Washington: Researchers have found that the seed samples gathered over the years at medieval archaeological sites in the historic old quarter of Hondarribia are the remains of the oldest fruit trees in Southern Europe.
The town of Hondarribia lies on the coast of the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, Spain.
The research was undertaken by the archaeobiology research team from the CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) under the direction of Doctor Leonor Pena-Chocarro.
This research has enabled the recording of numerous fleshy fruits such as plums of various types, cherries, peaches, sloes, grapes, apples, figs, quince and medlar and, in a token manner, olives, reports Archeology News.
The overall collection of nuts is interesting, significant being the presence of hazel nuts, acorns, walnuts, pine kernels and, sporadically, beechnuts. As regards cereals, wheat, barley and oats have been identified. Also of particular important are the various seeds of the bottle (or calabash) gourd, a species of water pumpkin, very rarely recorded in archaeological contexts.
While the overall results can be considered relevant for knowledge about nutrition in the Middle Ages, the most striking part refers to the remains of quince and medlar found, being species hitherto unknown in the archaeobotanical register of the Iberian Peninsula.
This area has produced one of the best databases of archaeological seeds within the Spanish State, or indeed in Europe, thanks to the fact that, in many of its excavations, layers of terrain that had been flooded have conserved organic matter due to saturation of water.