Four small ceramic juglets that had been used as containers for offerings in an elite Middle Bronze Age III (ca. 1650–1550 BCE) masonry tomb uncovered at Tel Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, Israel were tested using organic residue analysis. Notably, residues of vanillin, 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde, and acetonvanillone were identified in three of the four juglets examined. These are the major fragrance and flavour components of natural vanilla extract. To date, it has been commonly accepted that vanilla was domesticated in the New World and subsequently spread to other parts of the globe. Our research first ruled out all possibility of sample contamination and then conducted a post-organic residue analysis investigation of various species within the plant kingdom from which these principle compounds could have been exploited. The results shed new light on the first known exploitation of vanilla in an Old World context, including local uses, the significance and employment in mortuary practices, and possible implications for understanding trade networks in the ancient Near East during the second millennium BCE.
- Gas chromatography- mass spectrometry
- Masonry tomb
- Middle Bronze Age III
- Organic residue analysis
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