(via Kara Cooney)
October 7, 2015
October 5, 2015
They may have lived in an era when dental care was rudimentary at best, but the ancient Romans had better teeth than people today, new research has revealed.
Scientists used CAT scans to examine the remains of 30 men, women and children who were killed in Pompeii when the city was engulfed by ash and pumice from Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.
After months of research, their most startling discovery was the excellent condition of the Romans’ teeth, which the researchers ascribed to a low-sugar, fibre-rich Mediterranean diet.
“The inhabitants of Pompeii ate a lot of fruit and vegetables but very little sugar,” said Elisa Vanacore, a dental expert. “They ate better than we did and have really good teeth. Studying their teeth could reveal a lot more about their lives.”
I’m a bit wary of this. Other research shows that they had pretty good dental health but nothing near perfect. Tooth decay was fairly common as were abscesses and lost teeth, partly due to the fact that they ate a lot of tough food and that produced a lot of wear. This may be a function of age or social status or, as the link indicates, a water supply with fluoride and other minerals.
September 30, 2015
Last week paleoecologist Eric Grimm, the director of science at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, rented an 8-meter-long truck, bought $500 worth of lumber, and built temporary shelves in the back. Then, with the help of his wife and former coworkers, he loaded his cargo: roughly 30 sediment cores drilled from lake bottoms.
The cores, which hold pollen grains, minerals, and other clues that help researchers reconstruct past environments, had been stored at the museum where Grimm has worked for 28 years. But the museum is scheduled to close on 1 October as the result of a tense budget standoff between the state’s Democrat-led General Assembly and its Republican governor. So Grimm is moving his collection to the University of Minnesota’s National Lacustrine Core Repository (LacCore) in Minneapolis. And he’s retiring from his post at the museum—with a certain sense of dismay.
“It’s a travesty,” Grimm says of the political stalemate that has dominated Illinois for months, and the consequences for the museum. “I think it’s political corruption and malevolent anti-intellectualism.”
Political corruption? In Illinois? The dickens you say.
These are, of course, the same people who continue selling lottery tickets they don’t pay off.
Two millennia after a shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera, the site is still yielding treasures that reveal details of life in ancient times.
Not much there. I’m not sure if the video at the top is supposed to do anything or not, all I got was a long commercial.
September 28, 2015
An ancient mass grave, uncovered during the construction of a shopping mall outside San Francisco, contains the bodies of seven men who appear to have been victims of “mass homicide” some 1,150 years ago, scientists say.
The men — ranging in age from 18 to 40 — bore clear signs of physical trauma, including severe head wounds, broken limbs, and in some cases, the remnants of stone and obsidian weapons still among their remains.
Now, chemical analysis has revealed that the men were far from home when they were killed, up to several days’ journey from where they were born and raised.
Not that this is anything really new. The descriptions look like fairly common trauma injuries. It’s a good thing that the analysis was allowed though, so judos to all involved. Even if the story that ends up being told isn’t pleasant it adds to the richness of life (and death) in the area’s history.
September 27, 2015
Chicha was an important element of the ancient Moche diet, but as with most alcoholic consumption through time, it also helped cement social alliances. ”People drank prodigious amounts of chicha at social events,” Gagnon and colleagues write in a new article in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. By one estimate, the average ancient Moche person drank 2 liters of chicha daily, and even more during feast times. ”The production of chicha was a site of power negotiations at the local level,” they explain, and chicha production is often identified by archaeologists based on their finding of special vessels for fermentation of the drink.
Brewing a drink like chicha is relatively simple: take water and sprouted corn, boil for hours, cool, strain, add yeast, and let ferment for a few days. But what excessive drinking of chicha does to the human skeleton is much more complex. Our bodies contain a lot of oxygen in several different forms or isotopes. The relative abundance of oxygen isotopes in our skeletons is mostly due to what we drink. So a person who lives in one place during childhood, when their teeth and bones are forming, will have an oxygen isotope ratio related to the groundwater in the geographical area. Testing skeletal tissue for oxygen isotopes is one way that bioarchaeologists can discover whether a person was local or a migrant to an area. Brewing water results in evaporation, so the oxygen isotope value of the brewed beverage is different from the water that went into it. Since the ancient Moche were drinking more chicha than groundwater, though, this almost certainly changed their oxygen isotope ratio.
So it really wasn’t (at least based on Kristina’s summary, I didn’t go to the paper yet) about the beer process, it was about isotopes for a change. I’ll need to read the article, but I’m wondering how widespread the chicha consumption was across the population. One would think that it or some form of it would be common through all classes as it usually is, functioning as something of a dietary staple.
September 23, 2015
But the USA Today site irritated me with gigantic popups that I couldn’t get rid of that I decided not to. Scum sucking pig-dogs.
In the current issue of the journal American Antiquity, Larry Zimmerman, an archaeologist from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, reviews one of those books, The Lost Colonies of Ancient America: A comprehensive Guide to the Pre-Columbian Visitors Who Really Discovered America, written by Frank Joseph.
Joseph writes that there were pre-Columbian visits by Sumerians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Celts and others. An apparently non-facetious blurb on the book’s cover asks, “Who didn’t discover America?”
. . .
Why don’t archaeologists take these claims seriously?
Joseph says they “cannot deviate from an academic party line without jeopardizing their professional careers,” and so accept “only those facts that support mainstream opinion.”
That’s pretty much what everyone says, from Erich von Däniken onwards. Not that we don’t tend to be wedded to our theories; it took an awful lot of prodding to get anyone to accept pre-Clovis sites, after all.
Two graves found in Northamptonshire could shed light on ordinary people’s lives after the Romans left Britain.
The graves, near a Roman villa at Nether Heyford, contain a girl and an armed man buried in the Dark Ages.
They were discovered by metal detector experts working with the Community Landscape And Survey Project (CLASP).
Steve Young, former NFL quarterback, ex-lecturer at Northampton University and archaeologist in charge, said the woman was probably a Christian and the man possibly an Anglo Saxon.
I may have edited that slightly.
On a summer day in 2001, Coe and a small band of investigators literally “broke into” a suspected tunnel in the Paddington area of Edge Hill. With the help of a digger, they made a small hole in the roof of what turned out to be an old cellar: the upper level of one of the tunnel systems.
Coe and a few others gingerly ventured in via a harness. The chamber was full of rubble piled so high, walking upright was impossible. Still, the explorers were thrilled. “It was quite exhilarating when we found that opening,” Coe recalls.
Eventually, three different sites in the area would offer access to various bits of the tunnels. But excavating them was – and still is – difficult work. Over the last 15 years teams of volunteers, digging up to twice a week, have removed more than 120 skips of waste material. They have revealed forgotten cellar systems and, in several cases, multiple levels of tunnels – some with stone steps leading down to deeper caverns. There are also some debris-filled passages branching off in odd directions; it’s not clear how far they go or to where they ultimately lead.