Scandinavian prehistoric barley farming, earlier than thought


This 1970 music video from Britain says about itself:

TrafficJohn Barleycorn (must die) + lyrics

The character of John Barleycorn in this old British folk song is a personification of the important cereal crop barley. In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering indignities, attacks and death that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting.

From the University of Helsinki in Finland:

A 5,000-year-old barley grain discovered in Finland changes understanding of livelihoods

April 3, 2019

Summary: A 5,000-year-old barley grain discovered in Aland, southern Finland, turns researchers’ understanding of ancient Northern livelihoods upside down. New findings reveal that hunter-gatherers took to farming already 5,000 years ago in eastern Sweden, and on the Aland Islands, located on the southwest coast of Finland.

On the basis of prior research, representatives of the Pitted Ware Culture from the Stone Age have been known as hard-core sealers, or even Inuits of the Baltic Sea. Now, researchers have discovered barley and wheat grains in areas previously inhabited by this culture, leading to the conclusion that the Pitted Ware Culture adopted agriculture on a small scale.

A study carried out in cooperation with parties representing the discipline of archaeology and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Helsinki, as well as Swedish operators in the field of archaeology (The Archaeologists, a governmental consultant agency, and Arkeologikonsult, a business), found grains of barley and wheat in Pitted Ware settlements on Finland’s Aland Islands and in the region of modern Stockholm.

The age of the grains was ascertained using radiocarbon dating. Based on the results, the grains originated in the period of the Pitted Ware culture, thus being approximately 4,300-5,300 years old. In addition to the cereal grains, the plant remnants found in the sites included hazelnut shells, apple seeds, tuberous roots of lesser celandine and rose hips.

The study suggests that small-scale farming was adopted by the Pitted Ware Culture by learning the trade from farmers of the Funnel Beaker Culture, the latter having expanded from continental Europe to Scandinavia.

Other archaeological artefacts are also evidence of close contact between these two cultures.

“The grains found on Aland are proof that the Pitted Ware Culture introduced cultivation to places where it had not yet been practised,” says Santeri Vanhanen, a doctoral student of archaeology at the University of Helsinki.

Cereal perhaps used to brew beer?

The 5,000-year-old barley grain found on Aland is the oldest grain of cereal ever found in Finland. The researchers also found a handful of barley and wheat grains a few hundred years younger, representing either common wheat or club wheat.

“We also dated one barley grain found in Raseborg, southern Finland. This grain and the other earliest grains found in mainland Finland date back some 3,500 years, some 1,500 years behind Aland according to current knowledge,” Vanhanen explains.

In prior studies, it has been extremely difficult to demonstrate that the hunter-gatherer population would have adopted farming during recorded history, let alone in the Stone Age. Research on ancient DNA has in recent years proven that the spread of agriculture in Europe was almost exclusively down to migrants.

“We find it possible that this population, which was primarily specialised in marine hunting, continued to grow plants as the practice provided the community with social significance.”

From time to time, an abundance of pig bones are found at Pitted Ware sites, even though pigs were not an important part of their daily nourishment. For instance, the bones of more than 30 pigs were found in a grave located on the island of Gotland.

“Members of the Pitted Ware culture may have held ritual feasts where pigs and cereal products were consumed. It’s not inconceivable that grains might even have been used to brew beer, but the evidence is yet to be found,” Vanhanen continues.

Grain age determined through radiocarbon dating

The research relies primarily on archaeobotanical methodology, which helps examine plant remains preserved in archaeological sites. In this study, soil samples were collected from the sites, from which plant remains were extracted using a flotation method. The plant remains are charred; in other words, the grains and seeds have turned into carbon after having come to contact with fire.

Plant remains can be identified by examining them through a microscope and comparing them to modern plant parts. The age of individual grains can be determined with radiocarbon dating, based on the fractionation of the radioactive carbon-14 isotope. This way, the age of a grain aged several millennia can be determined with a precision of a few centuries.

Classical music, robbery, child’s tears


This 2015 classical music video shows soprano vocalist Simone Nestler and piano player Helene Jedig in “Lass mich mit Tränen mein Los beklagen” by German English 18th century composer Georg Friedrich Händel.

When I was a small child, my mother used to play this on the piano, also singing the German language lyrics:

Lass mich mit Tränen mein Los beklagen,
Ketten zu tragen, welch hartes Geschick!

Let me mourn my fate with tears,
Having to wear chains, what a cruel fate!

Who has to wear these cruel chains? I asked. Rinaldo, my mother replied. Rinaldo Rinaldini.

And here, my mother made a mistake. This aria is from Händel’s opera Rinaldo. A work loosely based on a 16th century Italian poem on the medieval crusades. Not the title character, the crusader Rinaldo, sings this aria; but Almirena, a Christian woman who has become a prisoner of Muslim soldiers.

My mother confused the fictional medieval crusader character Rinaldo with another fictional Rinaldo: Rinaldo Rinaldini. An eighteenth century Italian robber captain from a 1798 German novel.

Rinaldo Rinaldini was not really the most criminal kind of highwayman; more somewhere halfway between robber and freedom fighter against tyranny. So, I cried about these cruel chains the authorities had put around, supposedly, Rinaldo Rinaldini’s body.

As my mother felt that the aria made her child sad, she made up ‘happier’, humouristic spoof lyrics to the same tune, about animals:

Just give the bananas to the roosters,
Just give the cake to the northern pike

Rinaldo Rinaldini, the title character of an eighteenth century book, a twentieth century film, etc.should not be confused with Rinaldo Rinaldi, a nineteenth century sculptor.

There are also, in twentieth century film history, at least one designer, and (different one again) actor, called Rinaldo Rinaldi.

Unique John Lennon-Yoko Ono footage rediscovered


This Dutch TV 31 March 2019 video says about itself (translated):

Unique images John Lennon and Yoko Ono rescued from a chemical waste container

Film crews from all over the world were there: the Bed-In For Peace by John and Yoko. The famous images went all over the world. You would say we have seen them all. But 50 years later, unique images of that moment have come to light again.

This is a report by Tonko Dop.

The 1969 Amsterdam images are unique as they are from when only director Peter Goessens and his cameraman Mat van Hensbergen were still present, and the other film crews were gone.

The Bed-In For Peace was a protest against the Vietnam war.

Heavy metal music in Syrian war


This music video says about itself:

Band: Maysaloon
Single: Warsphere
Genre: Syrian Death Metal
Country: Syria
Year: 2017

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

How loud music helps to forget the war

About 150 people gather in a small, black-painted hall in Aleppo. They wear dark clothing and do head banging to the sound of rough guitars. The concert is called ‘live under siege’, but also ‘living under siege’. Outside, the civil war in Syria is going on.

The concert is a scene in the documentary Syrian Metal is War. Filmmaker Monzer Darwish, a refugee from Syria and now ended up in Dutch Noord-Holland province, followed people from the Syrian metal scene in 2013 and 2014. At the risk of their own lives, they organized concerts during bombing and traveled along routes full of snipers and paramilitary gangs. …

This video is called Syrian Metal Is War – Extended Trailer.

Even before the civil war, metalheads in Syria did not have an easy time, says Nasrah: “With long hair and a black shirt, you were a suspect quickly. Police were watching us and sometimes people were arrested after performances.” Even people in his own environment did not understand his lifestyle, the musician says. “Do you slaughter cats ritually, people often asked, or do you worship the devil?”

Things became different in the war. Metalheads no longer had to deal with the threat of police, but with the threat of war. “During a concert, we feared not only warfare, but also suicide bombers”, says documentary maker Monzer Darwish. Every meeting was a target for ISIS fighters, especially when music was being played. “Yet often 100, 150 people were together. Metal was the last bit of pleasure for them. They were literally willing to die for the music.”

Despite the passion of fans, the Syrian metal scene has had a hard time. Many bands have lost sight of each other in the stream of refugees. Guitar player Khodor Nashrah also said: “Our bass player is still in Syria, the drummer is in Austria and I am in Lebanon.” Despite the distance, the group is still active, he says: “Through WhatsApp we send pieces of music to each other. Our drummer then tries to make songs of it. But it is very difficult.”

New music

Documentary maker Monzer Darwish still plays the guitar in the Netherlands, although less often than before. “First find a house in the Netherlands, then a job. It is difficult to spend a lot of time with music”, he says.

His hope lies mainly with the metalheads in Syria itself, which he wants to bring more attention to with his film. “They still release new music, despite everything.” Darwish follows the bands closely: in the Netherlands he listens to music that appears in Syria. “I can’t live without it,” he says. “Without that music I would never have survived the war.”

Egyptian singer Sherine banned for criticizing dictatorship


This 1 February 2019 music video is Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab singing Hobbo Ganna.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Ban on singing for Egyptian singer after criticism of censorship

Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab is no longer allowed to perform in her own country after she said that there is no freedom of expression in Egypt. At a performance in Bahrain, she said she could say what she wanted there,

This may be true for that one performance by Sherine. However, another female singer was harassed sexually by the king of Bahrain himself. A Bahraini young poetess was tortured by the king’s daughter for writing a poem critical of oppression. Bahraini doctors and nurses were tortured for trying to heal patients. Etc.

but that anyone who talks freely would end up in prison in Egypt. The singer, known as Sherine in Egypt, also presents the Egyptian [TV] version of The Voice.

The [government aligned] Egyptian Union of Musicians immediately banned singer Sherine from performing, and called on her for an interrogation. A lawyer who has often prosecuted celebrities on behalf of the government has filed charges of defaming Egypt. …

Last year, Sherine also ran into problems when she said the Nile was polluted. A six-month prison sentence was dropped on appeal. …

Since he [dictator Sisi] is in power, many politicians and artists have been imprisoned or exiled.