Posts Tagged ‘cinnamon’


Ground Cinnamon

Topic: Cinnamon

Cinnamonium zeylanicum Nees

Ancient Egyptian: ti-sps

The latest research (1988) suggests the East African camphor, (Cinnamonium camphoria or Ocotea usambarensis) for ti-sps. The constituents of the roots of C. zeylanicum and C. camphora are very
similar, but traditionally ti-sps is taken to mean cinnamon. In the classical texts cinnamon is often comfused with cassia ( Cinnamonium cassia). The Egyptian text may not make thedistinction either. The two are very similar to each other. The C. zeylanicum tree is smaller than cassia, and the quills of the bark are thinner and more fragile. The flavour of cassia is more pungent. Even in a powdered state, the two can be distinguished under a microscope. Prospero Alphini knew the thin quills as quirfa, whereas thick quills were called darsini.

The evergreen cinnamon tree is native to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), whereas cassia originated in China and Burma. It was thus imported into Egypt. Cinnamon is a stimulant, digestive and antiseptic. A tea made of cinnamon, water and sugar is widely drunk in the Middle East in cold weather. Another winter drink is made from milk, powdered resin, chopped pistachios and cinnamon. In Europe it is a favourite addition to pudding and cakes, in Mediterranean countries also for a dish including tomatoes, and it is an ingredient in curry spice. The ‘buds’ (immature fruits) of cassia are used for scenting potpourri and for commercially produced sweets and beverages.

both cinnamon and cassia are mentioned in the Bible. The classical sources mention cinnamon as an ingredient in Egyptian perfume*.
Theophrastus, for instance, says that a perfume called megaleion was made of burnt resin and balanos oil to which is added cassia, cinnamon and myrrh: ‘This purfume and the Egyptian are the most troublesome to make, since no others involve the mixture of so many and costly ingredients. To make megaleion. they say, the oil is boiled for 10 days and nights, and not until then do they put in the resin and the other things, since the oil is more receptive when it has been thoroughly boiled’ (Concerning Odours vI .30).

There is no record from pharaonic Egypt of cinnamon having been taken internally for any purpose. But there are prescriptions for cinnamon unguents, where the characteristic sent and antiseptic qualities would be appreciated:

An unguent to sooth the members: kohl 1; wax 1; frankincense 1;
cinnamon 1; dry myrrh 1; ox fat 1; sweet moringa oil 1; to be used as a poultice for four days.

A remedy to make grow: carob pod pulp(?) 1; beans1; cinnamon 1; oil or fat 1; honey 1; is ground together and the [the member] is bandaged therewith.

A remedy to heal every effluency: goat’s fat 1; wax 1; fragrant gum1; cinnamon 1; fresh moringa oil 1; is mixed and applied to the effluency until it is healed.

A remedy for destruction of an eating ulcer on the gums: cinnamon 1; gum 1; honey 1; oil or fat 1; to be used as a bandage.

Cinnamon,on was one of the ingredients in a suppository ‘ to cool the anus’, made up from equal parts juniper berries, frankincense, ochre, cumin, cinnamon, honey , myrrh, and three unidentified ingredients.

As we have seen, the wood of the cinnamon was used in a fumigation
‘ which one makes to make the smell of the house or dress pleasant’. It may be added that cinnamon is an ingredient in one of the modern day brands of natural toothpaste.

Cinnamon or cassia are the only true spices actually to be mentioned in connection with mummification. Diodorus described how after cleaning the body with palm wine and (unspecified) spices and anointing it with ‘cedar oil’ (probably oil of juniper) and other unguents it was then rubbed with myrrh, cinnamon and other materials to preserve it. What appears to be cinnamon has been found on actual mummies, although the statements cannot at present be verified. A mummy from the 20th Dynasty is described as having ‘a thick layer of spicery covering every part of it…this external covering, which is nowhere less than an inch in thickness and which is interposed everywhere between the bandages and the skin…still retains the faint smell of cinnamon or cassia…but when mixed with alcohol or water and exposed to the action of heat the odour of myrrh become powerfully predominant.’ (0sburn, quoted in Lusas, Anc. Eg. Mat, pp 308-9). Another mummy examined in the last century was also said to be filled with the ‘ the dust of cedar, cassia, etc.’ ( Pettigrew, quoted ibid., p, 309).

Cinnamon was among the items presented to the temples by the king. In a papyrus listing the revenue ceded to the various gods by Ramesses lll, there is frequent mention of measures of cinnamon. Once in the temple, the goods would pass into the hands of the priests who would either recirculate them in exchange for other commodities, or, since they formed the medical profession as well, use it in their preparations of drugs. There I no evidence of it having been burnt in front of the god whose property it was. Th king’s gift to the god Amun included one whole log, 246 measures and 82 bundles. When new feasts were instituted by the king 220 bundles and 155 measures were included among the allowances.

Earlier on, in the 18th Dynasty, when Queen Hatshepsut sent out her famous expedition to the land of Punt in search of incense and spices, the ships were loaded for their homeward journey not only with frankincense and myrrh, but with other fragrant woods, including cinnamon. Wherever the land of Punt may have been located, cinnamon trees did not grow there. Punt was once part of the chain of commerce which spread from the East to Africa and Europe, and cinnamon was one of the costly commodities which made the long journey. In the 19th Dynasty Sethos l also connects cinnamon with Punt when displaying to the god Amun how he has conquered the world: ‘I turn my face to the East, I work a wonder for you… I gather together all the countries of Punt, all their tribute of gum and myrrh and cinnamon and ll the pleasant sweet wood of the God’s land’.

Valley of the Kings. Ramesses III, KV11. Details form the east wall of the third corridor with Ramesses making an offering of incense. The head-dress infers Ra and Osiris. The cartouche was originally Sethnakht’s (his fathers).

Original article:
By Joanna Linsley-Poe
Copyright August 28, 2013

Article reference:
An Ancient Egyptian Herbal,by Lisa Mannich

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Eric H. Cline/George Washington University
A storage room unearthed from the ruins of a 1700 B.C. Canaanite palace in northern Israel held the remains of 40 ceramic jars.

Topic: ancient Wine in Israel

Digging this summer at the ruins of a 1700 B.C. Canaanite palace in northern Israel, archaeologists struck wine.

Near the banquet hall where rulers of a Middle Bronze Age city-state and their guests feasted, a team of American and Israeli researchers broke through to a storage room holding the remains of 40 large ceramic jars. The vessels were broken, their liquid contents long since vanished — but not without a trace.

A chemical analysis of residues left in the three-foot-tall jars detected organic traces of acids that are common components of all wine, as well as ingredients popular in ancient winemaking. These included honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins used as a preservative. The recipe was similar to medicinal wines used for 2,000 years in ancient Egypt and probably tasted something like retsina or other resinous Greek wines today.

So the archaeologists who have been exploring the Canaanite site, known as Tel Kabri, announced on Friday that they had found one of civilization’s oldest and largest wine cellars. The storage room held the equivalent of about 3,000 bottles of red and white wines, they said — and they suspected that this was not the palace’s only wine cellar.

“This is a hugely significant discovery,” said Eric H. Cline, a co-director of the Tel Kabri excavations, in a statement issued by George Washington University, where he is chairman of the department of classical and Near Eastern languages and civilizations. “It’s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in its age and size.”

Dr. Cline and the other co-director, Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa in Israel, described their findings Friday in Baltimore at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Another member of the team, Andrew Koh of Brandeis University, reported the results of the organic residue analysis, emphasizing the quantity of the samples and thoroughness of the testing. The researchers had to work fast to examine the residues before they became contaminated on exposure outside the storage room.

The archaeologists said that much of the palace, including the banquet hall and the wine storage room, was destroyed 3,600 years ago in some violent event, perhaps an earthquake. The wine cellar was covered with thick debris of mud bricks and plaster. That and the fact that no subsequent buildings were erected on top of the site have made Tel Kabri an inviting place for archaeological studies.

Team members said some older discoveries had been made before in tombs, but nothing on the scale of Tel Kabri. Patrick McGovern of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania said he had “reservations about a finding for which a detailed scientific report has not been published.” He said in an email that “the oldest chemically confirmed ‘wine cellars’ are those in the tomb Scorpion I of Egypt” about 3150 B.C.

“If we are making the claim only for ancient Canaan, and put the emphasis on ‘palatial,’ ” Dr. McGovern suggested, “the Kabri might well be the earliest.”

Dr. McGovern and other researchers have been able to re-create ancient wines and beers from the dregs from long-ago tastings. Dr. Koh said his group expected to produce a reasonable facsimile of the 1700 B.C. vintage favored by the palace elite in the land of Canaan.

In the Middle Bronze Age, from 2000 to 1550 B.C., Canaan was a confederation of city-states, the most important of which seems to have been Hazor, in a region that included what today is Israel, Lebanon, northwestern Jordan and parts of western Syria. At the time, Canaanites were farmers, merchants and early seafarers to Cyprus and the Aegean Islands. These were the centuries preceding the appearance of the biblical Hebrews. In the biblical narrative, God promised Canaan as a gift to Abraham; some modern scholars have stirred controversy suggesting that the early Israelites were in fact themselves Canaanites.

As for the ancient beverage, the presence of tartaric acid was “a surefire marker” of grape juice or wine, Dr. Koh said in a teleconference briefing with reporters on Thursday. Other recognized ingredients were consistent with winemaking recipes in ancient texts from the ruins of Mari, an early city on the Euphrates River in what is now Syria.

“They wrote about the recipes,” Dr. Cline said, referring to the Mari texts. “Here, for the first time, we believed, we have these crafted wines that verified the recipes beyond shadow of doubt.”

Thirty-eight of the 40 vessels contained recognizable wine residues. “This wasn’t moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements,” Dr. Koh noted. “This wine’s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar.”

The current excavations began in 2005. Four years later, archaeologists uncovered spectacular frescoes from the Aegean Islands, and last year they found the banquet hall. This July, they started finding one after another of the ceramic jugs in the 15-by-25-foot storage room. Support for the project was provided by the National Geographic Society, the Israel Science Foundation, the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, the Bronfman Philanthropies, George Washington University, Haifa University and private donations.

More discoveries may be in the offing. Just days before the archaeologists wrapped up this summer’s work, they came upon two doors leading out of the wine cellar where they had been digging, one to the south, and one to the west. They will have to wait until the next excavation season, in 2015, to find out if the doors lead to additional storage rooms, possibly with more wine that the Canaanite connoisseurs of the grape never got to swoon over at their goat-meat banquets.

Original article:

By John Noble Wilford
November 22, 2013

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Ruins on the surface of Tel Dor, located about 19 miles (30 kilometers) to the south of Haifa, in Israel. Phoenician flasks from this site, dating back around 3,000 years, were among those that contained cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor. These finds indicate the existence of trade that brought cinnamon from the Far East to the area of modern-day Israel.
Credit: Photo by Lang Gito, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

Topic: Cinnamon

How far would you go to get your cinnamon fix? If you lived in the Levant 3,000 years ago (a region that includes modern day Israel), very far indeed new research indicates.

Researchers analyzing the contents of 27 flasks from five archaeological sites in Israel that date back around 3,000 years have found that 10 of the flasks contain cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its flavor, indicating that the spice was stored in these flasks.

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 andArchaeometry. 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.

From the Far East to Israel

At the time of this trade, Israel’s coastal inhabitants included the Phoenicians, a people so renowned for their seafaring skills the ancient writer Herodotus claimed they had succeeded in sailing around Africa around 600 BC (something scholars are doubtful of today).

But, while these people were great seafarers, they probably did not sail all the way to the Far East to get these goods, perhaps instead using intermediaries along the way.

“We don’t think they sailed directly [to the Far East]; it was a very hard task even in the 16th century A.D.” Dvory Namdar, a researcher with the Weizmann Institute of Science and Tel Aviv University, told LiveScience in an interview. Her research colleague Ayelet Gilboa, of the University of Haifa, also agreed in an interview that it was very doubtful there was a direct voyage.

They explained that the flasks that contained cinnamon were made locally in northern coastal Israel which back then was part of ancient Phoenicia. They appear to have been designed to hold precious contents, featuring a narrow opening with thick walls. Flasks like these have been found in special places such as treasuries and temple storerooms, the researchers noted.

Namdar and Gilboa explained that the bark from the cinnamon tree would have been brought in from the Far East in a dry form and, when it reached Phoenicia, was mixed with some form of liquid and put in these flasks. Then, afterwards it was shipped all over Phoenicia and also to neighboring regions such as Philistia (much of which is located in modern day southwest Israel) and Cyprus.

Cinnamon mixed in wine?

A further mystery the team faces: What was the cinnamon used for? The cinnamon from these flasks would have tasted “roughly the same as today,” Namdar said.

One possibility, Namdar and Gilboa said, is that people of the time mixed the cinnamon in with wine, an idea supported by the fact that the flasks were quite small, whereas wine was stored in bigger containers. “If you mix it with a bigger [container of wine], then you get flavored wine,” they said. Indeed, cinnamon is often used in wine-based recipes today, including ones for mulled or spiced wine.

The project was supported by a European Research Council Advanced Grant.

Original article:
By Owen Jarus, August 20, 2013


Bark from Cinnamomum verum, which is found naturally in southern India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar; another form of cinnamon comes from Cinnamomum cassia, found naturally in China, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. More research is needed to determine the origin of the cinnamon found in the ancient flasks.
Credit: Photo by H. Zell, CC

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