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Exotic foods reveal contact between South Asia and the Near East during the second millennium BCE

MPS-Authors
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Scott,  Ashley
Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Power,  Robert C.
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Eisenmann,  Stefanie
Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Hagan,  Richard
Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Stockhammer,  Philipp W.
Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Warinner,  Christina
Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Scott, A., Power, R. C., Altmann-Wendling, V., Artzy, M., Martin, M. A. S., Eisenmann, S., et al. (2021). Exotic foods reveal contact between South Asia and the Near East during the second millennium BCE. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(2): e2014956117. doi:10.1073/pnas.2014956117.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-E453-A
Abstract
Here we report the identification of staple and exotic food remains in Bronze and Early Iron Age dental calculus from the Southern Levant. The analysis of dietary plant microremains and proteins sheds new light on consumed exotic foods from South and East Asia during the second millennium BCE. We provide the earliest direct evidence in the Mediterranean to date for the consumption of sesame, soybean, probable banana, and turmeric. The recovery and identification of diverse foodstuffs using molecular and microscopic techniques enables a new understanding of the complexity of early trade routes and nascent globalization in the ancient Near East and raises questions about the long-term maintenance and continuity of this trade system into later periods.Although the key role of long-distance trade in the transformation of cuisines worldwide has been well-documented since at least the Roman era, the prehistory of the Eurasian food trade is less visible. In order to shed light on the transformation of Eastern Mediterranean cuisines during the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, we analyzed microremains and proteins preserved in the dental calculus of individuals who lived during the second millennium BCE in the Southern Levant. Our results provide clear evidence for the consumption of expected staple foods, such as cereals (Triticeae), sesame (Sesamum), and dates (Phoenix). We additionally report evidence for the consumption of soybean (Glycine), probable banana (Musa), and turmeric (Curcuma), which pushes back the earliest evidence of these foods in the Mediterranean by centuries (turmeric) or even millennia (soybean). We find that, from the early second millennium onwards, at least some people in the Eastern Mediterranean had access to food from distant locations, including South Asia, and such goods were likely consumed as oils, dried fruits, and spices. These insights force us to rethink the complexity and intensity of Indo-Mediterranean trade during the Bronze Age as well as the degree of globalization in early Eastern Mediterranean cuisine.Protein spectra have been deposited to the ProteomeXchange Consortium via the PRIDE partner repository (https://www.ebi.ac.uk/pride) under the dataset identifier PXD021498.