Recently, researchers have studied the chemistry of food remains on mugs from the huge Mississippian-period occupation at Cahokia, a multi-mound site across the Mississippi River from what is now St. Louis, Missouri. They discovered that the chemical profile included methylxanthines present in two species of holly. Historical records from early Euro-Americans record that Native peoples drank teas made from these species. This research confirms that these ritual drinks were consumed for hundreds of years. Also, these holly trees are not native to the Cahokia area, and researchers propose that bark and leaves for making teas were traded inland from native stands along the Gulf Coast.
Back in Middle Woodland times, there was no McDonalds, no Starbucks, and no drive-up windows. Middle Woodland times date to roughly 2000 years ago and more, so the lack of convenience food stores is not surprising. This leaves us with the question: just what did the people of Georgia eat back then? In a recent Early Georgia article “Middle Woodland Gardening in the Etowah River Valley, Northwest Georgia” (2011, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 119–136), Leslie E. Branch-Raymer and Mary Theresa Bonhage-Freund discuss plant foods people ate back in those times. Follow the link to learn more….
For about three months, the SGA’s website had a twelve-question quiz on the origins of commonly used species, mostly plants. The question posed was: is this species native to the Old World or the New World? The movement of plants and animals between the Old and New Worlds after Christopher Columbus’s First Expedition in 1492 is commonly referred to as the Columbian Exchange. Thus, the quiz provides insights into quiz-taker knowledge of the Columbian Exchange. Should you wish to take the quiz before reading the answers, click here.
This Weekly Ponder offers a short quiz about which side of the Atlantic Ocean twelve species of creatures, mostly plants, now grown and used in both the Old and New Worlds, originated prior to Christopher Columbus’s First Expedition, in 1492.
When people began to save food for longer than several days, they had to develop ways of storing it that would be safe from predators ranging from other humans to bacteria. Look around a typical Georgia kitchen today, and you probably will see a refrigerator and freezer, cupboards, perhaps a pantry, breadbox, and cookie jar—all for storing food. What strategies did ancient peoples use to store their food? This article uses an example from the Neolithic period in what is now Jordan to investigate how ancient peoples solved the problem of food storage.
Scull Shoals Heritage Festival organized by the Friends of Scull Shoals is planned for April 30th, 2011. It will be an exciting day with tours, crafts, food, old time music, entertainment and more. Scull Shoals is an historic and archaeological site on the Oconee River, between Athens and Greensboro. It was once a frontier village where Creek Indians and European pioneers lived in proximity (sometimes peacefully), and, later, the town used water power for mills, and the surrounding factory town.
On Sunday, November 7th, the Friends of Scull Shoals hosted their first tour of the herb walk dedicated to the memory of Dr. Durham. The Friends bought the land from a timber company, and it’s adjacent to the Oconee National Forest. Needless to say, pines predominate on the property, but other species of plants grow among the pines.
Volunteering for the SGA is not a daunting task as one might think, being at the Georgia National Fair all day with the ArchaeoBus smelling livestock, eating fatty foods, and dealing with rowdy kids. The ArchaeoBus volunteers report they had a great time and all said they would do it again!
In the full story, click through photos from two days spent with the ArchaeoBus at the Georgia National Fair, in Perry. Visitors of all ages enjoyed the Fair from October 7–17, 2010. SGA members pulled together to staff the ArchaeoBus exhibit with three or more volunteers at all times, helping thousands of fair-goers learn about Georgia archaeology.
Think about your favorite picnic foods, or the ones you’re most likely to see on plates at a family reunion. Chicken, green beans, cornbread…(are you getting hungry?)…. From around the globe, where are these foods native to? North America?
The foods of a people, like their language, provide a window into their culture. Check out the “online educational companion” to the exhibition Key Ingredients: America by Food and learn more about the foods of North America, with special focus on regional traditions and international influences.
Rice was an extremely important commercial crop in antebellum coastal Georgia. Yet, today, there’s very little rice grown in that area. This Weekly Ponder briefly considers the economic history of rice-growing along the Southeastern Coast, and looks at modern rice-farming in the USA a bit, too.
Among the world’s major regions, ancient North America is not known for having many domesticated animals. In an article free online, Camilla F. Speller and her colleagues examined the DNA of modern and ancient turkeys and argue that there were at least two places were turkeys were domesticated: in Southern Mexico and a second time with Rio Grande/Eastern wild turkey populations. Read details in the full story.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has recently released a report called American Bison: Status Survey and Conservation Guidelines 2010. The report discusses the current status of American bison (Bison bison). You may be interested in a discussion of the history of the bison that is included as background for the report’s focus on conserving the species and the ecological restoration necessary to accomplish that for this large herbivore.
Read the full story for one example of how archaeologists use indirect data to aid in generating a more complex and detailed understanding of the past. In this example, archaeologists from the University of Sheffield report on their successes using data on weeds to assist in their understanding of crop husbandry on a few archaeological sites in the Middle East.
Published in spring 2009, Richard Wrangham’s book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Basic Books) argues that the ability to use fire for cooking foodstuffs allowed the changes that have made humans a distinct species. What do you think of this argument? Read more about the book and Wrangham’s hypothesis in the full story.
If you want to have coffee in an historic eighteenth century coffeehouse, you can now do so! The drinks that are offered are tea, chocolate, and, of course, coffee!
R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse at Colonial Williamsburg is a new building now open for business!
What insights into our current agricultural and food production dilemmas can we get from prehistoric Native American practices? Check out David J. Minderhout and Andrea T. Franz’s article, “Native American Horticulture in the Northeast,” discussed here.
In Cultures of Habitat: On Nature, Culture, and Story (Counterpoint, 1997) ethnobotanist and essayist Gary Paul Nabhan argues that modern peoples tend not to have opportunities for discovery in the natural world, and that this distance from our environment means we don’t grasp the complexity of the world and of ecology. Do you agree?
Zooarchaeological studies seek to determine, among other things, what species of creatures the people who lived at a particular archaeological site ate and used. How important were migratory waterfowl in the diet of prehistoric peoples living in what is now the state of Georgia?
Blueberries are a tasty wild food native to North America. Prehistoric Native Americans enjoyed blueberries, including in a dried meat mixture called pemmican. This leads the Ponderer to consider about how people stored foodstuff “in the old days.”
Food preferences and language (e.g., terms, structure, named concepts) contribute to the idiosyncrasies of cultures of all kinds. Here’s a recipe for cornbread made using blue cornmeal rather than yellow.