Sesame, bananas, turmeric: Study finds link between Mediterranean diet and South Asia
Calcified dental plaque from archeological remains reveals the complexity of ancient trade and diets 3,500-4,000 years ago. How do we know this, and why is it significant?
Bananas are among the most consumed fruits around the globe, but there is now archaeological evidence to suggest they became part of the wider global diet much earlier than once believed. In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this week, researchers studying the eating habits of people in the southern Levant region during the Bronze and Early Iron Age said they found evidence of foods from South Asia, including bananas, sesame and turmeric, going back to at least the second millennium BCE.
So, why is this significant?
This new finding shows the Levant — the eastern Mediterranean region which includes present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Turkey — had been trading with South Asia, where bananas, sesame and turmeric were widely cultivated, as early as 3,500-4000 years ago.
According to the authors of the paper: “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 globalisation in early Eastern Mediterranean cuisine.”