Live Science reports (here) on the investigation of 27 flasks from five archaeological sites in Israel showing that cinnamon was stored in them. The flasks date back to about 1000 years B.C. Ten of the 27 flasks contain “cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor, indicating that the spice was stored in these flasks.” Tel Dor is the only site named in the report.
At this time cinnamon was found in the Far East with the closest places to Israel being southern India and Sri Lanka located at least 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometers) away. A form of it was also found in the interior of Africa, but does not match the material found in these flasks.
This discovery “raises the intriguing possibility that long-range spice trade from the Far East westward may have taken place some 3,000 years ago,” researchers write in a paper to be published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry. Although cinnamon can be purchased today at any grocery or bulk food store, 3,000 years ago, people in the Levant would have needed to take part in trade that extended beyond the edge of the known world in order to acquire it, something this discovery suggests they were willing to do.
This trade may go back ever further into antiquity and involve other goods and parts of the Middle East. The researchers note, for example, that black pepper from India has been found in the mummy of Ramesses II, a pharaoh of Egypt who lived more than 3,200 years ago.
Cinnamon is mentioned only four times in the Bible.
- Cinnamon was used in the anointing oil for the tabernacle (Exodus 30:23).
- The adulterous woman tells the young man that she has perfumed her bed with cinnamon and other spices (Proverbs 7:17).
- Cinnamon is used in the sexual/sensuous context of Song of Solomon 4:14.
- Cinnamon is one of the spices imported by Babylon (the ancient Roman Empire) in Revelation 18:13.
Much archaeological work goes on in the library and in the lab.
HT: Joseph I. Lauer