Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ancient Greeks Used Portable Grills at Their Picnics

Cooking experiments suggest that Mycenaean souvlaki trays would have been portable. Credit: Julie Hruby
Cooking experiments suggest that Mycenaean souvlaki trays would have been portable.
Credit: Julie Hruby

The ancient Mycenaeans have a reputation as palace-builders and warriors, but they were also quite sophisticated cooks. More than 3,000 years ago, they used portable grill pits to make souvlaki and non-stick pans to make bread, new cooking experiments suggest.

The Mycenaean civilization, which was the backdrop for Homer’s “Odyssey” and “Iliad,” thrived in Greece during the late Bronze Age from around 1700 B.C. until the society mysteriously collapsed around 1200 B.C. The Mycenaeans left behind amazing palaces and gold-littered tombs at sites like Pylos and Mycenae, but in these places, archaeologists also have found less glamorous artifacts, such as souvlaki trays and griddles made from gritty clays.

It wasn’t clear how these two types of pans were used, said Julie Hruby of Dartmouth College, presenting her research at the Archaeological Institute of America’s annual meeting here on Saturday (Jan. 4).
“We don’t have any recipes,” Hruby told LiveScience. “What we do have are tablets that talk about provisions for feasts, so we have some idea of what the ingredients might have been, but in terms of understanding how people cooked, the cooking pots are really our best bet.”

The souvlaki trays were rectangular ceramic pans that sat underneath skewers of meat. Scientists weren’t sure whether these trays would have been placed directly over a fire, catching fat drippings from the meat, or if the pans would have held hot coals like a portable barbeque pit. The round griddles, meanwhile, had one smooth side and one side covered with tiny holes, and archaeologists have debated which side would have been facing up during cooking.

To solve these culinary mysteries, Hruby and ceramicist Connie Podleski, of the Oregon College of Art and Craft, mixed American clays to mimic Mycenaean clay and created two griddles and two souvlaki trays in the ancient style. With their replica coarsewares, they tried to cook meat and bread.

Hruby and Podleski found that the souvlaki trays were too thick to transfer heat when placed over a fire pit, resulting in a pretty raw meal; placing the coals inside the tray was a much more effective cooking method.

“We should probably envision these as portable cooking devices — perhaps used during Mycenaean picnics,” Hruby said.

As for the griddles, bread was more likely to stick when it was cooked on the smooth side of the pan. The holes, however, seemed to be an ancient non-sticking technology, ensuring that oil spread quite evenly over the griddle.

Lowly cooking pots were often overlooked, or even thrown out, during early excavations at Mycenaean sites in the 20th century, but researchers are starting to pay more attention to these vessels to glean a full picture of ancient lifestyles.

As for who was using the souvlaki trays and griddles, Hruby says it was likely chefs cooking for the Mycenaean ruling class.

By Megan Gannon, Live Science News Editor
Original article on

New exhibition: An Oriental Adventure Max von Oppenheim and his Discovery of Tell Halaf



New axhibition at the Bundeskunsthalle (Bonn, Germany). 30 April to 10 August 2014.

In 1899 the diplomat and archaeological explorer Baron Max von Oppenheim (1860–1946), a scion of the Cologne banking family, discovered the residence of an Aramaean ruler at Tell Halaf. Dating to the early 1st millennium BC, it was the site that first brought the Khabur headwaters region on the modern border between Syria and Turkey to the attention of archaeologists worldwide. Presenting a selection of outstanding archaeological finds that caused a sensation when they were shown in Berlin in 2011, the exhibition brings to life the long-lost world of the Aramaeans. Monumental stone sculptures, fantastical reliefs and precious funerary goods testify to the wealth of the palace at Tell Halaf and other Aramaean residences. Visitors will be able to see the first ever recreation of the famous entrance façade of the Western Palace with the original sculptures. This is complemented by a virtual reconstruction of the entire ancient settlement. Today a replica of von Oppenheim’s iconic façade reconstruction of the 1930s frames the main entrance to the National Museum of Aleppo in Syria.

The exhibition traces Max von Oppenheim’s biography and his lifelong love for the East which sings from each and every one of the lavish oriental costumes and accessories he amassed in his private collection. The exhibition in Bonn is the first to present a sumptuous selection of these collector’s items alongside the spectacular archaeological discoveries. The Tell Halaf finds – destroyed during a night-time bombing raid on Berlin in 1943 and painstakingly restored some sixty years later – tell the story of a 3000-year-old civilisation, but they have also become a poignant reminder of Germany’s recent history.

900-Year-Old Viking Message On Wood Decoded – It Says “Kiss Me”


Already 900 years ago, people had a thing for sending each other romantic messages. At least, that’s according to runologist Jonas Nordby, who has decoded a 900-year-old viking message; “Kiss me.”

Eleventh- and twelfth-century Vikings had a habit of encoding their messages. Nordby, who has discovered a key to decoding this message, was then able to decode the fragment of wood with the romantic message. This particular piece of wood was encoded with the “jötunvillur” code, but there were many different variants as well.

The reason why the Vikings encoded their messages is not yet entirely certain, but scientists have different theories. Some speculate that the rune codes may have been used as a means of education. In the jötunvillur code, for example, the last letter of the name of a rune became that letter’s character – writing the “F” rune, which is pronounced “Fe,” would yield “E,” while “K,” pronounced “Kaun,” would yield “N.”

Via: Discovery News


Rare wooden anthropoid sarcophagus discovered in Luxor

A 17th dynasty painted sarcophagus belonging to a top governmental official was unearthed at Draa Abul-Naga necropolis on Luxor’s west bank

This photo released on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 by Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, shows a preserved wooden sarcophagus that dates back to 1600 BC, when the Pharaonic 17th Dynasty reigned, in Egypt (Photo: Egypt’s Supreme Council Of Antiquities)

A Spanish-Egyptian archeological team working on Luxor’s west bank has discovered a rare wooden human-shaped sarcophagus from the 17th dynasty.

The find came during routine excavation work at the tomb of Djehuty, treasure holder for Queen Hatshepsut, at Dra Abul-Naga necropolis.

The sarcophagus is important for the detailed depictions of bird feather shapes and sizes painted on its lid, motifs that have earned it the title of Feathers Sarcophagi, according to Egypt’s antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim. The 2 metre long, 42 cm tall sarcophagus is in very good condition, Ibrahim said, and also engraved with titles of the deceased, which archeologists have not yet been able to identify.

Studies reveal that the sarcophagus belongs to a top governmental official from the 17th dynasty, whose mummy was enclosed inside, said Ibrahim.

This photo released on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, shows Egyptian men digging up a preserved wooden sarcophagus that dates back to 1600 BC, when the Pharaonic 17th Dynasty reigned, in the ancient city of Luxor, Egypt. (Photo: Egypt's Supreme Council Of Antiquities)
Photo: Egypt’s Supreme Council Of Antiquities

The archeological team found two other burials at the site, which were both empty. It is believed that they were robbed in antiquity. The Spanish mission began excavation work at Djehuty’s tomb 13 years ago, when many artefacts from New Kingdom dynasties were found.

Last year the team unearthed a sarcophagus of a 17th dynasty child, along with a number of clay pots and ushabti figurines wrapped in linen. Excavation at the site remains in full swing, said José Galan, head of the Spanish team.

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