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Permafrost preservation reveals evidence for early yak milk consumption

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According to a study by the University of Michigan, the elites of the Mongol Empire first consumed yaks’ milk during the 13th century based on proteomic evidence.

By analysing proteins found within ancient dental calculus from individuals buried in permafrost, the study provides direct evidence for consumption of milk from multiple ruminants such as Yak, as well as milk and blood proteins linked to horses and ruminants.

Yak products serve as a crucial source of calories and commodities for local consumption and trade in eastern Eurasia’s high-altitude communities. Until now, little evidence has been found regarding the early history of yaks in Mongolia, and it is often uncertain whether yaks were domesticated or not. The sole identifiable archaeological specimen discovered is a yak cranium recovered from the Denjiin Navtan site, which is tentatively dated to the Late Bronze or Early Iron Age.

Due to the limited archaeological and historical records regarding the domesticated yak in Mongolia, the analysis of proteins provides an important opportunity to gain insights into the animal’s early uses and spread.

Novel protein findings have been presented in the study from the Mongol Khorig cemeteries, where elite burials took place on high-altitude ridgelines in the Khovsgol mountains in northern Mongolia. The burials are situated within the permafrost, which has allowed for exceptional preservation of organic materials such as silk, felt, and leather, as well as residues found in ceramic vessels.

“Our most important finding was an elite woman buried with a birchbark hat called a bogtog and silk robes depicting a golden five-clawed dragon. Our proteomic analyses concluded that she drank yak milk during her lifetime,” said Alicia Ventresca-Miller, U-M assistant professor of anthropology. “This helped us verify the long-term use of this iconic animal in the region and its ties to elite rulers.”

Proteins were extracted from the dental calculus of 11 individuals from Khorig where 10 of 11 samples yielded proteins typically found in the oral cavity.

According to the study: “The results suggest that yak milk was likely consumed in Mongolia by ~AD 1270. Given the paucity of existing evidence for yak dairying and, indeed, yak exploitation more broadly in the Mongolian and greater global archaeological record, this finding is significant. We acknowledge that this is a relatively late date for yak milk consumption, which probably occurred in earlier eras but has until now not been identified.”

University of Michigan

https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-023-04723-3

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Archaeology

Study reveals new insights into life at “German Stonehenge”

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Excavations of the Ringheiligtum Pömmelte, nicknamed the “German Stonehenge”, has revealed new insights into domestic life from prehistory.

Ringheiligtum Pömmelte is a late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age henge from the late third millennium BC. The monument features seven concentric rings made of palisades, ditches, and raised banks, each containing a series of wooden posts.

The site was discovered in 1991 through aerial photography near the present-day village of Pömmelte in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

From 2018 to 2022, archaeologists have excavated nearly 140 ancient dwellings dating from 2,800 BC to 2,200 BC. The older dwellings are linked to the Corded Ware and the Bell Beaker culture, while the more recent ones are associated with the Únětice Culture.

In a recent study conducted by the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) of Saxony-Anhalt, archaeologists are employing various scientific methods to offer new insights into the site’s ritual and settlement landscape.

The study has identified house locations of the Corded Ware culture (26th to 23rd century BC), and an associated settlement pit containing ceramic sherds, an axe head and flint blades. Until now, Corded Ware settlement could only be attributed to individual finds that had been relocated, and not to actual structures on the site.

Also associated with the Corded Ware culture is a storage area with 78 grain silo pits that held various types of gain, including wheat, barley, and spelt. Archaeologists already know that Corded Ware people lived on a balanced diet with animal products, further indicated by drinking vessels from burials at Ringheiligtum Pömmelte that contained traces of dairy products.

While the scientific analyses and the interpretation of the results with various specialists continue, excavations at Pömmelte will last until mid-July 2024.

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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3,400-year-old shipwreck found with cargo mostly intact

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Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Unit have discovered a 3,400-year-old shipwreck with the cargo mostly intact.

The site was first identified during an underwater survey by Energean, an energy company searching for natural gas deposits beneath the Mediterranean Sea Floor.

This led to the discovery of the shipwreck and its cargo at a depth of 1.8 kilometers, along with its cargo that consists of Late Bronze Age Canaanite storage vessels.

IAA archaeologists, in collaboration with Energean, have used the deep sea exploratory vessel, “Energean Star” to conduct a visual inspection of the wreck site. This has revealed hundreds of ceramic vessels on the seabed, and a muddy layer which likely conceals a second layer and the wooden beams of the ship.

Jacob Sharvit, Head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Unit, explains, “The ship seems to have sunk in crisis, either due to a storm or to an attempted piracy attack – a well-known occurrence in the Late Bronze Age. This is both the first and the oldest ship found in the Eastern Mediterranean deep sea, ninety kilometres from the nearest shore.”

Image Credit : IAA

Only two other ships from this period have been found – the boat from Cape Gelidonya and the Uluburun boat; both found off the Turkish coast. Both ships were found near the shore, suggesting that shipping routes followed the coastline between ports. However, this new discovery changes the understanding of ancient marine trade, demonstrating that ancient shipping also extended into deep waters.

“The ship is preserved at such a great depth that time has frozen since the moment of disaster – its body and contexts have not been disturbed by human hand (divers, fishermen, etc.); nor affected by waves and currents which do impact shipwrecks in shallower waters,” added Sharvit.

Header Image Credit : IAA

Sources : Israel Antiquities Authority

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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