Neolithic China, beer making, and rice wine.

Jiajing Wang
Jiajing Wang, archaeologist and craft beer icon.

Here is the episode to get your drink on! Stanford University Ph.D. student Jiajing Wang speaks with us today about her research into beer making and fermentation practices during the Neolithic in China. We spoke with her in China as she was finishing up some research. This is a great talk about the earliest evidence of beer making. Or, should we call it the earliest evidence of craft beer making?! Regardless, she has a lot of information for us to digest!

Jiajing examining a ceramic vessel for sampling.

We also chat about what is going on within Chinese archaeology. There seems to be an explosion of archaeological work being done within China and outside China. For those of you who have an interest in Chinese archaeology, this is the episode for you!

Finally, Jiajing shares with us a very simple and effective way to make rice wine. This is a perfect little science experiment you can do from home! Hope you all enjoy it!

Rice wine recipe:

2 cups of glutinous rice, 1 wine yeast ball (also called qu or jiuqu in Mandrin)
1. Soak the rice for an hour
2. Steam the rice for 25 min
3. Crush the yeast ball
4. Combine the yeast powder and the rice
5. Place the rice in an airtight container
6. Store the rice in a warm place (100 degrees F or 38 degrees C)
7. Taste the wine after a few days (the taste of the wine changes the longer it ferments. )

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Lentil balls, Neolithic Turkey, and construction of the past

Burcu Tung
Dr. Burcu Tung (photo by Scott Haddow)

Today we have a packed episode full of the intricacies of being an archaeologist and how broad the field really is. We are thankful to speak with Dr. Burcu Tung from Stanford University about her work in archaeology, her contribution to the field through her research and Burcu shares with us her Grandma’s lentil ball recipe.

Burcu is a site supervisor at the famous archaeological site of Catal Hoyuk in Turkey. For those who don’t know this, Catal Hoyuk is a Neolithic site located in Turkey that dates back to 7500 B.C. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site which means it is pretty damn important to global heritage. No this isn’t a new world order conspiracy it’s totally true! One thing I’d like to point out is Burcu began her field experience on this site back in 1998 so it’s safe to say she has a real connection and interesting perspective about Catal Hoyuk.

South Shelter (Photo by Jason Quinlan)

We also have a conversation about her latest book project. She and a colleague (Flora Keshgegian) are looking into how people construct their past through their memories and heritage. They are specifically looking at Turkish and Armenian identities. This is a really fascinating talk. Archaeology isn’t always about literally digging up stuff from the past. We do spend a lot of time thinking about real world issues as well.

Finally, I forgot to tell Burcu that this was a cooking podcast so I made no mention about the recipe exchange at the end of the podcast. To her credit, Burcu pulled out her Grandmother’s Anatolian lentil ball recipe. It simple and sounds delicious! I had a great time chatting with Burcu about this recipe and food culture from the region. Hope you enjoy it!

Burcu’s recipe: Lentil Bites (Mercimek Köftesi)

1 C red lentils
1L water
2 C fine bulgur (or cracked wheat)
1 onion, finely chopped
1.5 T tomato paste
1.5 T pepper paste (optional, if you don’t have this use more tomato paste)
1 t black pepper
1 t red pepper
Salt to taste
1/3 – 1/2 C olive oil
1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 bunch of dill, finely chopped
2 T pomegranate juice (sour) (optional)
1-2 T cumin
juice of 1 lemon

Bring lentils to boil in 1 L water, simmer until cooked (they need to become very soft and mushy)
Add the bulgur into the pot, close its lid and wait for 30 min for the bulgur to ‘steam’
Sautee the onions with a little bit of olive oil. Once the onions are cooked add the tomato/pepper paste and cook for 5 mins.
Add onion/tomato paste onto the lentils.
Add al other ingredients.
Mix with hands.
Check on salt and olive oil, be generous with both.
Make little oval balls in your hand and serve with lettuce.

Afiyet Olsun! (it translates to bon apetit)

Oh – and this link has a nice picture of how the lentil balls should look like


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Kentucky bourbon balls and public history

Jenny Holly, public historian, and proud Kentuckian!

Jenny Holly is a public historian and proud Kentuckian,  who chats with us today about her interesting project into the medical history of Lexington, Kentucky. The healthcare industry in Lexington goes back to the late 1700s and is still an important part of the local economy. We learn about this history and about the various individuals who over the years created this medical landscape of Lexington. By the way, she is doing this all in her spare time!

What is a public historian you ask?  Jenny answers that question by enlightening us about the important function and the role public historians have in our communities. Public historians are the individuals bringing their love and passion for history straight to the public. They educate and connect us to the places we know and call home.

Jenny Holly dropping some knowledge!

How does this relate to archaeology? Well, archaeologists aren’t always digging in the ground. A lot of the time we are excavating through archives and dusty old documents searching for clues. And a lot of the time we will do this in collaboration with historians. It makes sense since we both like old things and we like to tell stories of those who’s stories have yet to be told!

Finally, Jenny introduces us to her Kentucky bourbon balls. This sound absolutely amazing! Even though it’s summer for some of us winter is coming so it is best to be prepared!

The finished product!

Jenny’s Kentucky Bourbon Balls

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

5 Tablespoons bourbon (start with 5 tablespoons, but add in extra if need be. Different bourbons will have different strength)**

1. Be born in Kentucky and already know how to make bourbon filled desserts. Or if that fails…

2. Combine softened butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Mixture will be very dry with almost a sand like quality. Sugar blends better if you run it through a sifter first, but that’s not necessary.

2. Add bourbon and mix until incorporated. Use a hand mixer and mix until it has a creamy, fluffy texture (usually a couple of minutes of mixing)

3. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 1 hour.

4. Form the buttercream into 1 inch balls and place on waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm. At this point you can either dip them in the chocolate, or place them in a plastic bag and freeze to dip them in the morning.

5. Dip in chocolate coating and place a pecan on top. (See Below)
Chocolate Coating

4 to 6 ounces semisweet chocolate or a dark chocolate/semisweet chocolate mixture

Whole pecan halves or crushed pecans, for garnish


Place a toothpick in each bourbon ball, sticking the toothpick into the center.

Melt chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave or a double boiler. Mix and heat until smooth. To make the chocolate smoother, add in Crisco as you melt it. I’ve also found that plugging in a heating pad on the counter and setting your chocolate on there helps keep it smooth while you’re working.

Working quickly, dip the bourbon ball centers into the chocolate one at a time. Set the coated bourbon ball on waxed paper covering a baking sheet or pizza pan. Cover the top with pecans. You’ll want to alternate between dipping a few and placing pecans.

When all bourbon balls have been dipped allow them to rest until set. (To speed the process the pan of bourbon balls can be placed in the refrigerator.)

**Note on bourbon: nicer bourbon is not always best for bourbon balls because it’s too smooth. Pick something mid-range. I usually use Wild Turkey. If you use Jack Daniels, we can no longer be friends.

Link to Jenny’s webpage!

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Archaeology in areas of conflict and Azerbaijani inspired chicken

Dr. Lauren Ristvet

Dr. Lauren Ristvet from the University of Pennsylvania joined us today to speak about her research and collaborative projects. Lauren is a Near Eastern archaeologist who has worked in Syria and Iraq for close to 20 years. Her work began at the site of Tell Leilan in Syria. She is currently working in Azerbaijan in the southern Caucasus. It’s here Lauren is co-directing an excavation of the fortress site of Oglangala (Iron Age 1200 – 300 BCE) in Naxcivan.

Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq.

In the interview, we also discussed the exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania that she is involved with. The exhibit called, “Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq” showcases the material culture from these countries while taking patrons through the devastating impact that years of conflict have had on both country’s cultural heritage.  This is a serious topic of an ever changing situation that the public needs to be made aware. Lauren and her colleagues are doing important work bringing attention to an underreported global issue.

Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq opened Saturday, April 8, 2017 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. From left to right are Julian Siggers, Williams Director of the Penn Museum; Salam Al Kuntar, Syrian archaeologist and Lead Exhibition Curator; Issam Kourbaj, Syrian-born artist whose art intervention is featured in the exhibition; Brian Daniels, Exhibition Co-curator; and Lauren Ristvet, Lead Exhibition Curator.

Finally, we have a light hearted talk about the life of an archaeologist. One of the most memorable aspects of this job is when you actually become part of the local community where you are working. As Lauren mentions it’s truly one of the unspoken perks of the job. The recipe she shares with us is inspired by her work in Azerbaijan. Hope you enjoy it!

Here is a link to Lauren’s Azerbaijani excavation!

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