Who Wants Some 2,100-Year-Old Fruit Salad? (ca. 100 BC)

By: The Scribe on Sunday, June 17, 2007

2100 year old fruit

Archaeologists working in the Shimonogo ruins of Western Japan’s Moriyama, about 200 miles from Tokyo, uncovered what is believed to be a piece of the world’s oldest melon! Radiocarbon analysis dated the melon to around 2,100 years old, making it the oldest piece of melon found with fruit on the rind – a very rare find.

It is thought that the melon flesh was preserved due to where the fruit was located in the ruins, which was about one meter underground in a moisture-rich soil that seems to have acted like a vacuum-sealing. Since it was not exposed to the air, the fruit was kept in a soil layer unsupportive to the micro-organisms that typically break down organic remains.

The piece of ancient fruit is about 10.5 centimeters long, and the rind has been discolored to a deep brown. Chemical analysis has also identified the species of melon as native to Africa, suggesting that it probably made its way to Japan via India and Middle Eastern traders. Previous to this find, the oldest melon piece in the world was a found in China and dated to around the 4th century AD.

The Shimonogo settlement was surrounded by moats during Japan’s Yayoi period, which spanned around 300 BC – 300 AD. This could account for the kind of soil in the area and the prime conditions for preservation. While this find is rather limited in its practical use, it can certainly help to shed some light on the potential trade relationships between Japan and the Middle East during this period in history – as well as provide a bit of insight into the dining habits of the settlement’s people.

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Tomorrow: Sardinia’s Nuraghe (gehzunteit?)


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