Jugs that date to about 3,600 years ago hold traces of the fragrant substance
VANILLA SCOOP Long considered a product that originated in ancient Mexico, vanilla– which is extracted from beans such as these– was used by Middle Easterners around 3,600 years ago, a new study finds.
DENVER– Three jugs put as offerings in a roughly 3,600-year-old tomb in Israel have actually exposed a sweet surprise– evidence of the oldest recognized usage of vanilla.
Previously, vanilla was thought to have actually stemmed in Mexico, perhaps 1,000 years ago or more. Containers from the Bronze Age website of Megiddo consist of residues of 2 major chemical compounds in natural vanilla extract, vanillin and 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde, stated archaeologist Vanessa Linares of Tel Aviv University in Israel. Chemical analyses likewise discovered residues of plant oils, including a component of olive oil, in the three containers.
“Bronze Age people at Megiddo might have used vanillin-infused oils as ingredients for foods and medicines, for routine purposes or potentially even in the embalming of the dead,” Linares stated. She explained these findings at the annual conference of American Schools of Asian Research Study on November 16.
Vanillin comes from beans in vanilla orchids. About 110 types of these flowers are found in tropical locations all over the world. The chemical profile of the vanillin in the Megiddo containers finest matches present-day orchid types in East Africa, India and Indonesia, Linares stated.
Extensive Bronze Age trade paths likely brought vanillin to the Middle East from India and perhaps likewise from East Africa, she suggested.
“It’s really not unexpected that vanillin reached Bronze Age Megiddo offered all the trade that occurred in between the [Middle East] and South Asia,” says archaeologist Eric Cline of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. However no proof exists of trade at that time in between Middle Eastern societies and East Africa, says Cline, who did not take part in the Megiddo research.
Vanilla orchids or their beans most likely reached Megiddo through trade routes that initially went through Mesopotamian society in southwest Asia. Bronze Age Middle Easterners ended up with those products, discoveries at Megiddo challenge the idea that vanilla use originated only in Mexico and then spread somewhere else, Cline says.
The vanillin-containing containers at Megiddo originated from a tomb of 3 “highly elite” people who were interred with six other individuals of lesser social rank, said archaeologist Melissa Cradic of the University of California, Berkeley, a member of the current Megiddo research team. Excavations revealed the tomb in 2016, Cradic likewise reported at the ASOR conference.
Primary burials in the burial place include an adult female, an adult male and an 8- to 12-year-old boy. Elaborate types of bronze, gold and silver jewelry were found on and around the 3 skeletons. Specific replicas of a number of pieces of fashion jewelry appeared on each person.
The burial place lies in an exclusive part of Megiddo near a palace and a monumental city gate.
“We can’t definitively say that these 3 individuals were royals,” Cradic stated. “However they were elites in Megiddo and might have come from the very same household.”