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Social access and dispersal of condiments in North-West Europe from the Roman to the medieval period


The introduction and dispersal histories of eight common condiments in North-West Europe are explored: Apium graveolens (celery), Anethum graveolens (dill), Coriandrum sativum (coriander), Brassica nigra (black mustard), Foeniculum vulgare (fennel), Satureja hortensis (summer savory), Carum carvi (caraway) and Petroselinum crispum (parsley). The presence of these condiments in archaeobotanical reports from the study area was recorded, together with information on chronological phase, type of site, social status and mode of preservation. Analysis of the data suggests the presence of very distinct patterns of dispersal that highlight the socio-cultural significance of the food plants in question.

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This research presents preliminary results from the PhD research undertaken by A. Livarda at the University of Leicester, which forms part of M. van der Veen’s NERC funded project on ‘Long-Distance Trade and Agricultural Development’. Further funding was given to A. Livarda by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation and The A.G. Leventis Foundation, and to M. van der Veen by the British Academy. The authors are very grateful to Neil Christie for his assistance in placing the results in their historical context and to Julie-Anne Bouchard-Perron, Alison Cox, Alistair Hill and Jacob Morales for their help in data collection. The following people generously shared their data and knowledge: Natàlia Alonso, Almuth Alsleben, Laurent Bouby, Anne Bouchette, Otto Brinkkemper, Christoph Brombacher, Ramon Buxó, Gill Campbell, Wendy Carruthers, Astrid Caseldine, Mike Charles, Marina Ciaraldi, Brigitte Cooremans, Anne Davies, Frédérique Durand, John Giorgi, James Greig, Allan Hall, Tim Holden, Jacqui Huntley, Stefanie Jacomet, Simon James, Sabine Karg, Dimitris Kourkoulis, Margarethe König, Angela Kreuz, Helmut Kroll, Christine Laurent, Philippe Marinval, Veronique Matterne, David Mattingly, Lieselotte Meersschaert, Jennifer Miller, Lisa Moffett, Nevin Moledina, Angela Monckton, Alex Moseley, Peter Murphy, Reinder Neef, Ruth Pelling, Leonor Peña-Chocarro, Bénédicte Pradat, David Earle Robinson, Mark Robinson, Manfred Rösch, Marie-Pierre Ruas, Hans-Peter Stika, Vanessa Straker, Jeremy Taylor, Scott Timpany, Patricia Vandorpe, Julian Wiethold and Lydia Zapata.

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Correspondence to Alexandra Livarda.

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Communicated by C.C. Bakels.

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Livarda, A., van der Veen, M. Social access and dispersal of condiments in North-West Europe from the Roman to the medieval period. Veget Hist Archaeobot 17, 201–209 (2008).

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  • Roman
  • Medieval
  • Archaeobotany
  • Condiments
  • Spices
  • Herbs
  • North-West Europe