Saturday, February 11, 2012
Jerusalem dig uncovers earliest evidence of local cultivation of etrogs
The earliest evidence of local cultivation of three of the Sukkot holiday's traditional "four species" has been found at the most ancient royal royal garden ever discovered in Israel.
The garden, at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel in Jerusalem, gave up its secrets through remnants of pollen found in the plaster of its walls.
The garden was part of an Israelite palace at Ramat Rachel that has been excavated for many years, most recently in a joint dig by Prof. Oded Lipschits and Dr. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Prof. Manfred Oeming of Heidelberg University. The palace existed from the time of King Hezekiah until the Hasmonean period in the second century B.C.E....
The find that most excited the scholars was pollen from etrogs, or citrons, a fruit that originated in India. This is the earliest botanical evidence of citrons in the country.
Scholars believe the citron came here via Persia, and that its Hebrew name, etrog, preserves the Persian name for the fruit - turung. They also say royal cultivation of the exotic newcomer was a means of advertising the king's power and capabilities.
The garden at Ramat Rachel is also the first place in the country to yield evidence of the cultivation of myrtle and willow - two more of the four species used in Sukkot rituals.