A team of scientists have found that the Mediterranean region was already engaged in long distance trading of exotic spices and fruits from Asia in the Bronze Age. Archaeologists from the German university of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich have revealed in recent research that Asian spices like turmeric, and fruits like bananas had reached the Mediterranean more than 3000 years ago, which is much earlier than previously thought.
Published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the research was done by an international team of archaeologists.
The results were derived by an international team of archaeologists from LMU who analysed the food residues in tooth tartar in the people of Levant. The researchers traced the transformation of Eastern Mediterranean cuisines during the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age by analysing micro remains and proteins preserved in the dental calculus of individuals who lived during the second millennium BCE in the Southern Levant region.
The team found residues of turmeric, bananas, and even soy in the skeletons of humans that dated back to the Bronze Age and early Iron Ages. Apart from this, archaeologists also found evidence of cereals, dates, and sesame.
Lead author and LMU bio-archaeologist Ashley Scott said that their approach marks new scientific territory. She said that once a protein has survived for thousands of years, identifying it becomes a major challenge. Scott mentioned that allergy-causing proteins were most stable in tartar. With their research method, the researchers found sesame proteins in samples from Megiddo and Tel Erani.
The international team studied 16 individuals from the Megiddo and Tel Erani excavations. The region is located in present-day Israel. Reason why archaeologists chose this region was because Southern Levant was an important bridge between the Mediterranean, Asia and Egypt in the second millennium BCE.
Speaking about the significance of this research, archaeologist Philipp Stockhammer from LMU said that this is the earliest direct evidence to date of use of turmeric, banana and soy outside of South and East Asia. The research also proves that there was already a well-developed long-distance trade in exotic fruits, spices and oils, which they believe, connected South Asia and the Levant via Mesopotamia or Egypt in the second millennium BCE.
Before this research, there was a well-documented report on substantial trade across these regions that traced the roots of early globalization. The findings of this study confirm that people always had an interest in exotic foods and long-distance trade in culinary goods connected these distant societies since at least the Bronze Age.