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Oldest Evidence For Eating Chicken Found In Israel

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Humans have raised chickens for thousands of years. But it was only fairly recently in the scope of human evolution that we began eating them. Early chicken domesticators (starting in southeast Asia and China in the sixth millennium BCE) raised poultry for cockfighting and ritual uses, but a new study by archaeologists at the University of Haifa in Israel traces chicken’s culinary origins to Maresha, Israel as early as 400 BCE. 

Archaeologists found an “unprecedented amount of chicken remains” in the ancient city, they write in the journal PNAS. In contrast to the few scattered remnants of poultry found in other ancient cities, they uncovered more than a thousand chicken bones in Maresha, suggesting that the residents were raising domestic fowl for more than just ceremonial use. And these weren’t just a few scattered wings; this place was like an ancient KFC. Female chicken remains outnumbered those from males, and they featured knife marks that indicated they were butchered. Some of the feet had been intentionally removed. All these signs provide evidence that these chickens were raised for meat.

Chicken bones found on the site, on a thematically appropriate plate.Image Credit: Perry-Gal et al., PNAS (2015)

Why the residents of Maresha decided to begin eating chicken when their neighbors had not yet discovered the joys of white meat (at least as far as archaeological evidence shows) is unknown. Chicken dinners didn’t become popular across Europe until a full century later. Maresha was along the trading routes between Asia and Europe, and it’s possible that after domestic chickens had been raised in the Mediterranean for some time (they arrived in the second millennium BCE, according to the researchers), they underwent changes that made them more alluring as a meal or more viable as livestock. Whatever the reason that chicken became a popular protein in the Middle East at that time, the rest of the Mediterranean and Europe would soon follow suit. 

[h/t: NPR]

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For the First Time in 40 Years, Rome's Colosseum Will Open Its Top Floor to the Public
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The Colosseum’s nosebleed seats likely didn’t provide plebeians with great views of gladiatorial contests and other garish spectacles. But starting in November, they’ll give modern-day tourists a bird's-eye look at one of the world’s most famous ancient wonders, according to The Telegraph.

The tiered amphitheater’s fifth and final level will be opened up to visitors for the first time in several decades, following a multi-year effort to clean, strengthen, and restore the crumbling attraction. Tour guides will lead groups of up to 25 people to the stadium’s far-flung reaches, and through a connecting corridor that’s never been opened to the public. (It contains the vestiges of six Roman toilets, according to The Local.) At the summit, which hovers around 130 feet above the gladiator pit below, tourists will get a rare glimpse at the stadium’s sloping galleries, and of the nearby Forum and Palatine Hill.

In ancient Rome, the Colosseum’s best seats were marble benches that lined the amphitheater’s bottom level. These were reserved for senators, emperors, and other important parties. Imperial functionaries occupied the second level, followed by middle-class spectators, who sat behind them. Traders, merchants, and shopkeepers enjoyed the show from the fourth row, and the very top reaches were left to commoners, who had to clamber over steep stairs and through dark tunnels to reach their sky-high perches.

Beginning November 1, 2017, visitors will be able to book guided trips to the Colosseum’s top levels. Reservations are required, and the tour will cost around $11, on top of the normal $14 admission cost. (Gladiator fights, thankfully, are not included.)

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy of the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and the University of Sassari
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Archaeologists Discover Ancient Sunken City in the Mediterranean
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Courtesy of the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and the University of Sassari

Early on July 21, 365 CE, an 8.5 magnitude earthquake shook the eastern Mediterranean, triggering a powerful tsunami. The Egyptian city of Alexandria was damaged, towns crumbled on the island of Crete, and the Roman port city of Neapolis, located on the coast of North Africa, was largely swallowed by the wave, according to historical records. Now, after being hidden under water for more than 16 centuries, the remains of Neapolis have been discovered by archaeologists off the coast of northeast Tunisia. This, according to the AFP, confirms accounts that the city was a casualty of the ancient natural disaster.

Following several years of exploration, researchers from the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and the University of Sassari in Italy have discovered nearly 50 acres of watery ruins near the modern-day city of Nabeul. They include streets, monuments, homes, mosaics, and around 100 tanks used to make garum, a fish-based sauce that was so popular in ancient Rome and Greece that it's been likened to ketchup. 

These containers suggest that Neapolis was likely a major producer of garum, making the salty condiment an integral part of the city's economy. "Probably the notables of Neapolis owed their fortune to garum," expedition head Mounir Fantar told the AFP.

Neapolis ("new city" in Greek) was originally founded in the 5th century BCE. While it was an important Mediterranean hub, its name doesn't appear too often in ancient writings. According to The Independent, it may because the city sided with the ancient city-state of Carthage—founded in the 9th century BCE by a seafaring people known as the Phoenicians—in the last of a series of three wars, called the Punic Wars, against Rome.

The Third Punic War stretched from 149 to 146 BCE, and led to the burning of Carthage. (It was later rebuilt as a Roman city by Julius Caesar.) Neapolis may have been punished for its wayward allegiance, which may explain why it's rarely mentioned in historical accounts.

You can view a video of the city's ruins below.

[h/t AFP]

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