Online Journal of Anthropology

Diet

 

The new analysis of the skeletal remains of Saint Erik provides extensive information about his health condition, genealogy, diet, and death. Photograph: Anders Tukler

 

The saint’s legend speaks of a king who died a dramatic death in battle outside the church where he had just celebrated mass. But what can modern science tell us about his remains? A joint research project headed by Uppsala University now reveals more of the health condition of the medieval king Erik, what he looked like, where he lived and what the circumstances of his death were.

 

No contemporary sources mention Erik Jedvardsson, the Swedish king who was later sainted. The only account of his life is the saint’s legend, in its preserved form written in the 1290’s. Such legends are often unreliable. The Erik legend is, however, based on an older legend which has been lost, and this longer legend may have been much older.

 

The preserved legend says that Erik was chosen to be king, ruled fairly, was a devoted Christian, led a crusade against Finland, and supported the Church. He was killed in 1160, in his tenth year of rule, by a Danish claimant to the throne. His remains have rested in a reliquary since 1257.

 
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A new way of examining the teeth of children who lived between the 11th and 15th centuries without damaging them has been discovered.

 

 

Medieval children’s milk teeth

 

By using 3D microscopic imaging, researchers from the universities of Kent (UK) and Indianapolis (USA) have been able to safely reconstruct the diet of children who would have lived next door to Canterbury Cathedral when Chaucer was writing his famous Tales.

 

The 3D technology – known as dental microwear texture analysis – involved measuring microscopic changes in the surface topography of the teeth.This is the first time that this technology has been applied to children’s teeth.

 

By using this technology Kent’s Dr Patrick Mahoney, biological anthropologist, (School of Anthropology and Conservation), and colleagues, who included a historian, were able to learn more about how diet varied among children from poor and wealthy families in medieval Canterbury.

 

Dietary reconstructions from ancient teeth are often destructive, but this technology offers a new way to access this information without damaging fragile teeth.

 

Dr Mahoney is a leading expert on dental development of modern human children. He expects that applications of this technique will pioneer a new era in anthropological studies, opening up the dietary secrets of ancient children, and our fossil ancestors.

 

The findings, which were funded by a British Academy-Leverhulme Trust research grant, were presented in the February edition of Journal of Archaeological Science.

 

 

(Text & Images’ Source: article by Sandy Fleming, University of Kent)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled, boiled or salted? Turtles, or tortoises, are rarely consumed today, but a select few cultures, primarily those in East Asia, still consider turtle soup, made from the flesh of the turtle, a delicacy.

 

According to a new discovery at Qesem Cave near Tel Aviv, the site of many major findings from the late Lower Paleolithic period, they are not alone in their penchant for tortoise. Tel Aviv University researchers, in collaboration with scholars from Spain and Germany, have uncovered evidence of turtle specimens at the 400,000-year-old site, indicating that early man enjoyed eating turtles in addition to large game and vegetal material. The research provides direct evidence of the relatively broad diet of early Paleolithic people — and of the “modern” tools and skills employed to prepare it.

 

The study was led by Dr. Ruth Blasco of the Centro Nacional de Investigacion Sobre la Evolucion Humana (CENIEH), Spain, and TAU’s Institute of Archaeology, together with Prof. Ran Barkai and Prof. Avi Gopher of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations. Other collaborators include: Dr. Jordi Rosell and Dr. Pablo Sanudo of Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), Spain; and Dr. Krister T. Smith and Dr. Lutz Christian Maul of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Germany. The research was published on February 1, 2016, in Quaternary Science Reviews.

 

“Culinary and cultural depth” to the Paleolithic diet

“Until now, it was believed that Paleolithic humans hunted and ate mostly large game and vegetal material,” said Prof. Barkai. “Our discovery adds a really rich human dimension — a culinary and therefore cultural depth to what we already know about these people.”

 

The research team discovered tortoise specimens strewn all over the cave at different levels, indicating that they were consumed over the entire course of the early human 200,000-year inhabitation. Once exhumed, the bones revealed striking marks that reflected the methods the early humans used to process and eat the turtles.

 
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