Fossilized Pollen Unlocks Secrets of Ancient Royal Garden in Israel
As much as archaeology is a study of the past, you might also say it’s a study of imagination—in being able to visualize civilizations as they once were, despite the dusty excavations that now remain. In the case of Ramat Rahel, the hilltop site of what was once an ancient royal palace now overlooking modern Jerusalem, a little botanical science is aiding that visualization process—and then some.
When researchers discovered a complex irrigation system at the dig site—tunnels, gutters, functional fountains fed on rainwater—it was clear they were dealing with a royal garden. But how to figure out what once grew there was another ordeal. Using a unique method for separating ancient pollen grains from the plaster of the garden’s waterways, scientists were able to pinpoint to the exact species which plants were cultivated at Ramat Rahel, including a few exotics which found their start in Israel through this very garden.
Fig and grapevine were common enough for the area, but the Persian walnuts, birch, willow, and water lilies were imported to impress. And the imported citron, which until Ramat Rahel had never seen the soil of Israel, has since worked its way into Jewish tradition. Now, the site’s caretakers hope to recreate this ancient garden in the modern era. Click through for more. —MN
(Image Source: tau.ac.il)