"Citrus route revealed: from South East Asia into the Med"

When Life Gives You Lemons!


Several years ago I found the earliest archaeobotanical evidence of citrus within the Mediterranean, dated to ca. 2500 years ago in a royal Persian garden near Jerusalem. Today, citrus orchards are a major component of the Mediterranean landscape and one of the most important cultivated fruits in the region; however citrus is not native to the Mediterranean Basin, but originated in Southeast Asia. My findings show that the first citrus fruits to arrive to the Mediterranean, citron and lemon, were used as elite products (they were common in important gardens in antiquity), while all other citrus fruits most probably spread more than a millennium later, and for economic reasons.

The route of the spread and diversification of citrus is traced through the use of collecting reliable historical information (ancient texts, art, and artifacts such as wall paintings and coins) and by gathering (from previous studies) all the available archaeobotanical remains: fossil pollen grains, charcoals, seeds and other fruit remains. These botanical remains are evaluated for their reliability (in terms of identification, archaeological context and dating), and possible interpretations. The gathering of these information would enable to reveal the exact route of citrus distribution from Southeast Asia into the Mediterranean.