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

Ashley Scott, Robert C. Power, Victoria Altmann-Wendling, Michal Artzy, Mario A.S. Martin, Stefanie Eisenmann, Richard Hagan, Domingo C. Salazar-Garciá, Yossi Salmon, Dmitry Yegorovi, Ianir Milevski, Israel Finkelstein, Philipp W. Stockhammer, Christina Warinner

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2014956117
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 12 Jan 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. This study was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research innovation programme (ERC-2015-StG 678901-Food-Transforms) as part of P.W.S.’s ERC Starting Grant project “FoodTransforms: Transformations of Food in the Eastern Mediterranean Late Bronze Age.” Work at Megiddo is currently supported by the Shmunis Family Foundation, the Dan David Foundation, Jacques Chahine, Mark Weissman, as well as Norman and Vivian Belmonte. We thank Zeev Herzog and Lily Avitz Singer for giving us the permission to publish the pottery sherd photograph and for supplying information as to its context; and Chen Tao and Robert Spengler for helpful comments on the manuscript.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.


    • Bronze Age
    • Early globalization
    • Eastern mediterranean
    • Proteomics
    • Spice trade

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General


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