Bananas and soy consumed in Mediterranean 3,700 years ago

Ancient teeth show evidence of first globalisation of food

05 January, 14:42

    MILAN - A study has found that exotic foods such as bananas, soy and turmeric were consumed in the Mediterranean area as early as 3,700 years ago. The study, published in the journal of the American National Academy of Sciences, PNAS, analysed the traces of ancient proteins trapped in the dental plaque of 80 individuals who lived during the Bronze Age and Iron Age, and revealed evidence of the first "globalisation" of food.

    The individuals used in the study were found in Israel during excavations in Megiddo and Tel Erani.

    The study was conducted by an international research group led by molecular bioarchaeologist Domingo C. Salazar of the University of Valencia in Spain. "Exotic spices, fruits and oils from Asia had thus reached the Mediterranean several centuries, in some cases even millennia, earlier than had been previously thought," said Philipp Stockhammer, archaeologist with the Max Planck Institute and coauthor of the study.

    "This is the earliest direct evidence to date of turmeric, banana and soy outside of South and East Asia," said Robert C. Power of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. The discovery also shows that as early as the second millennium BCE there was already trade in exotic products that connected South Asia and the Mediterranean, probably through Mesopotamia or Egypt. "Current Mediterranean cuisine is characterised as being the product of intercultural exchange, and now we know that it was already so in the Bronze Age, after this study showed us that globalisation influenced Mediterranean cuisine millennia ago," said Domingo C. Salazar García.

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