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Spices in history Part one


Spices and aromatic herbs have been part of human history since its origins. Already in prehistoric times they were added to dishes to preserve and flavor them. The roots, stems and leaves increased the appetite and improved the taste of cooking, while table salt and honey were useful for prolonging the life of foods.


Spices have had various functions since their origins:

  1. a simply taste that excited the taste buds of our ancestors;

  2. a curative due to the therapeutic properties that made them become the first known drugs

  3. a very important in spiritual rituals: ointments, oils and drinks based on spices, were bridges to the sacred. In fact, when the aromatic smoke rose to the sky it symbolized the union between man and the divine.

The first document regarding spices dates back to around 3,000 years BC. and he is Assyrian. The Assyrians passed down this legend, namely that the divinities, the night before creating the world, drank sesame wine. Since today we know that this spice originates from India, it means that a spice trade already existed back then.



The Egyptians and spices

The religious ceremonies of the Egyptians, for funeral rites, made use of the magical power of the scents of perfumes and spices, which often had hypnotic properties and brought the priests who officiated and the participants to mental states close to ecstasy.

A large number of odorous substances were also used for the embalming of the pharaohs and the bodies were washed with a spicy wine and then anointed with ointments and aromatic oils, the components of which were henna, juniper, acacia, cedar wood, pepper and chamomile. Furthermore, already around 2600 BC. the food of the slaves, used for the construction of the Cheops pyramid, was enriched with spices, to keep them strong and protect them from the risk of epidemics.

In several papyri dating back to the sixteenth century BC, numerous spices are named which were later found in archaeological excavations. Among these: anise, fenugreek, cardamom, cassia, cumin, dill and saffron mixed with other substances in 877 recipes.To obtain supplies of these substances they faced long and dangerous expeditions to distant lands and since the majority of them arrived from Arabia the pharaohs began to dream of conquering those lands.



The Jews and the spices

The Sumerians were also users and producers of spices and all of Mesopotamia with Egypt and Palestine became the development platform for the spice market. In the Bible, in the Old Testament, it is told of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers to spice merchants. And in other parts it is told how the Jews used spices as perfumes. Over time they became increasingly important, expensive and refined.



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