Marsh mallow, or Althea officinalis, is a plant indigenous to Eurasia and Northern Africa. We know ancient Egyptians mixed marshmallow sap with nuts and honey. Though no one knows what it tasted like! For thousands of years, to make a sweet remedy for sore throats or simply a sweet, marsh mallow's root sap was boiled, strained, whipped, and sweetened. Marshmallows had to be created by hand, poured and molded into something similar to what we eat today. Because marshmallows were so time-consuming to create they remained available only to the elite.
In the late 1800s two revolutions happened in marshmallow history, which together created the new "starch mogul" system. First, confectioners started using marshmallow molds made of modified cornstarch. At the same time, they replaced the mallow root with gelatin, creating a much more stable form of marshmallow. The new starch mogul system was pioneered in France. It quickly crossed the Atlantic, catching on the USA in the early 1900s. The marshmallow-covered sweet potato casserole was invented in 1917, along with putting marshmallows in hot cocoa. And in 1927, a recipe for s'mores appeared in a Girl Scouts handbook.
In 1948, the American Alex Doumak created and patented the extrusion process, once again revolutionizing marshmallow-making. His process involves taking the marshmallow ingredients and running them through tubes. Afterwards, ingredients are cut into equal pieces, and packaged for sale. In the 1950s the newly cheap marshmallows were hugely popular in the US.
Forty years ago, a Buddhist monk found a human mandible bone at Baishiya Karst Cave, perched 10,000 feet above sea level on the Tibetan Plateau. The bone they found has now been dated to 160,000 years ago. And analysis of the proteins caught in its teeth demonstrate that the mandible belonged to the Denisovan branch of the hominin family.
This is the first evidence for Denisovans found outside of southern Siberia’s Denisova Cave. That cave is just 2,300 feet above sea level. It is also about 1,750 miles northwest of Baishiya Karst Cave. The mandible therefore revealed the Denisovans were widely distributed, and able to adapt to extremely high altitudes.
This is likely related to the mutation, found in previous Denisovan genetic studies, that assists survival in low-oxygen environments such as the high-altitude Tibetan Plateau. The same mutation has been found in present-day Tibetans. And given that the Denisovans once lived in the area, perhaps a long-ago intermarriage introduced the gene to the Tibetans? It seems more likely than the exact same gene randomly mutating twice.
In 1849, part of a fossilized arm bone belonging to an extinct giant turtle was found in a New Jersey streambed. It belonged to an Atlantochelys mortoni, who lived during the upper Cretaceous period, about 75 million years ago. From tip to tail it would have been ten feet (3 m) long! That's larger than any living turtle species. And in 2012, the other half of the arm bone was found by an amateur paleontologist in New Jersey. Which is especially amazing since the 1849 specimen was the first example of the genus and the species, and the older bone was also without a match of any kind.
The the spring in Isokyrö, Finland, produces something unusual: human remains. Over 98 different peoples' bones have been recovered from the spring since the 1800s. It used to be a full-sized lake, and when it was, it was the site of unusual water burials of mainly women and children.
One recent analysis looked at the remains of four individuals, and found that they were interred between 800 BCE and 400 CE. A second, separate analysis of other remains utilized DNA and dating methods and looked to see which modern populations they might be related to. Its findings suggests the Isokyrö region was inhabited by Sámi people in ancient times – according to carbon datings of the bones which belonged to individuals that had died from 500 to 700 CE. The lake was far from any human settlements at the time so why it was chosen, and why mainly women and children were buried there, remains unsolved.
Walls Won't Stop The Sea, Neolithic Humans Discovered
A Neolithic seawall built to protect a settlement constructed in Israel at about 10 feet above sea level was unable to keep post-glacial sea level rise at bay. The archaeological site, known as Tel Hreiz, was eventually abandoned and is now underwater. The seawall, which stretched for more than 300 feet, was built with boulders brought from riverbeds at least one-half mile away because villagers noticed the environmental changes.
Mesoamericans developed a process of treating maize with lime (the chemical) called "Nixtamalization." The earliest evidence for it comes from Guatemala and dates to between 1500 and 1200 BCE. Modern experiments have shown that the chemically altered maize had higher protein content, meaning that if they ate the altered maize with beans, they could theoretically get all the essential amino acids they would need. With Nixtamalization the Mesoamerican Trinity of crops, maize, beans, and squash could be a complete diet.
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By Lillian Audette
This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!