Wine flowed freely from ancient Greece during its golden age, but new work suggests nuts and various herbs were also in demand.
With the help of DNA analysis, scientists are getting a present-day look at centuries-old trade in the Mediterranean. Such studies may help debunk some long-held assumptions, namely that the bulk of Greek commerce revolved around wine.
During the fifth through third centuries B.C., the Mediterranean and Black seas were major thoroughfares for ships loaded with thousands of curvaceous jars known as amphorae, thought from their shape to contain a drink made from fermented grape juice.
But only recently have researchers peered through the lens of 21st century genetics to identify the actual remnants of the jars’ long-disappeared cargo. Analyses of DNA fragments from the interior of nine jars from Mediterranean shipwrecks now reveal various combinations of olive, ginger, walnut and herbs in the rosemary family, along with the expected grapes. Read more.
A DNA analysis of ancient storage jars suggests that Greek sailors traded a wide range of foods—not just wine, as many historians have assumed. The study, in press at theJournal of Archaeological Science, finds evidence in nine jars taken from Mediterranean shipwrecks of vegetables, herbs and nuts. The researchers say DNA testing of underwater artifacts from different time periods could help to reveal how such complex markets developed across the Mediterranean.
Archaeologist Brendan Foley of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts and geneticist Maria Hansson of Lund University, Sweden, retrieved DNA from nine amphorae—the storage containers of the ancient world—from sunken ships dating from the fifth to the third centuries BC.
The researchers found grape DNA—as would be expected for containers of wine—in only five of the nine jars, and olive DNA, possibly from olive oil, in six of them. Other ‘hits’ included DNA from legumes, ginger, walnut and juniper and from herbs such as mint, thyme and oregano. Read more.
Often referred to as a south-east Asian version of Stonehenge, the Plain of Jars is one of the most enigmatic sights on Earth. Shrouded in both mystery and myth, this place has fascinated archaeologists and scientists ever since its discovery in the 1930s.
Thousands of giant stone jars are scattered around the Xieng Khouang plain in Laos and form one of the most bizarre archaeological collections, appearing in clusters and ranging from a single jar to several hundred, on the lower foothills surrounding the central plain and upland valleys.
Excavation by Lao and Japanese archaeologists in the intervening years has supported the conclusion that these were funeral megaliths, with the discovery of human remains, burial goods and ceramics found in association with the stone jars. The Plain of Jars is dated to the Iron Age (500 BCE to 500 CE) and is one of the most fascinating and important sites for studying Southeast Asian prehistory. Read more.
Havana, Cuba, May 5.- An exhibition of pharmaceutical bottles from the second half of the 19th century, found in excavations in the historical center of Havana, will open its doors on May 18th.
Titled Archaeology and Pharmacy, the exhibition will show glass jars for medicines and perfumes issued by health and trade institutions, dating from the beginning of the previous century.
Also on display will be the most emblematic drugs made at that time and various utensils, including a rubber syringe for enemas and fragments of catheter for forced feeding. Read more.
Three jars dating back to the 16-17th centuries were discovered during construction of St. Anna spiritual complex on the territory adjacent to St. Mary church in the center of Yerevan.
Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences, archaeologist Gagik Sargsyan told areporter that the jars were found as fragments, but not in one piece. On April 20, they will be transferred to Yerevan History Museum.
According to the archaeologist, the jars have no archaeological value, though they indicate that a cellar could be located on the church territory. Read more.