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28 August 2013
3,000-year-old spice trade in Israel

Researchers analysing the contents of 27 flasks from 5 archaeological sites in Israel that date back around 3,000 years, have found that 10 of the flasks contain cinnamaldehyde, indicating that cinnamon spice was stored in these flasks.
     At that time, the closest places to find this form of cinnamon were in southern India and Sri Lanka, nearly 5,000 kilometres away. At the time of this trade, the coastal inhabitants included the Phoenicians. While great seafarers, they probably did not sail all the way to the Far East.
     Dvory Namdar, a researcher with the Weizmann Institute of Science and Tel Aviv University, and her colleague Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa, say that the flasks that contained cinnamon were made locally. Flasks like these have been found in special places such as treasuries and temple storerooms.
     Namdar and Gilboa explained that the dried bark from the cinnamon tree would have been brought to Phoenicia, mixed with some form of liquid, put in these flasks, and afterwards shipped all over Phoenicia and neighbouring regions. One possibility, Namdar and Gilboa said, is that people mixed the cinnamon with wine. Cinnamon is often used in mulled or spiced wine.

Edited from LiveScience (20 August 2013)

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