The Palaeo diet
Research recently published in Antiquity (https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2022.143) has shed new light on the food-preparation habits of Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers in the eastern Mediterranean and south-west Asia. Microscopic examination of charred food remains from hearths in Franchthi Cave (Greece) and Shanidar Cave (Iraqi Kurdistan) has revealed that their prehistoric occupants gathered a wide range of plant foods, including some (such as wild pulses) that required several preparation steps in order to remove toxic or bitter compounds before consumption, as well as relying on wild almonds, pistachios, and mustard. It appears that some of these ‘flavourful’ compounds were deliberately retained, suggesting that the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers were perhaps partial to bitter, astringent, and tannin- rich plant foods. Combined with other archaeobotanical data, this research highlights the diversity of specialised, labour-intensive resource management strategies that were present across these regions from as early as the Middle Palaeolithic, pre-dating the earliest evidence for agriculture in the region by tens of thousands of years.
New temple in Vulci
Archaeologists from the Vulci Cityscape project have uncovered a previously unknown monumental temple in the Etruscan city of Vulci, Italy, just west of the Tempio Grande, the ‘grand temple’ excavated in 1950s (below right). Measuring 45m by 35m, the newly discovered temple is around the same size, and was built on the same alignment as the Tempio Grande, and also dates to the Archaic period (late 6th/early 5th century BC). Duplicated monumental buildings like this are extremely unusual in Etruscan cities, making this discovery exceptional. The new temple was identified through geophysical survey in 2020, and excavations in 2021 and 2022 have uncovered the building’s foundations and a number of Etruscan artefacts. It is hoped that future research will uncover more details about the development of the temple – and the city – over time.
It has long been believed that Ötzi, the Copper Age man found in the Ötzal Alps in 1991 (see CWA 116), died in the autumn, c.5,300 years ago, in a snow-free gully where he was quickly covered by ice, and later by a glacier, and where he remained frozen until the late 20th century. Now a new paper in The Holocene (https://doi.org/10.1177/09596836221126133), based on a review of the published evidence, proposes an alternative explanation. The researchers suggest that Ötzi instead died in the spring or early summer, on top of snow filling the gully rather than inside it, and that his remains in fact were periodically exposed to the elements over the years. The paper’s authors stress that although this process – which is much more common in glacial archaeology than the original explanation – would make Ötzi’s preservation less of a miraculous ‘one-off’, it does increase the chances that other, similar ice mummies may yet be discovered.