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The History and Natural History of Spices

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by Ian Anderson
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A geologist by training, Ian Anderson approaches this history of spices with a methodological rigor that distinguishes it from more narratively focused accounts of the spice trade and spice wars.

This approach puts a striking amount of information front-and-center in his 300+ page book. A table on page 48, for instance, Evidence for Bronze Age Spice Trade, reveals that the earliest known evidence of trade is from dill seeds found in neolithic settlements in Switzerland more than five thousand years ago. This was a thousand years earlier than the introduction of sesame to Mesopotamia from India and it would be another thousand years before black peppercorns, also from India, were buried with Ramses II.

Anderson’s meticulous citations are a boon to anyone interested in pursuing the wide range of sources he references. Some are surviving texts while others are the work of archaeologists and other scholars who have, for instance, examined the dental calculus of human remains from the second millennium BC in the Levant.

Though by no means an exhaustive work–its focus is strongly on trade between Europe and Asia with little address of trade between, say, India and Korea–this is still an impressive address of a rich subject.

Hardcover. Color photographs. Maps

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