Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

pp 6587-6590

Sesame: Origins and Development

  • Alison WeisskopfAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London Email author 
  • , Dorian Q. FullerAffiliated withInstitute of Archaeology, University College London

Basic Species Information

Sesamum indicum L. (syn. S. orientale L.) Pediliaceae. The name sesame is derived from the Late Babylonian shawash-shammu, “oil seed” or plant oil, via Phoenician to Greek sesamon to Latin sesamum (www.​etymonline.​com). Sometimes sesame is known as gingelly from the Hindi gingli, which is from Arabic jaljala, the meaning referring to the sound of the seeds rattling within the capsules (http://​www.​oed.​com). Sesame has one of the highest oil contents of any seed, approximately 50 % oil and 25 % protein. The meal left after pressing for oil can be used as a high-protein animal feed. The oil can survive for long periods before going rancid due to the presence of antioxidants, sesamol and sesamolin (Oplinger et al 1990). There are many recorded medicinal uses (Bedigian 2004).

Sesame is an oilseed crop that is self-pollinating and annual but occasionally perennial (Bedigian 2004). The four-segmented seed capsule is grooved, is rectangular in se ...

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