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Biblical Archaeology Review 48:3, Fall 2022

Biblical Kings Drank Vanilla Wine

In the days of the biblical kings, wine flavored with vanilla was a hit. According to a recent study by the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University, the kings of biblical Judah infused their wine with this luxury spice. The study demonstrates Judah’s wealth and power right before the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.

As vanilla was not grown in the Levant or ancient Near East, it may have arrived from India or tropical Africa, likely via the trade routes that passed through the Negev, Arabia, and beyond. Finding traces of vanilla in Iron Age Jerusalem is a remarkable discovery, but it is not the first time that such exotic spices have been found in the lands of the Bible. Vanilla was also identified in burials from the Canaanite city of Megiddo and cinnamon at the Phoenician site of Tel Dor. Researchers now believe that vanilla may have been grown and traded in Africa or Asia millennia before its discovery in the New World, long thought to be the world’s original source of vanilla.

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