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Fruit from the Sands The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat

By: Robert N Spengler III(Author)
374 pages, 32 b/w photos, 1 b/w illustration, 4 b/w maps
Fruit from the Sands
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  • Fruit from the Sands ISBN: 9780520379268 Paperback Sep 2020 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
  • Fruit from the Sands ISBN: 9780520303638 Hardback Jul 2019 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
Selected version: £23.00
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

The foods we eat have a deep and often surprising past. Many foods we consume today-from almonds and apples to tea and rice-have histories can be traced along the tracks of the Silk Road out of prehistoric Central Asia to European kitchens and American tables. Organized trade along the Silk Road dates to at least Han Dynasty China in the second century B.C., but the exchange of goods, ideas, cultural practices, and genes along these ancient trading routes extends back five thousand years. Balancing a broad array of archaeological, botanical, and historical evidence, Fruit from the Sands presents the fascinating story of the origins and spread of agriculture across Inner Asia and into Europe and East Asia. Through the preserved remains of plants in archaeological sites, Robert N. Spengler III identifies the regions where our most familiar crops were domesticated and follows their routes as people carried them around the world. Vividly narrated, Fruit from the Sands explores how the foods we eat have shaped the course of human history and transformed consumption all over the globe.


A Word on Semantics
A Note on Dates
Map of Central Asia

Part I. How the Silk Road Influenced the Food You Eat
1. Introduction
2. Plants on the Silk Road
3. The Silk and Spice Routes

Part II. Artifacts of the Silk Road in Your Kitchen
4. The Millets
5. Rice and Other Ancient Grains
6. Barley
7. The Wheats
8. Legumes
9. Grapes and Apples
10. Other Fruits and Nuts
11. Leafy Vegetables, Roots, and Stems
12. Spices, Oils, and Tea
13. Conclusion

Appendix: European Travelers along the Silk Road

Customer Reviews


Robert N. Spengler III is the Archaeobotany Laboratory Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, a Volkswagen/Mellon Foundations Fellow, and a former Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

By: Robert N Spengler III(Author)
374 pages, 32 b/w photos, 1 b/w illustration, 4 b/w maps
Media reviews

"An excellent example of a comprehensive and entertaining historical and botanical review, providing an enjoyable and cognitive read for scientists, general public, students and policy makers."

"Combines the studies of history, archaeology, and botany in an excellent account of where many of our foodstuffs originate, showing how they became distributed over most of Eurasia."

"Spengler tells a fascinating tale of a culinary past that is just beginning to come into focus [...] Provides lots of food for thought."
Science News

"An entertaining and thought provoking historical, botanical and archaeological review of a vast swathe of the Old World. It is accessible for specialists and the general public alike, and should be read by policy makers as well, with a mind to thinking about agricultural diversity and sustainability."
Central Asian Archaeological Landscapes

"A book that you are likely to turn to again and again for that extra bit of insight into the story behind the food on your plate, which is the true test of great plants-and-people 'story-telling'."
Botany One

"The volume is truly a mine of information. This book is a must for anybody interested in food, cultural diversity, archaeology, exchange networks and the impact of modern globalisation on food and cultural homogenisation."

"The acts of buying, cooking, or studying food are enriched by the historical and scientific background that the author provided after serious consideration of aspects related to botany, history, and geography."
Graduate Journal of Food Studies

"The unique contribution of this book is its ability to bring evidence from archaeological plant remains to life, in a style that could be readily appreciated by readers with a variety of interests."
Plant Science Bulletin

"Few scholars would have the chutzpah to write such a bold book. Robert Spengler presents an exemplary case of work that is not only rigorous but broadly accessible and truly interdisciplinary in scope. Fruit from the Sands reveals that the large-scale biological exchange epitomized by the Columbian Exchange had an ancient precursor, one previously unappreciated but equally crucial for the human diet. This book will change the way that readers see their food."
– Miranda Brown, Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan

"To an archaeobotanist, the food on your table encodes the very history of humankind. From a single seed, Robert Spengler unfurls the millennial story of human and biological exchanges with exciting precision. This book is for mindful eaters and hungry thinkers alike."
– James A. Millward, Professor of Intersocietal History at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"Spengler takes the reader on a kaleidoscopic and dazzling journey: from the rice paddies of southern China, the stands of melon vendors at the bazaars in Samarkand, and the archaeological excavations in remote mountain regions of present-day Kazakhstan to the reader's own kitchen table. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in Silk Road exchanges."
– Sören Stark, Associate Professor of Central Asian Archaeology, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World/NYU

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