Category Archives: Food and archaeology

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. )

Check out this episode!

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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Neuroarchaeology and an Indonesian seafood experience

Dr. Shelby Putt
Dr. Shelby Putt-paleoanthropologist and seafood lover.

Are you kept up a night trying to tackle the problems of early hominid evolution? Like, what’s the significance of language to the production of stone tools? Or, what’s going on in a person’s brain while they are knapping away on some stones? Well, grab some popcorn and hold on to your seat and brace yourself for some hardcore knowledge! We had the privilege to chat with Dr. Shelby Putt from the Stone Age Institute in Indiana who is doing some really exceptional and intriguing research.

Shelby has been working hard on a study to understand what’s going on in the human brain during stone tool production. Using imaging technology of modern human brains her research focuses on the Oldowan and Acheulian stone tool industries to find some answers.   Through her hard work and passion,  Shelby has revealed a lot about our early ancestors and the stone tools they produced. I could write more but I’ll leave it to the expert to explain it so you need to download and listen to the podcast!

A different view, showing the model flintknapping while having her brain activity measured with NIRS (Dr. Shelby Putt in the background at the NIRS system)
Digitizing a participant’s head.
Acheulean network.

In the closing moments of the interview. The food portion of the program. Shelby admits she is a picky eater. I think this is code for, “I don’t cook.” Anyway, she does share with us her experience abroad. We’ve all been there. We’ve had food put in front of us that confronts our long-held food phobia or avoidance. I have a friend who gags at the sight of strawberries. That’s extreme.  Shelby’s isn’t so extreme. She just didn’t like seafood. This all changed when she did fieldwork in Indonesia. It’s a great story about being human, letting go, and trying something new! Enjoy!

Dr. Shelby Putt breaking down walls-BOOM!

An informative link that goes along with the interview.

A short clip of a training video that the study participants watched

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Rock art from the Black Desert in Jordan with stuffed peppers.

Nathalie Brusgaard
Rock art aficionado Nathalie Brusgaard!

Nathalie Brusgaard is a P.h.D. candidate from Leiden University. Nathalie speaks with us about her research with rock art from the Black Desert in Jordan. This is the first detailed study of the rock art left behind by nomadic groups that traveled this region of Jordan during the late first millennium BC/  early first millennium AD. We are really fortunate that Nathalie made time for us and we are grateful that she shared with us her groundbreaking work!

Black Desert
Rock art overlooking the Black Desert.

We chat with her about what it is like to work in the desert. Nathalie shares with us her experiences from seeing beautiful sunrises over the desert to living in an old miner’s station powered only by solar energy. These are charming stories about the unique life of an archaeologist that should not be missed!

Jebel Qurma
Sunrise over the Jebel Qurma region.

Finally, Nathalie shares with us a simple and delicious stuffed pepper recipe!

Check out this episode!

Pioneer cemeteries from Upstate New York with lemon curd

Amanda Brainard
Cemetery historian & Victorian re-enactor Amanda Brainard

Self-starter and scholar Amanda Brainard has done what few of us do-she’s taken the initiative to follow her passion. No, her passion isn’t base jumping from a high mountain cliff in a wingsuit. It’s something deeper and more selfless. Amanda’s passion is to protect our cemeteries from neglect and decay.

Cemetery neglect and decay.
Amanda measuring a damaged headstone in Riga Road Cemetery. The measurements will be used to repair the stone and make a perfect replica if needed.


Join us as we talk to Amanda about her community-based project, the Northeastern Coalition for Cemetery Studies (here). Its goal is to preserve the cemeteries of our local communities for future generations. Amanda has an ongoing pilot project in Leon, New York with plans to expand the work of NCCS throughout the State and beyond.

Amanda uses a mirror, the sun, and physics to read an epitaph on a broken tombstone that has not been physically accessible due to brush overgrowth for at least 30 years. This photograph marks the first time the stone has been read in at least 3 decades. The stone will eventually be charted to scale so that it can be repaired and/or reproduced properly.

Although she doesn’t share any ghost stories with us (damn!) she did present to us a lemon curd recipe that sounds scary delicious!

Recipe: Lemon Curd

½ cup butter
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup real lemon juice (not from concentrate……concentrated lemon juice simply will not work for this recipe) or the juice of 3 lemons

Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Do not let it brown! Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice. You absolutely MUST do this next part to temper the eggs, otherwise they will scramble and you will have sweet lemon scrambled eggs. Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the egg mixture, whisking briskly the whole time. Or, mix the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice in a blender and slowly drizzle in the melted butter while the blender is running. Pour the egg and butter mixture back into the saucepan and place back over medium heat. Whisk constantly. The mixture will first get thin, then it will start to get thick. Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture starts to bubble. Let it bubble, whisking constantly (seriously. Whisk constantly) for at least half a minute to let the eggs cook through. You’re basically making a lemon custard.
Serve the lemon curd warm over ice cream, chill it and pour into an ice cream maker and make lemon ice cream (really good!), use this as a pancake spread, use it on toast, use it as a base for lemon merengue pie……the possibilities are endless. If you choose to use this for a pie base, here is the recipe I use:

8 eggs
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
¼ cup finely chopped raw almonds mixed with 1 tablespoon each grated coconut and granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use spelt)
2/3 cup butter

Cut the butter into the flour until pea-sized pieces form. Add just enough water to form a stiff dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and roll out very thinly—less than ¼ of an inch thick. You may need to do this part in batches—half or quarter the dough and roll out each piece. Place dough into a greased pie pan and bake at 350 F until it is firm and dry—about 10 to 20 minutes depending on the oven. Cool completely in the refrigerator. Every step of this recipe must be followed by chilling everything.

If you require a gluten free crust, try this:
2-3 cups walnuts, almonds, and pecans
Local honey
Grind the nuts to a fine meal. Add just enough honey to bind the meal into a stiff dough. Press the dough into a greased pie pan (coconut oil works very well).

The filling:
Crack 5 eggs into a mixing bowl. Separate the yolks from the whites of the 3 remaining eggs. Add 3 egg yolks to the 5 whole eggs. Proceed to make lemon curd as normal. Pour curd into a prepared, completely cooked pie crust and chill.
While pie is chilling, whisk the whites of 3 eggs with 3 tablespoons granulated sugar until stiff peaks form. Chill. Seriously. Chill everything after every step for lemon meringue pie!
When pie ingredients are completely cold, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread meringue over the top of the pie. It will be a substantial layer. Sprinkle the top of the meringue with chopped almond mixture (optional). If nuts are out of the question, sprinkle the top of the meringue with granulated sugar.
Bake at 350 F until the meringue is golden brown about 10 to 20 minutes depending on the oven. This will happen quickly.

Check out this episode!

Figurines from Syria with tortillas.

Monique Arntz
Motivational speaker and archaeologists, Monique Arntz!

Monique Arntz is a Ph.D. student at Cambridge University working with clay figurines from the Neolithic period. She began her research journey at the University of Leiden analyzing and writing about figurines from Tell Sabi Abyad in Syria. She since has expanded her research to include figurines from the famous site of Catal Huyuk in Turkey.

Site survey!

In this podcast, Monique discusses the background of her research, what she is looking for and the significance of her work. She drops some theory on us that makes you really think. Towards the end of our talk, Monique spontaneously turned into motivational speaker Tony Robbins.  Monique throws out some sage advice for all us when we are second guessing ourselves or feeling overwhelmed by life’s obstacles. Did I say obstacles? I meant challenges! See, now I have to listen to her again to get my head screwed on straight!

Team tortilla after a day’s work!

Finally, Monique shares with us a tortilla recipe she learned when working in the field in Jorden. It’s a good one!

The recipe:
Potato and onion tortillas.
For each tortilla take 6 eggs, 5 potatoes, and two onions.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.
Slice potatoes into thin slices and onions into small cubes.
Fry onions and potatoes until the potatoes are (nearly) cooked with plenty of pepper and salt.
Put the potatoes and onions back into egg mix and pour it into a frying pan. The most challenging part is to flip the tortilla. We used a large plate to put on top of the pan, flip it over and then slide it back into the frying pan to bake the other side.
You can also add other spices to your liking.
Simple but sooooo good!!
Team tortillas finished product!

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Western Canada with foraged local fauna and 14,000 years of occupation.

Alisha Gauvreau
Alisha Gauvreau everyone!

Alisha Gauvreau chats with us about her exciting excavation of a 14,000-year-old habitation site from a remote island in British Columbia, Canada. You heard that correctly-14,000 years ago! She is a Ph.D. student at the University of Victoria and a scholar at the Hakai Institute.

Beautiful British Columbia!

The site is located on the Triquet Island several hundred kilometers north of Victoria. Alisha talks about working in a remote location and about the results they have so far from the excavation. They are currently doing the laboratory work so more results are sure to follow!

That’s a big hole!
It’s a dirty job for sure!
To an archaeologist those profile walls are beautiful!!

Alisha shares with us about the locally foraged mollusks (chiton) and seaweed that they used to make an outstanding meal in the bush! You made do when you are in the field! For all of you adventure seekers have a listen to Alisha’s story. It’s a great sneak peek into the life of an archaeologist!

Locally foraged chiton.
The cooking process.


Music by: Royalty Free Music from Bensound

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The life and lessons from a Cocopah tribal archaeologist and a secret cookie recipe!

Jill McCormick
Tribal archaeologist Jill McCormick!

We have always been blown away and inspired by the people we get to chat with on this podcast. In today’s podcast, we get to share our interview with tribal archaeologist for the Cocopah Indian Tribe, Jill McCormick!

Cocopah Indian Tribe
Cocopah Indian Tribe

We are still trying to wrap our minds around how Jill accomplishes so much! Not only is she the Tribe’s award-winning archaeologist she is also their cultural resource manager.  Her work goes beyond this too. Jill is an Associate Professor at Arizona Western College and for the last 20 years, she has been the regional coordinator for the Arizona Site Steward program in Yuma. We aren’t finished… Jill is also an avid runner, a mother of seven and a proud grandmother! There is more in the podcast about Jill and her excellent work in the podcast but you’ll need to listen to it to find out more!

Working in the field!

Despite her busy schedule, she took time out from visiting her new grandchild to talk with us and to share a secret about the importance of the meal prep for those in the field, or out, that are confronted with a time crunch! She also threw us a recipe for a protein cookie!

Secret recipe! Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Blossoms

Vanilla whey protein 50G
Baking Stevia (or sweetener of choice) 1/3 cup
Powdered Peanut Butter ¼ cup
Coconut Flour 2 TBSP
Salt ½ TSP (optional)
Baking Powder ¼ TSP
Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt ½ Cup
Natural Peanut Butter ¼ cup
Egg Whites ¼ Cup (2 Large)
Pure Vanilla Extract ½ TSP
Special Dark Hershey’s Kisses 12 (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, then mix in wet ingredients until smooth.
2. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and drop cookies 1-2 inches apart, using rounded tablespoons.
Bake for 6-8 minutes until batter has set, press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie, and bake for another 2 minutes. Let cool for 15-30 minutes

Check out this episode!