Archive for July, 2018

Farmer wins big on gilded horse head

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018


Way back in the short-n-sweet days of this here blog, almost a decade ago now, I reported on the discovery in Germany of an exceptionally well-preserved bronze horse head from a Roman-era equestrian statue. Archaeologists unearthed the life-sized equine head made of gilded bronze and a single human foot from the same statue near Waldgirmes in the central German state of Hesse on August 12th, 2009.

Waldgirmes is not mentioned in the historical record, but there was a Roman town there. The remains of a forum are the oldest known stone building foundation in Germany. Roman coins found at the site bear the profile of Publius Quinctilius Varus, the first governor appointed of the newly-official Roman province of Germania in 7 A.D. and notorious loser of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest two years later.

The style and quality of the horse head date to the earliest period in the area’s Roman history. The horse’s bridle is decorated with reliefs of Mars, god of war, and Victoria, personification of Victory. It was likely part of an equestrian statue of the Emperor Augustus which stood in the settlement since its foundation in around 4 or 5 A.D. and was destroyed by the victorious Germanic tribes after the Battle of Teutoburg Forest. They dismembered the symbol of imperial domination and tossed the head and foot into a well. Very much contrary to their intent, the waterlogged environment preserved the broken pieces in exceptional condition.

At the time of the discovery, the state of Hesse paid the landowner of the find site 48,000 euros in recompense for the head and foot in accordance with the regional cultural patrimony laws, but the farmer was not satisfied that the accounting was accurate. Comments like this one from Eva Kuehne-Hoermann, Hesse’s state minister for science, at the Frankfurt unveiling of the gilded horse head: “This bronze sculpture counts among the best pieces to have ever been found from the area of the former Roman empire. Nowhere else is there a finding of this form or quality.” might have tipped him off.

A new ruling from a regional court backs the farmer’s position.

The Limburg regional court said Friday that, according to state law at the time, the farmer was eligible to half the value of the head, which an expert estimated at around 1.6 million euros. He would also be entitled to interest.

That makes for a grand total of 773,000 euros (nearly $904,000) owed to the landowner by the state government, plus any interest that has accrued in the nine years since the discovery. The ruling can be appealed so it’s not necessarily the final determination.

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Cache of 18th c. rockets found in India

Monday, July 30th, 2018

A cache of more than 1,000 18th century artillery “rockets” has been found in the village of Bidanuru in the Shimoga district of Karnataka, southwestern India. Workers found the early shells while digging out an abandoned dry well. The iron cylinders used by the King of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, to fight against the British forces that would, after his death, conquer the subcontinent, were recognized by the diggers as the king’s rockets and archaeologists were called in to the excavate them.

“Excavation of the open well led to unearthing of over 1,000 corroded rockets that were stored during Tipu’s times for use in wars,” R Shejeshwara Nayaka told Agence France-Presse from the site, 240 miles north-west of the state capital, Bangalore.

“Digging of the dry well where its mud was smelling like gunpowder led to the discovery of the rockets and shells in a pile.”

It took three days for the 15-member team of archaeologists, excavators and labourers to unearth the armoury and ammunition.

Tipu Sultan came to throne already in a state of war against the British. His father Haider Ali had fought them off an on (mainly on) since 1767, and after his death from cancer on December 7th, 1782, Tipu Sultan picked up where Haider Ali had left off fighting the Second Anglo-Mysore War. His success on the battlefield forced the British to sue for peace in 1784, the last time they would come to the treaty table as supplicants in India.

Tipu was known as a strong warrior from an early age. His father, keenly conscious of his own illiteracy, had ensured his son had the very best education, particularly in military matters, available. French officers in the employ of Haider Ali tutored his son in arms and combat and they were apparently damn good at it. Tipu first accompanied his father on campaign, the invasion of Malabar, when he was 15. By the time he was 16, he was commanding cavalry corps and competently, no less.

Haider Ali began using iron rockets in the 1780s — he had more than a thousand men in his rocket corps — but it was in the Third Anglo-Mysore War (1790–1792) that Tipu Sultan turned it up to eleven, increasing his rocket men to 5,000, developing the iron-encased artillery shell to peak power and precision and pioneering its use in mass rocket attacks against the British East India Company and its Indian allies.

Measuring around 10 inches long, the enclosed iron tubes were filled with gunpowder and tied to the end of a bamboo shaft. That made them portable and compact enough to be launched by an individual soldier. The black powder combusted inside the iron chamber and acted as a propellant to give the shells lift and reach. Some would burst in the air at the target; others would bounce on the ground until the charge was spent.

Mysorean rockets were significantly more accurate and nimble than European artillery. Their range was over a mile and they could be aimed with great precision. European rockets weren’t made of iron and so were not strong enough to stay intact and contain the combustion of the powder so they had a more limited reach. They were the first iron-encased rockets to be successfully deployed in combat and indeed were so successful that the British took note, using them as the prototype for their own foray into the iron rocket business, the Congreve rockets developed by Sir William Congreve in 1804 and immediately put to use in the Napoleonic wars.

Some of Tipu Sultain’s rockets have been unearthed before near the current find site, but never in so great a number. Tipu, whose father had conquered Karnataka in 1763 and absorbed it into the Kingdom of Mysore, appears to have used the spot as a hidden weapons depot to use against British forces in a pinch. It was not enough to save his kingdom or his life. Tipu Sultan died on May 4th, 1799, while valiantly defending his fort of Srirangapatna during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. The British victory was decisive, ending the Kingdom of Mysore, installing puppet princes from the feudal dynasty Haider Ali had ousted who reigned in name only until India became an independent republic in 1947.

The cache will be conserved and displayed in a “rocket gallery” in the Shivappa Nayaka Palace Museum in Shivamogga city, a palace built, as it happens, by Haider Ali, even though it bears the name of the Nayaka dynasty he overthrew.

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Remains of sacrificed child found at Templo Mayor

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

Archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have unearthed the remains of a child sacrificed by the Aztecs at the foot of the Templo Mayor in the center of Mexico City. This is the second child burial found at the Templo Mayor. The first was discovered in 2005.

The child was a boy between eight and 10 years of age at the time of his death. INAH experts believe he was sacrificed to the god of war Huitzilopochtli sometime around the late 15th century during the reign of emperor Ahuízotl (1486-1502). Osteological examination by physical anthropologist Jacqueline Castro found that his teeth were heavily worn and he had suffered from multiple infections in his mouth.

His body was adorned with a ring-shaped wooden breastplate called an anahuatl, a mark associated with Huitzilopochtli as well as a few other deities. He also wore two rectangular wooden ear decorations, a pyrite piece and a necklace with five green stone beads thought to be Guatemalan jadeite and some blue beads made of an unknown stone. He had copper bells, shells from the Caribbean Sea and green stone beads on his ankles. The discovery of bones from two bird wings is another indicator that he was offered to Huitzilopochtli because a previous child sacrifice found at the site included the wings of a forest hawk, an animal linked to the war god due to its ocher and blue coloring.

The excavation that revealed this burial was spurred by the discovery of a gravestone bearing the relief of a golden eagle that predates the child’s death by decades. The tombstone is from the reign of Moctezuma I (1440-1469), so was not related to the sacrifice. It was just a coincidence that so significant an artifact was found that the team explored the area further and found the remains of the child.

The location of the burial, dubbed Offering 176, at the foot of the steps of the sixth stage of the Templo Mayor built during the reign of Ahuízotl is highly significant. It is within the Cuauhxicalco, a circular building which Spanish chroniclers recorded was the site where the remains of Mexica rulers were deposited. Perhaps in connection with its location, the tomb itself is unusual in shape and construction. The pit is cylindrical, lined with volcanic rocks mortared together with stucco. Of the 204 tombs discovered at the Templo Mayor, this is the only one with these particular features. Building the tomb required raising stone slabs, filling the square with soil and building another stone square on top of it.

The remains of the child sacrifice found in 2005, Offering 111, showed evidence of his heart having been removed during the ceremony. Whether this child too suffered the same fate is not known at this time.

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Rare seal of Byzantine empress found in Bulgaria

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

Archaeologists excavating the medieval fortress of Lyutitsa near the town of Ivaylovgrad in southeastern Bulgaria have discovered a rare lead seal of Byzantine Empress Irene, consort of Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus (r. 1282–1328). Only two other seals of Empress Irene are known to survive, both of them now in the British Museum. This is the only one of three to be found in Bulgaria.

The seal depicts Irene, born Yolande of Montferrat, on one side in her full regalia as Byzantine Empress. The other side is an image of the Virgin Mary seated with the Christ child on her lap. Irene’s name is stamped on both sides.

“The find is extremely valuable and shows that Lyutitsa was an important [medieval] Bulgarian city, whose governors had correspondence even with the rulers of the largest medieval states,” Bulgaria’s National Museum of History says.

Assoc. Prof. Vladimir Penchev, numismatist at the Museum, has pointed out that Yolande of Montferrat was Empress of Byzantium in 1284 – 1317.

Yolande of Montferrat was born in 1274 in the March of Montferrat (also known as Margraviate or Marquisate of Montferrat) in Northern Italy, a state of the Holy Roman Empire which became the Duchy of Montferrat in 1576.

Yolande was the daughter of William VII, Marquess of Montferrat, (1240 – 1292) and Beatrice of Castile (1254 – 1286), who was his second wife.

On her mother’s side, Yolande of Montferrat was the granddaughter of King Alfonso X the Wise of Castile (1221 – 1284) and Violante (Yolanda) of Aragon (1236 – 1301), after whom she was named. Alfonso X was the King of Castile, Leon, and Galicia in 1252 – 1284.

In 1284, the 10-year-old Yolande of Montferrat was married to the widowed Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus, upon which she converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and adopted the name “Irene” meaning “peace”.

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Maya paintings found in Yucatan cave

Friday, July 27th, 2018

A team of archaeologists has discovered important Maya cave paintings in a Yucatan cenote. Led to the sinkhole deep in the jungle by locals who knew of it as a sacred site of the ancient Maya, archaeologist Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi and his team found paintings covering an area almost 50 feet long and more than 16 feet high on the cave wall.

They feature a surprising variety of motifs. There are handprints (both negative and positive), birds, crosses, geometric designs and human figures including a warrior, recognizable by the shield he holds in one hand and a sword in the other. This proliferation of elements is remarkable and unique among the cave paintings found in the Yucatan.

The archaeologist said his team is motivated by this new discovery because it will provide new information about Mayan customs, “though we don’t yet know what these cave paintings mean nor to what period they belong.”

He said they have contacted researchers at the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) and other specialists with whom they will meet in the coming days at the site in order to identify the elements.

“Right now we’re unable to reveal the exact location, because unfortunately in the Yucatan, the looters and vandals are always a step ahead of us,” he said.

Grosjean, a certified diver, said that to study the meaning of the pictures, the team will take photos and then, “if the authorities allow it,” they will carry out a sustainable project giving visitors access to the site, and with that, they will “create jobs for local residents.”

Sustainability is key to preserving the archaeologically important site. Grosjean laments that there has been little interests shown at local, regional and federal government levels in proper conservation of Maya sacred sites and respectful use of them as tourist attractions. Some sites have even been converted into resorts with no care for their preservation or historic significance.

This short Spanish-language video shows the tiny hole the team dove through to emerge into the cave and the impressive span of the art works.

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Joe the Quilter’s cottage rebuilt at Beamish

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

The cottage in which Joe the Quilter lived, worked and died from murder most foul has been rebuilt at Beamish Museum. The remains of the cottage where the infamous murder took place were unearthed in late 2015 by a team of experts from the museum and volunteers. Although the cottage was demolished in 1872 and a field boundary later cut through the location, significant parts of the dwelling were still in situ, among them the flagstone floor on which the skilled needleworker once walked and the bases of three of the walls.

The remains were raised, numbered and transported to Beamish, an open-air history museum near Stanley, County Durham, northeast England, where they have a section dedicated to life in northern England in 1820s. The component parts of the cottage were first kept in storage as the museum raised funds to recreate it on site combining the original remains with a historically accurate reconstruction of the rest.

This was only possible because Joseph Hedley, aka Joe the Quilter, was internationally known for his beautiful needlework quilts, so when a person or persons unknown brutally slew the impoverished, kindly 75-year-old man in his cottage with 44 cuts to the head, neck and chest, the murder made news all over the country. The government offered a large reward for any information about the crime, even offering immunity to accomplices as long as they had not committed the violence themselves. Nobody ever came forward and the crime was never solved.

A detailed drawing of the cottage was printed in the press and on postcards, and the scene was described in numerous stories and police reports complete with architectural plans. The little cottages of the working poor of Georgian England were not documented in that kind of detail, so Joe’s cottage gives a very rare insight into how the vast majority of people lived in that era. Experts were able to rebuild the cottage with a high degree of accuracy, down to the crack in the front wall and the little built-in stone bench next to the door, thanks to that unique documentation.

The reconstructed cottage is the first new exhibition in the Remaking Beamish project, an ambitious £18 million endeavor that is the biggest development in the museum’s history. The project is in large part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which has awarded it a £10.9 million grant. The living history museum will be significantly expanded with a full 1950s town, 1950s farm and, in the Georgian section where Joe the Quilter’s cottage now stands, a period coaching inn where visitors to the museum can spend the night as travelers to the area would have done in the early 19th century (with the addition of certain modern conveniences like flush toilets, of course).

Richard Evans, Beamish’s Director, said: “This is a really exciting moment for us all at Beamish. After years of planning we are finally opening the first of many new exhibits that are part of Remaking Beamish, a major £18million development that is currently underway at the museum.

“This beautifully-crafted, heather-thatched cottage gives us a rare chance to understand what everyday life was like in the North East during the early part of the 19th century.

“The quality of this latest addition to Beamish is outstanding – the result of many years of research, painstaking craftsmanship and the involvement of local community groups and schools. It is a real credit to the dedication and talent of our staff and volunteers, who have created this fascinating new experience for our visitors.”

Beamish Museum has created a video that tells the story of the cottage, its reconstruction and the new exhibition centered on cottage industry and the museum’s exceptional collection of 400 quilts, including one exceedingly rare piece by Joseph Hedley himself.

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Medieval grammar proves to be dilly of a pickle

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Three mislabeled leaves from medieval manuscripts in Stanford University’s Green Library have been discovered to be more intriguing than expected. Instead of a lesson on Hebrew grammar, they explore the medicinal properties of pickles and other fermented foods.

Historian Rowan Dorin discovered the anomalous fragments while looking through the library’s collection of medieval texts. The three parchment leaves had been catalogued as fragments from two copies of a grammar and dictionary of the Hebrew language written by eminent lexicographer Jonah ibn Janah in the 11th century. Born in Cordoba in Al-Andalus, Rabbi Jonah wrote his seminal study of Hebrew in Arabic. It was only translated into Hebrew in the 14th century by Judah ibn Tibbon. Kitab al-Tanqih (“Book of exact investigation”) is the earliest complete text on the study of Hebrew to survive.

These fragments were acquired in 2012 from the Dictionary collection of Thomas Main Rodgers from whence the erroneous cataloging likely springs. Mr. Rodgers must have been unaware that instead of pages from a renown Hebrew dictionary in keeping with the motif of his collection, he had bought three leaves from two unidentified 14th century medical texts written in Judeao-Arabic using Hebrew script.

Two of the leaves were written in Hebrew script in Judaeo-Arabic on a palimpsest parchment whose undertext is 13th or 14th century Hebrew. There are margin notes in Castilian. While the full main text hasn’t been translated yet, it is organized according to illness and their cures and include the headings “On the causes of hiccuping” and “On the treatment for hiccuping.” (I vote hyperventilating.)

The single leaf, written in square Hebrew script with Latin notes in the margin, discusses the medicinal uses of several foods, a salient section of which is titled “On the effect of pickles and sour substances.”

Dorin said the rare parchments showcase the sharing of knowledge that was happening among societies around the Mediterranean Sea during the Middle Ages, the historical period between the 5th and the 15th centuries.

“Most people associate the Middle Ages with plague, war and ignorance,” said Dorin, who is also an affiliated faculty member at the Taube Center for Jewish Studies. “We don’t usually think about the dialogues between different cultures or open exchanges of knowledge that were happening throughout that time. These documents are evidence for the conversations occurring among people from different linguistic backgrounds.”

After more than a year of research, Dorin, with the help of other scholars around the world, determined that the pages came from two different texts. One was first written down in northern Africa sometime in the 14th century and ended up in Spain, where it was recycled as scrap parchment. The other was probably written around the same time on the island of Mallorca, a diverse hub of commerce in the western Mediterranean, Dorin said.

Dorin believes that the knowledge the texts carry was passed down from the ancient Greeks.

Researchers have yet to identify the authors of the two medical texts, or of the Hebrew undertext. However, with the aid of Jewish historian Ezra Blaustein, part of the leaf on pickles has been translated. Items of note: fish jelly “cleanses the stomach of viscous phlegm” but if consumed to excess it “corrupts the blood and causes mange.” So much for mites then. Preserves makes you hungry, thirst and horny. Pickled caper, while “ruinous for the stomach,” is a sure-fire diet aid which “makes thin one who is fat.”

As I am obsessed with pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi, it delights me to see the clear distinction made between true pickles (which are fermented and replete with billions of microorganisms) and vinegar brined foods.

Pickled dill is good for one who wants to prevent ruin if he ate too much food and he urinated as well. All pickles correspond to the thing from which they are made, and acquire from the salt and putridity a second nature, with increased dryness, heat and sharpness. As for vinegarized food, it acquires from everything increased dryness, and it fills up and cools the liver.

Bring on the putridity, man. I can take it.

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Neanderthals made fire

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

It’s long been known that Neanderthals used and controlled fire, but there was no archaeological evidence of them being able to make fire. Fire can be harvested from the wild — by carrying a branch set alight by a lightning strike, for example — and even maintained with some care and luck. Evidence of the use of fire, therefore, does not assume the ability to produce a flame on demand.

Prehistoric modern humans in the Upper Palaeolithic created fire by striking sharp flints against pyrite, an iron sulfide mineral. The strike casts sparks which ignite a bed of tinder material and boom goes the dynamite. This ability to make fire on demand radically changed humanity’s relationship with the world, creating liveable environments out of frigid ones, making previously inedible foods not just edible but tasty and nutritious and establishing the hearth as a core of community.

Determining when hominids first gained their Promethean skills is thus of pivotal significance in our understanding of the development of human ancestors’ culture, lifestyle and physical form. University of Leiden archaeologist Andrew Sorensen has been researching this issue since 2014, studying fire residues like charcoal and ash and fire-heated stone and bone materials from Neanderthal sites and comparing them to similar remains from modern human sites.

His research has born rich fruit: the first archaeological evidence that Neanderthals in the Middle Palaeolithic used the same technique to make fire 50,000 years before the present.

Together with French archaeologist Emilie Claud and Leiden Archaeology Professor Marie Soressi, [Sorensen] discovered very specific microscopic wear on flint hand-axes (also called bifaces) from the Middle Palaeolithic, the era of the Neanderthals. “I recognised this type of wear from my earlier experimental work. These are the traces you get if you try to generate sparks by striking a piece of flint against a piece of pyrite.” Only these hand-axes are much older than the fire making tools on which this wear has so far been found.

Sorensen and Claud studied dozens of hand-axes of about 50,000 years in age from various sites throughout France. They found the same distinctive wear on all of them. “This proves that it was not an incidental find, but that the Neanderthals could make fire on a large scale,” says Sorensen. And that is of huge significance. Sorensen explains: “Being able to make their own fire gives the Neanderthals much more flexibility in their lives. It’s a skill we suspected, but didn’t know for sure they possessed. That they figured out bashing two rocks together could produce a brand new substance (fire) completely unlike the parent materials gives us new insight into the cognitive skills of Neanderthals. It shows Neandertals possessed similar technological capabilities to modern humans, even though they sometimes behaved differently.”

With a combination of microscopic research and experiments, Sorensen discovered that the traces of wear were specific to fire making. “You see percussion marks in the shape of a letter C. You also see parallel scratches, or striations, along the length of the hand-axe and mineral polish on the surface.” He carried out various experiments to eliminate other causes of this distinctive wear. He used hand-axes to grind pigments, sharpen other tools, and for other pounding and rubbing activities using various types of stone. “A hand-axe was the Neanderthal Swiss Army Knife. They used them for everything. But only making fire with pyrite would have produced this exact suite of use-wear traces.”

The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports and can be read in its entirety free of charge.

Here’s a neat video of Andrew Sorensen demonstrating how Neanderthals would have made fire using a flint hand-axe and pyrite to ignite a teeny pile of kindling.

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Intact tomb of elite woman found under mausoleum in Greece

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Archaeologists have discovered the intact tomb of a prominent woman under Episkopi Monument on the Cyclades island of Sikinos. She was buried with fine jewelry including gold bracelets, finger rings, a necklace and a high relief cameo brooch. Other goods found in the grave include glass and metal vases. Of no monetary value but immense archaeological value is organic material believed to be textile fragments from her burial garments.

The Episkopi Monument was originally a Roman-era mausoleum built in the 3rd century A.D. and later converted into a temple to Pythian Apollo. The dome was added in the 5th century when the temple was converted into a Christian church. The Byzantine church was severely damaged in an earthquake, but much of it remains standing. Its height and long history of usage from antiquity through the Middle Ages make it unique in Greece.

Because of its eventful past, the monument is in regular need of restoration. A team of experts from the Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Cyclades Ephorate of Antiquities has been working on an extensive restoration project since last year. It was during the restoration work that the grave was discovered in a concealed section of the site’s underground crypt. The rectangular stone tomb was likely deliberately hidden to keep its owner and her treasures out of reach of looters.

The burial has not been dated yet, but the artifacts suggest it is from late antiquity around the time when the mausoleum was built. Archaeologists think the woman’s burial may be the one for which the large mausoleum was erected in the first place. Besides her obvious wealth, the importance of the stone coffin and the hidden placement, another clue that points towards the funerary structure having been built to mark her tomb is an single-word inscription discovered in the mausoleum. It is the female name “Νεικώ” (Neiko). Perhaps Neiko has now been found.

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17th c. Copenhagen poop reveals its secrets

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

It’s archaeological poop time! This blog has been deprived of essential fiber for too long and I’m sure you’ve missed having a solid, well-formed poop story as much as I have. Today’s satisfying movement is brought to you by Denmark, bless its organic material-preserving waterlogged soil. Two latrines were discovered during an excavation of Kultorvet square in Copenhagen in 2011-12. The square in the city center was built over the ruins of an old Renaissance neighborhood that had burned down in 1728, and thanks to a road that had been built 40 years earlier, the latrines could be conclusively dated to the 1680s.

Like the barrels full of 14th century excrement found in Odense that were originally used to transport herring, these too were trade containers repurposed into latrines. They held Rhineland wine before finding their true vocation of converting human feces into archaeological gold. They were three feet wide and had been dug into the ground a foot apart from each other. Both were about two-thirds full of excrementitious organic material. Wood remains found around the barrels attest to there having been a shed built over them.

Archaeologists could see right away that the contents were very well-preserved. Seeds and pits were clearly visible in situ. The barrels were cut in half vertically while still in the ground to determine if they had internal stratigraphy to sample. The western barrel was all one mass, while the eastern barrel had two defined deposit layers – an upper layer of feces and straw and a lower rubble layer with very little organic material — so it was selected for analysis of its contents.

The study is more far-reaching than others performed on similar deposits. In addition to analyzing grains, fruits and seeds found in the cess, researchers also tested for pollen, parasites and animal bones. The parasite eggs were DNA-tested to determine conclusively whether they were human parasites found in feces, or had hitched a ride with animal remains discarded in the latrines.

Large samples were taken from each of the two layers and then divided into sub-samples for analyses of four different categories: grains/fruits/seeds, pollen and spores, parasite eggs and animal bones. The samples from both layers were rich in plant remains. In the upper layer, 66% of the contents were food plants while 34% were wild taxa, primarily field weeds. In the bottom layer, the proportion of culinary to wild taxa was 60%-40%.

Out of the cereal bran soup, only barley, oats and rye could be securely identified. Within the soup were a plethora of fruit seeds, first and foremost figs. There were so many fig seeds in the barrel, in fact, that archaeologists identified them during the excavation. Other fruits found in the sample included grapes, apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries, black currants, elderberries, citrus (likely either lemon or bitter orange) wild cherries, wild plums and wild strawberries. There were herbs – ground elder, dill, coriander – and seeds – mustard, flax – and in the bottom layer, a small amount of hazelnut.

Pollen species were 49% crops, 45% of that barley, with dryland species, mostly grasses, taking second place at 43% of the pollen counts.

The parasite analysis identified eggs from roundworm, whipworm and tapeworm, far more of them on the top of the latrine than the bottom. This is the first evidence of human tapeworm found in an archaeological context in Denmark.

There were an impressive variety of animal bones: 162 bone fragments in the two samples. Most of them came from the bottom layer and included the bones of herring, eel and cat. The top layer had fragments of herring, eel, cod, bird and pig bones.

The results attest to the varied diet the residents of this area of late 17th century Copenhagen had. While cereals, likely in the form of bread, porridge and beer, form the basis of their diet, they clearly had access to a wide selection of fruits either from their own gardens or from the market. Figs, grapes and citrus are Mediterranean fruits and while they can all grow in Denmark in warm, sheltered places or in greenhouses, this deposit is the first time citrus has been found in an archaeological context in Denmark. They were probably expensive imports, dried fruits or jams rather than fresh.

“The people whose latrines we have investigated were well-fed on bread, fish and meat, alongside a variety of fruit, herbs and spices,” said lead study researcher Mette Marie Hald, a senior researcher of environmental archaeology at The National Museum of Denmark.

“Most of the food items were locally grown,” she added, “but some of the food plants were exotics, showing us that it was possible to buy, for instance, cloves, which would have come all the way from Indonesia.”

The mere presence of these cloves indicates that Copenhageners had access to goods from long-distance trade, probably through the Dutch trading companies, as Indonesia was a Dutch colony at the time, Hald said.

“We know that Dutch traders lived in Copenhagen in the 1680s,” she noted. “It’s fun to think of the fact that 300 years ago, we were already part of a global trading network.”

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