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Shea Butter Was First Made 1000 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought

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Today, shea butter can be found in beauty products ranging from foot creams to body wash, but the ingredient is far from a modern fad. In fact, people first started producing and using shea butter 1000 years earlier than previously believed.

The findings, as reported in the latest issue of the Journal of Ethnobiology, were made by anthropologists at the University of Oregon. Excavations at an archaeological site called Kirikongo in the West African country of Burkina Faso turned up fragments of nut shells salvaged from the remains of multiple layers of households. When analyzed, the carbonized shells were found to date back as far as 100 CE. Previous papers had pegged the first usage of shea butter as appearing around 1100 CE, an entire millennium later. According to Daphne E. Gallagher, a researcher from the university's department of anthropology, the new discovery shows that we still have a lot left to learn about the history of the region.

Shea butter is a thick, shortening-like paste that's made by processing a shea nut's oily interior. To get to the seed inside, the nuts have to be pounded open and separated from the shell fragments by hand. Today the antioxidant-rich product is primarily exported for use in soaps and lotions, but the first communities who made it would have used it as a source of fat for cooking.

Excavation of the Kirikongo site began a little over a decade ago. In addition to being the site of the earliest known production of shea butter, it was also once home to the first chickens in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Thanks to a Wet Winter, New Zealand Faces a Potential Potato Chip Shortage
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New Zealand has plenty of unique and tasty snacks, but kiwis also love potato chips. The universal comfort food is in danger Down Under, however, as an unusually wet winter has devastated the island country’s tuber crops, according to BBC News.

Twenty percent of New Zealand’s annual potato crop was wiped out from a series of major storms and floods that ravaged the nation’s North and South Islands, The Guardian reports. In some regions, up to 30 percent of potato crops were affected, with the varieties used to make chips bearing the brunt of the damage.

Potato prices spiked as farmers struggled, but the crisis—now dubbed “chipocalypse” by media outlets—didn't really make the mainstream news until supermarket chain Pak’nSave posted announcements in potato chip aisles that warned customers of a salty snack shortage until the New Year.

Pak’nSave has since rescinded this explanation, claiming instead that they made an ordering error. However, other supermarket chains say they’re working directly with potato chip suppliers to avoid any potential shortfalls, and are aware that supplies might be limited for the foreseeable future.

New Zealand’s potato farming crisis extends far beyond the snack bars at rugby matches and vending machines. Last year’s potato crops either rotted or remained un-harvested, and the ground is still too wet to plant new ones. This hurts New Zealand’s economy: The nation is the world’s ninth-largest exporter of potatoes.

Plus, potatoes “are a food staple, and this is becoming a food security issue as the effects of climate change take their toll on our potato crop,” says Chris Claridge, the chief executive of industry group Potatoes New Zealand, according to The Guardian.

In the meantime, New Zealanders are preparing to hunker down for a few long months of potential potato peril—and according to some social media users, kale chips are not a suitable alternative. “Chipocalypse” indeed.

[h/t BBC News]

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50 Sweet Facts About Your Favorite Halloween Candies
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It’s no surprise that candy delights kids and adults alike. We love sweets so much that the average American eats about 22 pounds of candy each year. Whether you’re looking to impress your friends or simply brush up on your candy trivia, check out these 50 sweet facts about your favorite candies.

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