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On the Beginnings of South Asian Spice Trade with the Mediterranean Region: A Review

  • Ayelet Gilboa (a1) and Dvory Namdar (a2)


When did the trade in lucrative spices from South Asia to the West commence? Recent organic residue analyses performed on small early Iron Age (11th–late 10th century BCE) Phoenician clay flasks provide the first concrete archaeological evidence that such sustainable trade took place much earlier than hitherto suspected. The analysis shows that several of the flasks contained cinnamon, which in this period could only have originated in South/Southeast Asia. Here, we first summarize the rationale and results of that study. Subsequently, we provide an updated review of all sources of data relevant to the question at hand—archaeological, analytical, and textual. Finally, we offer suggestions for future research on the Asian spice trade with the West.


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