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Possible Vanilla Chemicals Detected in Bronze Age Tomb in Israel

Monday, November 19, 2018

Israel Megiddo vanillaTEL AVIV, ISRAEL—Science News reports that evidence of the use of vanilla has been found in three jugs in a 3,600-year-old tomb in Israel. Archaeologist Vanessa Linares of Tel Aviv University said the Bronze Age jugs, unearthed near a palace and monumental city gate at the site of Megiddo, contained traces of two of the major chemical compounds in natural vanilla extract. Evidence of olive oil and other plant oils were also detected. Linares said vanilla-infused oils may have been added to foods and medicines, and may have been used in rituals and for embalming the dead. She thinks the vanilla, which comes from beans grown on vanilla orchids in East Africa, India, and Indonesia, arrived in the Middle East through trade. The remains of three elite individuals—a man, a woman, and a boy estimated to have been between the ages of eight and 12—and of six other people were recovered from the tomb, which also contained elaborate bronze, gold, and silver jewelry. For more on the archaeology of food, go to “The Neolithic Palate.”

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