Mittwoch, 15. November 2017

A report of the 2nd Meeting of the Research Network “Food in Anatolia and its Neighbouring Regions”, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Istanbul, November 03-04, 2017

A weblog entry by Sina Lehnig.

Once again, our research network "Food in Anatolia and its Neighbouring Regions" came together at the beautiful location of the Istanbul Department of the DAI (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut). Right behind the building, we were able to enjoy a stunning view of the Bosporus (Fig.1). What could be a better place to discuss the close interrelation between food and culture, than this melting pot between Europe and Asia?

Fig.1: The foreign researchers – including myself – were accommodated in one of the guestrooms at the DAI. From here, we had a wonderful view of the Bosporus (Photo by Sina Lehnig).
The demand for food is a basic human need and therefore a defining characteristic of all societies. What we eat and drink strongly reflects our cultural background, status, mobility and the knowledge we have of our natural environment. Although the investigation of diet could contribute to our understanding of past human societies, research approaches that address the interrelation between food and culture are still rare in the ancient cultural studies. In order to attract more attention to the important topic of past human diet, the Istanbul Department of the DAI has established the research network "Food in Anatolia and its Neighbouring Regions". It is one in a set of five networks that took place over the past ten years, addressing several themes like "Power and Hierarchies in the Urban and Rural Environment" and "Nature and Cult in Anatolia". Each network works for a period of three years, with up to two meetings each year. During the first meeting of the research network in March 2017, the participants – both junior and senior researchers from international institutes and universities – introduced themselves with their main research topics, focusing on dietary issues. It turned out that the participants of our network are investigating food in many different time periods, by using a great variety of methods reaching from the analysis of ancient written sources, over to the examination of pottery, to the study of faunal and botanical remains. These different research approaches obviously bear a great diachronic and interdisciplinary potential for the investigation of ancient diet within the network. A further point of our first meeting was the discussion of key questions that will frame the following sessions. For each session, we assigned a group of participants that will bear the responsibility for the organisation of themes, contributions and the invitation of guest speakers.

Finally we got together again in November 2017 to talk about the topics of "Food and Landscape" as well as "Food and Mobility". The organisational issues of the session were taken care of by Jesko Fildhuth, Bernhard Ludwig, Wolf-Rüdiger Teegen and me. 

It was my responsibility to open our meeting with an introduction to the topic of "Food and Landscape". The aim of my presentation was to sensitize the audience for the theme and to trigger questions that can be asked regarding the several types of landscapes that can be found in Anatolia and the surrounding areas. Since there is still no consistent definition of landscape in archaeology, as a first step, the term itself had to be discussed: Following several definitions of landscape from the scientific disciplines of ecology, geography and archaeology, landscape can be understood as a concept in between human cognition and action on the one hand, and independently existing natural resources on the other hand. Humans encounter a natural landscape and develop techniques to exploit and use this region. Here, the demand for food and drinking, is probably one of the most important factors that caused the human impact on the natural environment. Nevertheless, human knowledge of resource exploitation and cultural techniques, and also the preferences for specific food as well as climatic conditions differ in the case of each time period and region. Therefore, it can be assumed that we are dealing with a great diversity of landscape types in the research area. In order to achieve an interregional and diachronic comparison of the different landscapes in Anatolia, I made the proposal to gather information from the research areas that congregate in our network according to: natural resources available, resources that were actually used or not, cultural techniques applied to exploit a region, introduction of non-local plants and animals, as well as human-induced negative impact on the natural environment. 

Following my introduction, we had two contributions to the topic of "Food and Landscape": Peter Pavúk from the Charles University of Prague talked about natural resource exploitation, animal husbandry and storage in Troy during the Late Bronze Age period. Furthermore, Jean-Denis Vigne from the Muséum national d´Histoire in Paris, France gave a lecture about Early Neolithic Cyprus (Fig. 2). In the focus of his presentation was the introduction– both intentional and unintentional – of animal species, including wild boar, deer and mice from the mainland to the island of Cyprus. While it was possible to observe a transfer of animals, plants, raw material and architecture from the Anatolian mainland during the Early Neolithic, the island had a more isolated and independent development during the later periods. Although we already gained a great insight into food and landscape creation by these two lectures, the topic has the potential for much more presentations, which we will continue to pursue in our next sessions. 

Fig. 2: Jean-Denis Vigne talking about Early Neolithic Cyprus (Photo by Sina Lehnig).
My co-organiser Wolf-Rüdiger Teegen, who is an anthropologist and archaeologist at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, gave a further introduction to our second guiding theme: "Food and Mobility" (Fig. 3). Here, he focused on indicators of food and human mobility that can be traced by the application of isotope analysis. The study of oxygen isotopes allows us to determine geographic origin. They can help us to understand the trading of animals and the interconnection of different regions. Another interesting point of his introduction was the topic of parasites as markers of mobility. Matching this aspect of mobility, his guest speaker Piers Mitchell from the University of Cambridge, gave a great insight into his studies of parasites, originating from latrines in medieval Palestine (Fig.4). Furthermore, we heard a lecture by Elif Ünlü from the Bogazici University, about the increased trade of agricultural products within Early Bronze Age trade networks in the Eastern Mediterranean. Finally, Eva Winter from the University of Jena closed our conference day with a very entertaining lecture on her research on the role of donkeys in antiquity. 

Fig. 3: My co-organiser Wolf-Rüdiger Teegen giving his introduction to "Food and Mobility" (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

Fig. 4: Our guest speaker Piers Mitchell gave his lecture on parasitology via Skype (Photo by Sina Lehnig).
After discussing food in ancient times the entire day, we developed a great appetite to test some contemporary Turkish dishes. Therefore, to round off the day, the DAI invited us to one of the cosy restaurants nearby the Istiklal Caddesi (Fig. 5). My highlight was the Künefe, a Turkish and Arabic pastry, made from cheese and kadaif noodles, which was served as a dessert. 

Fig. 5: Enjoying Turkish dishes! (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

The next day was dedicated to the visit of the Süleymaniye Mosque (Fig. 6) and its kitchen complexes. Here, we got a guided tour around the area (Fig. 7). 

Fig. 6: Beautiful Süleymaniye Mosque (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

Fig. 7: Our guide and the network in front of the mosque (Photo by Sina Lehnig).

This month's meeting of our research network was again a very fruitful experience for me. I had the possibility to exchange with people who not only have the same research interests as mine, but also are nice, friendly and valuable new contacts for me. It was a lot of fun to talk shop, eat, drink and experience wonderful Istanbul with them. I am already looking forward to our next meeting in March 2018. 

Will keep you posted!

Verleihung des „Human Roots Award“ an Richard Dawkins in Schloss Monrepos

Ein Beitrag von Sebastian Müller.
Am 10.11.2017 verlieh das Archäologische Forschungszentrum und Museum für menschliche Verhaltensweisen im Schloss Monrepos erstmals den "Human Roots Award", der für herausragenden Einfluss auf unser Verständnis der Archäologie unserer Verhaltensevolution vergeben wird und dazu beitragen soll, die interdisziplinäre Auseinandersetzung zwischen Pleistozäner Archäologie und den umliegenden Disziplinen zu stärken, die bedeutend für die Erforschung des Lebens der Menschen im Pleistozän sind. Als erster Empfänger dieses Preis wurde kein geringerer als der äußerst renommierte Evolutions- und Verhaltensbiologe Richard Dawkins auserkoren, der einer breiten Öffentlichkeit durch die Theorie des egoistischen Gens, die Memetik und seine vehemente Religionskritik bekannt ist. Auf Einladung der Leiterin des Forschungszentrums, Prof. Dr. Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, nahmen 12 Mitglieder des GRKs an der Preisverleihung teil.

Nach unserer Ankunft im Schloss erhielten wir zunächst Führungen durch das Museum für menschliche Verhaltensweisen, welches in beeindruckender Weise die Lebensformen der verschiedenen Vor- und Frühmenschen von den Australopithecen bis zur Sesshaftwerdung des modernen Menschen und ihren Folgen darstellt und mit einer Vielzahl an Darstellungs- und Interaktionsmöglichkeiten auch fachfremde Besucher sofort fesselt.

Blick ins Museum für menschliche Verhaltensweisen (Foto: Rebekka Pabst).

Hiernach begann die Preisverleihung, die durch eine Erläuterung der Hintergründe und Ziele der Preisverleihung durch Frau Gaudzinski-Windheuser und ein Grußwort von Dr. Bernolf Eibl-Eibesfeldt eingeleitet wurde, dessen Vater Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Begründer der Humanethologie, die Schirmherrschaft über den Preis übernommen hat. Es folgten kurze Vorträge von zwei Mitarbeitern des Forschungszentrums, Dr. Lutz Kindler und Dr. Olaf Jöris, die die vielfältigen Leistungen, aber auch die Kontroversen, die Dawkins' wissenschaftliche Laufbahn ausmachen, ins Zentrum stellten.

Frau Gaudzinski-Windheuser eröffnet die Preisverleihung (Foto: Sina Lehnig).

Nach der Preisverleihung kam es dann zum Höhepunkt des Abends, dem Vortrag von Richard Dawkins selbst. Dieser stellte die Entwicklung seines eigenen Feldes, der Verhaltensforschung vor, die sich zur Soziobiologie wandelte und mit der Evolutionären Psychologie einen einflussreichen Ableger erhielt. In diesem Kontext stellt er seine höchst einflussreiche Idee des egoistischen Gens vor. In ihrem Kern läuft diese darauf hinaus, dass eine Verhaltensweise V1 gegenüber V2 dann selektiert wird, wenn durch sie im Verhältnis eine höhere Weitergabe der Gene des Trägers erreicht wird. Zu den Missverständnissen, die zu den Kontroversen um diese Theorie beigetragen haben, äußerte er sich ebenfalls, so zum Argument des Ethnologen Marshall Sahlins, nach dem dies so nicht funktionieren kann, da die mathematische Kompetenz der Angehöriger vieler Kulturen nicht zur Berechnung der Werte von V1 und V2 genügt. Diese verkennt, dass der Mechanismus hinter der Selektion von V1 keineswegs bekannt sein muss, um wirksam zu sein - er betrifft schließlich den gesamten Bereich der Lebewesen, auch solcher, denen wir überhaupt keine mathematische Kompetentz zuschreiben würden.

Richard Dawkins mit Mitgliedern des GRKs (Foto: Rebekka Pabst).

Nachdem wir diese Vielzahl an Impulsen erhalten hatten, durften wir den Abend zu köstlichem, steinzeitlich angehauchtem Fingerfood und Musik ausklingen lassen.

Donnerstag, 12. Oktober 2017

Report on the 19th Fish Remains Working Group meeting in Alghero-Stintino, Italy

A blog entry by Mari Yamasaki.

The beautiful cities of Alghero (Fig. 1) and Stintino (Fig. 2) in Sardinia served as the backdrop for the 19th Fish Remains Working Group (also FRWG) meeting from the 1st to the 7th of October. In the course of three intense days of conference, 16 posters and 47 papers – including my own – were presented, with topics spanning from isotopic analysis and DNA sequencing, to ethnographical accounts and archaeological excavation, all sharing one common denominator: the importance of fish remains for understanding the past ways of life.

Figure 1. View of Alghero, Torre Sulis (Photo by Mari Yamasaki)

Figure 2. View of Stintino, Porto Minore (Photo by Mari Yamasaki)

With few exceptions, the study of fish remains is regarded as a minor component when building the larger historical narratives of a site, city or region. The aim of this group of international scholars is precisely to give the right weight to this often neglected piece of evidence. The majority of the participants came from archaeozoological background, but ethnologists, historians and more traditional archaeologists also attended and presented their perspectives on the subject, which often instigated lively and interdisciplinary discussions (Fig.3).

Figure 3.  (Photos by Mari Yamasaki)
a. Opening remarks. From the left: Prof. Piero Bartoloni, Prof. Arturo Morales-Muñiz, Prof. Barbara Wilkens, Dr. Ornella Piras, Dr. Gabriele Carenti
b. Prof. Morales-Muñiz. "The European hake (Merluccius merluccius L.): a deepwater fishery in the Neolithic?"
c. Prof. Richard C. Hoffman. "Who dined extensively on fish in Medieval Europe? A critical consumer reads stable isotope analysis"

Among many brilliant contributions, I believe it is worth highlighting some of them for the originality of their approach. From session 1, Ambra Zambernardi's ethnological account on the relationship between the tonnarotti and their prey, the bluefin tuna, was particularly interesting. With the term tonnarotti, in fact, one does not refer to fishermen just as much as the term Tonno (tuna) does not refer to fish, or the tonnara to fishing. The connection between the tuna, the tonnarotti, and the tonnara is a unique one, something that resembles more the hunt of big game, or even war, than fishing. Traces of parallels between the capture of the Bluefin tuna and battle scenes can be dated back to classical Greece: in Aeschylus' tragedy "The Persians", the slaughtering of the enemies is described as the mattanza, the killing phase of the capture of this giant fish. In Zambernardi's account on the tonnarotti, the deep sense of respect that these men had for their catch was evident. This is also attested by the prayers of atonement recited for the dead tunas after the mattanza. Another aspect that emerged is that, sadly, this traditional practice and the cultural world related to it are rapidly getting lost with the introduction of industrialized fishing strategies.

Taking a leap in the deep past, Ying Zhang's paper in session 2 focused on the Neolithic on the Yangtze River ecosystem and on the state of archaeozoological research in the area with particular reference to the ichthyofaunae. Despite a traditional image of populations dedicated mostly to terrestrial sources, from her studies emerged a picture of communities which consistently relied on fresh water resources. Interestingly, even where marine and brackish fish was available in the estuarine areas, the preference was still leaning towards the riverine sources, with a minimal incidence of marine fauna. As for the latter, the species represented consisted prevalently of large pelagic species such as tuna, shark and whale. Her hypothesis is that these few remains did not indicate the existence of a deep-water fishing strategy, but resulted from the opportunistic exploitation of specimens that were washed ashore by the tide.

In session 3, Arturo Morales Muñiz – one of the top experts in the field of archaeological fish remains for the European Atlantic coast and the western Mediterranean – also addressed the question of the existence of Neolithic deep-water fisheries. Analysis of modern hake from the Mediterranean and from the Atlantic reveal different trophic levels, which in turn allows to differentiate the origin of the fish on the basis of their isotopic signature. The isotopic analysis of archaeological fish remains from the Iberian Peninsula were then compared to the modern ones to confirm that populations in Galician coast would indeed procure their hake from the Atlantic. From this data, it almost appeared that pelagic fishing was commonly practiced already in the Neolithic. However, studying the reproductive behaviour of the hake, it resulted that this species comes close to the shore in relatively shallow waters in spring and autumn. In light of this, it becomes clear how this activity was connoted by a seasonal character, rather than advanced oceanic seafaring technology. 

Another famous name in the study of archaeological fish remains participated in the conference: Omri Lernau – arguably the authority in the field for the Eastern Mediterranean – offered a paper within the forth session. In his talk, he presented the archaeological evidence relative to the consumption of non-kosher fish (simply put, the prohibition to eat any fish without scales) in Israel, for a period spanning between the Bronze Age and the Late Roman times. In his overview of the evidence, he showed how this dietary taboo underwent variable degrees of implementation throughout Jewish history, and only consolidated, together with Israelite identity, in times of crisis – namely under the Babylonian and the Roman domination. Among the non-kosher fish, particularly numerous all over the country were the remains of the African catfish (Clarias gariepinus), a riverine fish that may have lived in the much wetter Bronze and Iron Age Israel. Recent investigation, however, point towards the likelihood that this species was actually imported from Egypt together with another Nilotic fish, the Lates niloticus. As it is a matter of special interest for my dissertation project, I addressed the issue of the imports of the Lates in my own paper in relation to the exploitation of maritime resources and the development of seaborne trade networks in the Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age, The import of determined fish species from great distances is also accounted for in Medieval Serbia. In her paper, Ivana Živaljević presented the case study of the monastery of Studenica, where large sturgeons were carried via land for well over 200 km. 

On the last day, the conference moved to the fishing village of Stintino, some 40 km north of Alghero, where we were hosted by the Museo della Tonnara (the Museum of the traditional Bluefin tuna fishing). After welcome talks by Antonio Diana, major of Stintino, and Salvatore Rubino, scientific director of the museum and professor of microbiology atthe University of Sassari, we were given some time to visit this small but charming museum displaying the archaeology, technology and personal histories of the all but lost art of the tonnara (Fig. 4), the traditional fishing of the Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). 

Figure 4. A model representing the net arrangements for the tonnara. on display at the Museo della Tonnara, Stintino. (Photo by Mari Yamasaki)

Following the visit, the last session of the 19th FRWG was held in the conference hall of the museum itself. Here, Richard Hoffmann's paper addressed a very relevant matter concerning the appropriate use of scientific data to answer historical questions. In particular, he made use of stable isotope analysis performed on individuals from a mass grave dated to 15th century Rome, and compared it with the written sources from the same period referring to the fish sold in the city markets. Taken alone, the two studies depicted two rather different scenarios: on the one hand, the isotopic analysis appeared to be consistent with a diet based on Atlantic fish, and thus implied that the Roman marked imported it; on the other, the sources made no mention of such type of fish being sold in Rome at the time. However, after combining these two types of evidence with population and economic data, there emerged a much more intricate picture, where consumption habits intertwine with an increase of trade between Rome and different areas of Europe and, consequently, a more intense movement of people along with their goods and foods (including Atlantic stockfish, for example) into the Italian peninsula. Far from suggesting the import of exotic fish, the most likely explanation was that the analysed individual was probably a foreigner, possibly a trader, who died in Rome during the plague.

In conclusion, the 19th FRWG meeting was a great occasion to highlight the importance of fish remains to understand more than just economic practices, but also gain precious information on the expression of identities and ethnicity through consumption habits. Finally yet importantly, it offered the chance to compare some radically different methods and approaches from a variety of disciplines in two of the most beautiful corners of Italy.