donderdag 26 juni 2014

Spice in European Prehistoric Cuisine

Nice paper on PLOS: 'Phytoliths in Pottery Reveal the Use of Spice in European Prehistoric Cuisine'. The title pretty much says it all. The critical image is above, the subtext below, but first the English & Latin names for the herbs found. I do wonder though if the consistent presence of the opium poppy might indicate prehistoric addition rather than spicing. Coriander was found in Tutankhamun's tomb.

Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum)
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Caper (Capparis spinosa)
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)
A kind of mustard ? (Cruciferae family)
"Figure 1. Early contexts from which spices have been recovered, with photomicrographs of globular sinuate phytoliths recovered from the pottery styles illustrated.
Showing, A) A map of Europe showing an inset of the study area and sites from which the pot residues were acquired;, including also the Near East and northern Africa indicating early contexts where spices have been recovered: a) Menneville, France (Papaver somniferum L.), b) Eberdingen, Germany (Papaver somniferum L.), c) Seeberg, Switzerland (Papaver somniferum L.), d) Niederwil, Switzerland (Papaver somniferum L.), e) Swiss Lake Villages, Switzerland (Anethum graveolens L.), f) Cueva de los Murcielags, Spain (Papaver somniferum L.), g) Hacilar, Turkey (Capparis spinosa L.), h) Tell Abu Hureya, Syria (Caparis spinosa L.), i) Tell ed-Der, Syria (Coriandrum sativum L. and Cuminum cyminum L.), j) Khafaji, Iraq (Cruciferae family), k) Tell Aswad, Syria (Capparis spinosa L.), l) Nahal Hemar Cave, Israel (Coriandrum sativum L.), m) Tutankhamun's tomb, Egypt (Coriandrum sativum L.), n) Tomb of Kha, Egypt (Cuminum cyminum L.), o) Tomb of Amenophis II, Egypt (Anethum graveolens L.), p) Hala Sultan Tekke, Cyprus (Capparis spinosa L.), q) Heilbronn, Germany (Papaver somniferum L.), r) Zeslawice, Poland (Papaver somniferum L.) [compiled using 8–17]. B) Hunter-gatherer pointed-based vessel (on the left) and Early Neolithic flat-based vessel (on the right). C) Scanning Electron Microscope image of a globular sinuate phytolith embedded in a food residue, D) optical light microscope image of modern Alliaria petiolata globular sinuate phytoliths, and E) optical light microscope image of archaeological globular sinuate phytolith examples.

woensdag 18 juni 2014

Strabo's Plantlist

Walafrid Strabo (808-849) was, among many other things, the author of the gardening poem Hortulus, an account of the herbs he grew in his garden and their medical uses. As such it gives us the first plant list for a monastic herb garden, (extracted from):
Clary sage
Indian pepper

dinsdag 10 juni 2014

Images from the Phycologia Australica [A history of Australian Seaweeds]

"Phycologia australica; or, A history of Australian sea weeds ... and a synopsis of all known Australian Algae" (1858-63) by William Henry Harvey.

Distant Neighbors, the letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder.

Of all books that I have read last decade Gary Snyder's 'Practice of the Wild' has made the most impact on me. The selected letters of Allen Ginsberg and Snyder came out in 2009 (edited by beat pinata Bill Morgan) and it failed to impress on every level: the letters were short, contained barely any new info, did not make up for it with slylish panache. If you did not know who Ginsberg and Snyder were the letters would have never given you the idea that they were friends, more poet-celebs maintaining a beneficial node in their social network. That book was just another piece of worthless beat nostalgia to rip off the fans. When I saw Distant Neighbors advertised, the selected letters of Snyder and Wendell Berry (edited by Chad Wriglesworth), however I knew that I would get something much better. 

Both Wendell Berry (that eloquent secular-Amish farmer-intellectual whose stodgy perspectives on (agri)culture and nature always seem realistic, conservative and radical at the same time) and Gary Snyder (that zen-mountaineer-poet with a surprisingly small oeuvre) are never going to be Horace Walpole's but then Walpole was not homesteader.
If you think about picking up this book to learn more about the beats then you do not need to bother.

My main problem with Snyder is that never seems to put himself in a position of being under serious scrutiny. His published interviews all have the interviewer assuming the position of humble acolyte listening in awe while the Master sits and teaches with timeless abandon. In that Snyder has with grace reinvented the Confucian (no: Kungian) form for the age of Aquarius. I don't mind it but for an intellectual he has engaged himself in surprisingly little discussion and polemics. His position on overpopulation for instance he has made for at least 40 years but no one has ever made him elaborate on how the population decline he so much desires could be enforced without draconian measures. He takes the position, declares it central, but fails to substantiate it and nobody ever seems to have challenge him about it. But in Distant Neighbors we find Berry critiquing him for it and asking him to clarify his position. I was anticipating a polite but fierce discussion but what does Snyder do? In a next letter he merely shrugs. It confirms the hunch I have about Snyder: he takes critique very badly.

The book begins with a letter from 1973 and ends with a letter from 2013. From a distance we see the man float through life: working the land, traveling to and from public ado's, discussing the seasons and the weather, suggesting books and sharing poems and essays, sometimes they tease. For instance when Snyder in response to Berry's essay on why he will never use a computer sends him a love poem about text processing.

In the background the extended families act as background radiation: children and grandchildren, disease and death. Who would have though that Snyder would so gently break the news to Berry about him swapping wifes with real concern for Berry's more conservative antics on such matters.  Berry takes it well and seems to have taken more to the new partner than he ever did to the old. But that is conjuncture, these are man from  I you think about picking up this book to learn more about beat-matters than don't. Mars, silent on emotions.

So what do we have here: 40 years of correspondence, that show two distant friends keeping in touch. Sometimes they argue, sometimes they ask for advice, often they are planning how and when they are going to meet. I would not call this great letter writing but you see something of the pace of life of both authors and you get a sense of what life was like for them as they were writing their books. I learned something new about how The Practice of the Wild was written. That alone is enough for me.

vrijdag 6 juni 2014

Tebu's message [Batek story]

Below is a story from 'Changing Pathways: Forest Degradation and the Batek of Pahang, Malaysia' (2004) by Tuck-Po Lye. It is Tebu's message to the world to stop destroying his home forest.  The book gives it in the original language, a literal transcript and a free translation. This is the transcription but with some additional markings omitted.

World-finish - world-finish. Already-no-tree.

When-they-dynamite, Gubar-long time-rain. we remember.

Do-only untill-that. We-find-food-same. Can-not-fond of-appropriately-that-we-find-food.

River Temoh-no-tree. Oil palm-only.

Soul-to live-upon-tree.

Island hold-up-earth.

That is past-we Peace-no-lose-world.

Person-superhuman-to-say: hearth-earth to make.

They remember they miss.

To feel sorry for-song.

They love.

We listen - - what - - we hold voice.

Tree-finish, no-place-we to be shaded.

Can-we-meeting, meeting-can-we decide together-do-then. We refuse to give up-world. Don't-
we-lose out on-world. We-know-we-eat, we-know-we-keep.

Malays-they-think-of road-they-put down-oil palm. Consider-they-kill-world. Where-we-live. So-they-
kill-world-ours. Before-we-sit-healthy. Now-no-we want-healthy-already. So law-us same.

We-miss-time-peace. Remember, we miss. We-show how.

Already-broken-earth. Soul river-block. Important-danger. River-not-it wants-flow. It-spills. Land-soft. Land collapse. It make-channel-it-break-there.

Like-like, loof for-good - - for-food-we-rich, but-world-none. Know-we-keep. Not-we-rich-we kill-world. Short-we to-become-long. We-know-we-keep. We-look-for-food, we-value-soul-world. 

But-not-they-know-value-soul-world, don't know-then.

Value-soul-world. We-remember-before. As long as living-we-in-forest, we-give-instructions. Don't-we-fight, kill each other.

Not-easy - - suffering. End of-life-they-do.

Kill-world. Ridicule-we-live-wild. No-they-know-they-think. I want-them-know-way-reason.

dinsdag 3 juni 2014

The origin and evolution of herbals (Agnes Arber)

It is hard to escape the image of the modern day wild plant watcher as a bearded teacher of the old stamp who would wear a dear stalker on his floral huntings if only his wife would let him. It has not always been like that as Agnes Arber's 'Herbals, their origin and evolution' (1912/1938, reprinted 1986) shows. Arber takes us through the history of herbals between 1470 and 1670, roughly the years spanning the discovery of printing and the emergence of botany as a science in its modern form. There is a great deal to be learned, but what strikes me most is that many of the botanical advances reported share a close proximity to the intellectual spheres as so eloquently described by Frances Yates: the world of Elizabethan Rosicrucians and radical (hermetic) philosophy. Many herbalists were radical protestants, often on the move to avoid prosecution, operating in the intellectual and power hubs of the Renaissance world. We witness the change from medical herbalism to botany, we see how novelties emerge and how stubbornly certain traditions are maintained. We get a glimpse of how the plants of the new world were integrated, and how hard it was to see them for what they were. The earliest herbals in print were often reissues of manuscripts, creating a timeline of at least a millennium for certain texts. 

What makes this book even more wonderful is the liberal use of images. Nothing can beat a good woodcut.

Through sympathetic magic Arber's book also gave me new respect for the Heukels', the most complete lay flora for the Netherlands. Not only does it contain information to the point of singularity it has now also acquired for me the patina of history. If you look of the drawings you can see how little has changed.