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Prehistoric chefs retained strong cooking traditions

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Archaeologists have combined a combination of DNA analysis and ceramic studies to investigate the dissemination of broomcorn millet across Eurasia, shedding light on how regional culinary customs persisted despite the introduction of new crops.

Originating in China, broomcorn millet was typically prepared through boiling and steaming, resulting in a moist and adhesive product. In Central Asia, however, grains were commonly ground and baked into bread. When millet was introduced, locals applied their existing cooking methods to the new grain.

“It was already known that staple crops had moved long distances across the Old World in prehistory, at the same time that regional cuisines had persisted in a conservative fashion”, states author Dr Hongen Jiang from The University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “We didn’t know how those two opposing trends interconnected.”

To unravel this mystery, a team of researchers from various Chinese, UK, and US institutions analysed DNA from preserved millet remains in Xinjiang, China, dating from 1700 BC to AD 700. They compared this with cooking vessels to reconstruct prehistoric cooking techniques, the results of which are published in the journal Antiquity.

“Just as remarkable as the vast journeys staple crops made across prehistoric Eurasia is the enduring persistence of the regional culinary cultures that received those crops”, says Dr Jiang. “Conventional studies of ancient pottery can be combined with novel DNA science to reveal how they interconnect.”

The stickiness of broomcorn millet is influenced by specific gene variations. By analysing the DNA of grain samples, Drs. Harriet Hunt and Diane Lister from Kew Gardens and Cambridge University determined that millet grains from Xinjiang lacked the genes that make them sticky. This implies that, as millet spread westward, it retained a non-sticky consistency, even though sticky millet was prevalent in eastern China. Thus, crops extended farther west than the culinary traditions associated with them.

Ceramic evidence supports this, with eastern Chinese vessels designed for boiling, featuring a tripod base, while those in Central Asia have rounded bottoms, a design originating in the Altai mountains. Despite the introduction of millet to Xinjiang from the east, the vessels used to cook it were from the north, underscoring the survival of cooking traditions despite the incorporation of new ingredients.

The westward expansion of staple crops undoubtedly transformed the diets of the populations it reached, but culturally ingrained cooking traditions likely remained steadfast. Dr. Xinyi Liu from Washington University in St. Louis points out a parallel pattern in the opposite direction: wheat travelled eastward to ancient China about 4000 years ago, but the western grinding-and-baking tradition did not follow suit. The DNA evidence suggests that crops adapted to the people, rather than the reverse.

Header Image Credit : Antiquity Journal

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

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Archaeology

Researchers find that Żagań-Lutnia5 is an Iron Age stronghold

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Archaeologists have conducted a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey of Żagań-Lutnia5, revealing that the monument is an Iron Age stronghold.

Żagań-Lutnia5 was first discovered in the 1960s near the town of Żagań in western Poland, with previous studies suggesting that the monument could be associated with the Białowieża group of the Lusatian urnfield culture.

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age (1300–500 BC) in most of what is now Poland. It formed part of the Urnfield systems found from eastern France, southern Germany and Austria to Hungary, and the Nordic Bronze Age in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia.

A recent study led by Dr. Arkadiusz Michalak on behalf of the Archaeological Museum of the Middle Oder River has revealed two parallel sequences of magnetic anomalies at Żagań-Lutnia5 that represent the remnants of earthen and wooden fortifications.

The course of the fortifications were recorded in the northern, western and southern parts of the study area, however, a study of the eastern section was limited due to a sewage collector built in the 1990’s.

Exploratory excavations found four cultural layers with remains of huts and hearths, in addition to a burnt layer from the last phase of occupation that suggests a period of conflict.

According to the researchers, the monument was likely built by the same people who constructed the stronghold in Wicin and a number of verified defensive settlements within the area of the Elbe, Nysa Łużycka and Odra.

As a result of the study, Żagań-Lutnia5 has been added to the catalogue of verified Early Iron Age strongholds located in today’s Lubusz Voivodeship.

Header Image Credit : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments

Sources : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments – Archaeological research at the site of Żagań-Lutnia5

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

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Archaeology

Rare copper dagger found in Polish forest

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A rare copper dagger from over 4,000-years-ago has been discovered in the forests near Korzenica, southeastern Poland.

Piotr Gorlach from the Historical and Exploration Association Grupa Jarosław made the discovery during a metal detector survey in Jarosław Forest.

Upon realising the significance of the find, Mr Gorlach contacted the Podkarpacie conservator of monuments in Przemyśl and the Orsetti House Museum.

The dagger dates from over 4,000 years ago, a period in which objects made from copper were extremely rare in the Central European Plain.

A preliminary study indicates that the dagger may originate from the Carpathian Basin or Ukrainian steppe, and predates the development of bronze metallurgy for the region.

This transition is traditionally known as the Copper Age and marked a gradual incorporation of copper while stone remained the primary resource utilised.

Dr. Elżbieta Sieradzka-Burghardt from the museum in Jarosław, said: “This is a period of enormous change in the main raw materials for the production of tools. Instead of flint tools commonly used in the Stone Age, more and more metal products appear heralding the transition to the next period – the Bronze Age.”

Daggers during this era were a universal attribute of warriors, however, being made from copper suggests that the owner held a high social status. This is further supported by its size measuring 10.5 cm in length, which for this period is actually very large when compared to other metal objects from the same era.

The dagger has already been added to the collection of the Orsetti House Museum in Jarosław.

Header Image Credit : Łukasz Śliwiński

Sources : PAP – A dagger from over 4,000 years ago found in the forest.

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

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