pang-2, Kalimati of Parbat could be thousands of years old. A DoA team led by section officer Navaraj Adhikari reached the place and took the artifacts to Kathmandu for investigation.

     There is an empty space about 20 feet wide covered by stones a couple of meters below the ground level at the site. Locals from neighboring villages are starting to crowd around the site after the discovery. "We have started worshipping the site because we believe it's sacred," said a local.

     Tulsi Sharma, assistant chief district officer of Parbat, revealed that director general of DoA Bishnu Raj Karki informed that the artifacts found in the cave probably date back to the Stone Age. "They have said the artifacts could be thousands of years old. Another team of specialists is coming here for excavation to launch further investigation," Sharma added.

     Sharma said the DoA suggested the District Administration Office to protect the site saying that the artifacts could be the oldest found through excavation in Nepal till now.



Birthplace of Gautam Buddha archaeological survey begins in Nepal

English.news.cn   2011-01-12 12:08:59    FeedbackPrintRSS

KATHMANDU, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- An international team of archaeologists has begun a three-year survey of the archaeological vestiges in Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, in southern Nepal.


According to Wednesday's The Himalayan Times, the team, which also includes experts from the Department of Archaeology and the Lumbini Development Trust, is working under the leadership of Robin Coningham, Vice Chancellor and Professor of Archaeology at Durham University, Britain.


According to United Nations Educational, Scientific,and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Nepal, the panel will work to identify the locations of archaeological remains below the surface so that development of facilities for pilgrims does not damage valuable archaeological resources.


"There is also a pressing need to prepare a plan for the area immediately outside the levee of the sacred garden to ensure that other development work within the master plan for the management of Lumbini are implemented in a way compatible to the World Heritage Site," read a UNESCO press release issued Tuesday.


According to the UN body, the archaeological endeavour is part of a larger project - Strengthening the Conservation and Management of Lumbini, the Birthplace of Lord Buddha - launched in 2010 to address the issues and challenges facing the World Heritage Site.


The project focuses on five components namely evaluation and interpretation of the Lumbini's archaeological signature, conservation of the Ashoka Pillar, the Marker Stone and the Nativity Sculpture, review of the state of the sacred garden with respect to the Kenzo Tange's Master Plan, establishment of an integrated management process to preserve Lumbini's universal value in the long run, and improvement of knowledge and skills of local experts.


Lumbini Development Project Chief Basanta Bidari was quoted by the daily as saying the project was a wonderful opportunity to develop capacity of local professionals in discovering the details of Buddha's birth by employing advances made in archaeology.


Editor: Xiong Tong



About Lumbini

Lumbini is the birthplace of Lord Buddha and is a sacred place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from across the world. The historic site, located in the Rupandehi district of Nepal, some 300km southwest of the capital Kathmandu, was inscribed onto the World Heritage List in 1997.


The holy area contains the ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Ashoka pillar and the Maya Devi temple with a the Nativity Sculpture and the Marker Stone indicating the place of Lord Buddha’s birth. The area is bordered by a large monastic zone and an area for commercial development.


About the Project

The project “Strengthening the Conservation and Management of Lumbini; the Birthplace of Lord Buddha” is funded by the Government of Japan within the framework of the Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the preservation of the world’s cultural heritage.


The project is being implemented by the UNESCO Kathmandu Office, in cooperation with the Department of Archaeology of Nepal’s Ministry of Federal Affairs, Constituent Assembly, Parliament Affairs and Culture, and the Lumbini Development Trust.


Project implementation officially started with the signature of the Plan of Operation on 16 July 2010 by the Government of Nepal and UNESCO. The scheme will protect and help the sustainable development of the Lumbini World Heritage Property by fostering the conservation of the Ashoka Pillar, the Marker Stone and the Nativity Sculpture; provide a survey of the archaeological vestiges within and around the property; review the present state of the Sacred Garden; and establish an integrated management plan for the entire site.


Project Components

The project has four components:

Conservation of archaeological remains and architectural optimization of the shelter, including mitigation of micro-climate and hydrological effects inside the Maya Devi Temple;


Archaeological identification, evaluation and interpretation of Lumbini;


Review of the Kenzo Tange Master Plan;


Establishment of an integrated management plan for Lumbini.



17th Century Mass Grave of Siege Found In Derry, N. Ireland

By Stephen Russell 12/01/2011 15:17:00


Recent excavation in the city of Derry are believed to have uncovered a mass grave dating to the 17th century Siege of Derry.

One of the most important events in Irish History was the Siege of Derry, which took place from 18 April to 28 July 1689.  The city was a stronghold, of William of Orange and was besieged by the army of James II until it was relieved by ships the Royal Navy.  Up to now human remains from the siege have not been identified.  However the discovery of three sets of human remains beneath First Derry Presbyterian Church might be from the Siege and could possibly be the site of a mass grave dating to this period.

The siege dates to the time of England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688, when James II a Roman Catholic, was ousted from his throne by his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange who were both Protestants.  The vast majority of the Irish populations were Catholic, and James had given them some real concessions during his reign, which had lead to major uneasiness in Britain.

Moreover he had appointed an Irish Catholic Richard Talbot as Lord Deputy of Ireland.  In addition he also had re-admitted Catholics into the Irish Parliament, public office, and the army.  The Irish Catholics population also hoped that James would re-grant them their lands, which had been seized after Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland in 1653. This led James to Ireland to muster support in re-gaining his kingdoms.


The three sets of remains, which have been dated to the 17th century, were unearthed during exploration of the foundations of the church.  This work was been undertaken as part of the restoration work on the church.  The work, which began last year, is scheduled to be completed later this year.

The site under investigation has been a center Presbyterian worship in Derry since 1675 when a Presbyterian Meeting House was built. The earliest incarnation of the First Derry Presbyterian Church was constructed on Magazine Street Upper in 1690, with the assistance of a grant from Queen Mary in recognition of the bravery of the townsfolk displayed during the siege. The church was rebuilt in 1780 and repaired in 1828 and is a currently a Grade B+ listed building.

Cormac McSparron, a spokesman for the contractor Archaeological Fieldwork (CAF said that while the buried bodies could indicate the land was used as a graveyard, equally, the possibility exists that the skeletons could also date to the time of the 105-day Siege. These remains could cast new light on the siege and the conditions the population endured during it.

He believes the bodies are very possibly those of people who either starved to death inside the city walls or were fatally injured in one of the bloody skirmishes.

To support this belief Cormac points out that artefacts found in the soil around the human remains and beneath the wall, such as clay pipe bowls and pottery from Britain, Ireland and Continental Europe, date to the 1600s, and some to the late 1600s.  These dates tie closely to the period of the siege.

The siege of Derry is an emotive period and is a key event in the sectarian strife that has racked Northern Ireland for the last 400 years. It has been “celebrated since the 19th century as a key victory of Protestants over Catholics.

While small numbers died in combat during the siege it is believed that between 4000 people died of starvation or disease. Many had been forced to eat dogs, horses and rats over the 105 days of the siege.   These casualties of the siege would have to be buried in mass graves, which to date have not been identified.

The events of the siege has sunk deep into the Ulster Protestant psyche and apparently began when 13 apprentice boys shut the gates of the city against the oncoming army. King James demanded they "Surrender or die", the leaders of the defenders made the famous retort of "No Surrender!" which became a rallying cry of the Protestant population during the sectarian violence of the 20th century


Commenting on the finds, Mr McSparron said: "It is probably a mass grave, but it is hard to say for sure. Certainly the finds suggest from the relatively small area that we opened at that end of the church, that there were quite a number of burials. We have one articulated skeleton, a skull in another church and at the side of that church we have more bones emerging, so we have at least three sets of human remains within two relatively small churches that pre-date the existing church.

"It is reasonable to extrapolate that there are likely to be a lot of burials in the area. The material found around them are compatible with the Siege period, but that's not to say they couldn't just be ordinary burials from the two previous churches in that area," he said.

First Derry Minister, Rev Dr David Latimer has found the discoveries very exciting and believes it will help in studies of the siege, He said he hoped that at some point after restoration work was completed a plaque could be erected commemorating the dead who rest beneath the church and the adjoining car park.  There have been fears that further construction would damage the site and the remains.  Address these fears the minister promised that any future building works would not disturb the graves.

The site will become a key part of the city’s plans to develop its tourist product and It is planned that the archaeological dig will be included in the 'story' of First Derry Presbyterian Church in the new interpretive centre.  This center is being created at the rear of the church building at a cost of £150,000, which includes money gifted to the project by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.


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