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A surprising discovery in the City of David has been discovered: A new study by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University reveals that in wine jars from the end of the First Temple Period, bearing the symbol of trade from the Kingdom of Judah, remnants of vanilla spice were found – the luxurious spice, which came to Israel from afar.
The wine jars, dating to the days of King Zedekiah – the end of the glory days of the kingdom, were discovered inside storage rooms of buildings in two different archeological excavations in the City of David in the National Park. One excavation, conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, is located on the eastern slopes of the City of David hill, and another excavation, under the joint management of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University, was conducted in the Givati Parking Lot, west of the hill.
The two buildings unearthed in the excavations were destroyed in the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, in 586 BCE, and the jars were discovered smashed inside the rooms, under a collapsed building. A new study, published this evening in the prestigious scientific journal PLOS ONE, published the results of unique chemical tests that identified the remnants of molecules that have been preserved in the tiny pores of the pottery vessels.
The study examined eight jars from both buildings, and in all of them, clear evidence was found for wine storage.
What really surprised the researchers, however, were organic residues, which indicate that the wine was enriched with vanilla – an exotic and valuable spice, which until recently, was not at all known to be available to the Old World before the arrival of Columbus. The remains of the contents of the jars were identified by Ayala Amir, a doctoral student in the Department of Archeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University, who conducted the research in the laboratories at the Weizmann Institute and Bar-Ilan University: “Vanilla markers are an unusual find, especially in light of the fire that occurred in the buildings where the jars were found. The results of the analysis of the organic residues allow me to say with confidence that the jars contained wine and that it was seasoned with vanilla.”