First evidence for vanillin in the old world: Its use as mortuary offering in Middle Bronze Canaan

Vanessa Linares, Matthew J. Adams, Melissa S. Cradic, Israel Finkelstein, Oded Lipschits, Mario A.S. Martin, Ronny Neumann, Philipp W. Stockhammer, Yuval Gadot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Four small ceramic juglets that had been used as containers for offerings in an elite Middle Bronze Age III (ca. 1650–1550 BCE) masonry tomb uncovered at Tel Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, Israel were tested using organic residue analysis. Notably, residues of vanillin, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde, and acetonvanillone were identified in three of the four juglets examined. These are the major fragrance and flavour components of natural vanilla extract. To date, it has been commonly accepted that vanilla was domesticated in the New World and subsequently spread to other parts of the globe. Our research first ruled out all possibility of sample contamination and then conducted a post-organic residue analysis investigation of various species within the plant kingdom from which these principle compounds could have been exploited. The results shed new light on the first known exploitation of vanilla in an Old World context, including local uses, the significance and employment in mortuary practices, and possible implications for understanding trade networks in the ancient Near East during the second millennium BCE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Megiddo Expedition is conducted under the auspices of Tel Aviv University. Consortium members are the Collège de France, The George Washington University, Purchase College, the Jezreel Valley Regional Project (JVRP), Fuller Theological Seminary and Loyola Marymount University. The Expedition is directed by Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University), Matthew J. Adams (W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research) and Mario A.S. Martin (Tel Aviv University). Work at Megiddo is currently supported by the Dan David Prize Foundation (Tel Aviv, Israel), Mark Weissman and Norman Belmonte . Work on the finds from Tomb 50 is funded by the Shmunis Family Foundation (San Francisco, USA). Organic Residue Analysis research on the finds is funded by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung Foundation (Germany), the Organic Chemistry Department of the Weizmann Institute of Science and by Ph. Stockhammer's ERC Starting Grant project ‘FoodTransforms: transformations of food in the Eastern Mediterranean Late Bronze Age’ ( ERC-2015-StG 678901 -FoodTransforms) funded by the European Research Council . We are grateful to all of them for making this research possible. Finally, the authors would like the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the original manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • 4-Hydroxybenzaldehyde
  • Acetonvanillone
  • Gas chromatography- mass spectrometry
  • Juglet
  • Masonry tomb
  • Middle Bronze Age III
  • Organic residue analysis
  • Vanillin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


Dive into the research topics of 'First evidence for vanillin in the old world: Its use as mortuary offering in Middle Bronze Canaan'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this