Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fossilized pollen unlocks secrets of ancient royal garden

Date:
February 16, 2012
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
The garden at the 2,500-year-old palace of Ramat Rahel in Israel hasn't been in bloom for more than two millennia. But now researchers say that pollen recovered from its plaster walls will permit them to reconstruct it for public enjoyment once again.

Artist's rendering of Ramat Rahel site.
Credit: Image courtesy of American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Researchers have long been fascinated by the secrets of Ramat Rahel, located on a hilltop above modern-day Jerusalem. The site of the only known palace dating back to the kingdom of Biblical Judah, digs have also revealed a luxurious ancient garden. Since excavators discovered the garden with its advanced irrigation system, they could only imagine what the original garden might have looked like in full bloom -- until now.

Using a unique technique for separating fossilized pollen from the layers of plaster found in the garden's waterways, researchers from Tel Aviv University's Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology have now been able to identify what grew in the ancient royal gardens of Ramat Rahel. And based on the garden's archaeological clues, they have been able to reconstruct the lay-out of the garden.

According to Prof. Oded Lipschits, Dr. Yuval Gadot, and Dr. Dafna Langgut, the garden featured the expected local vegetation such as common fig and grapevine, but also included a bevy of exotic plants such as citron and Persian walnut trees. The citron, which apparently emigrated from India via Persia, made its first appearance in the modern-day Middle East in Ramat Rahel's royal garden.

Plastered pools a "pollen trap"

One of the unique features of Ramat Rahel's garden is its advanced irrigation system. The scope of the garden is even more impressive, says Dr. Gadot, because there was no permanent water source at the site. Rainwater was efficiently collected and distributed throughout the garden with aesthetic water installations that included pools, underground channels, tunnels, and gutters.

These installations finally allowed researchers to uncover what they had been searching for. Early attempts to remove pollen grains from the site's soil in order to reconstruct the botanical components of the garden were unfruitful because the pollen had oxidized. But after noticing that the channels and pools themselves were coated with plaster, probably due to renovation, the researchers theorized that if the plaster had ever been renewed while the garden was in bloom, pollen could have stuck to the wet plaster, acting as a "trap," and dried within it. Luckily, this hunch proved to be correct.

While some plaster layers included only typicalnative vegetation, one of the layers, dated to the Persian period (the 5th-4th centuries B.C.E.), also included local fruit trees, ornamentals, and imported trees from far-off lands. "This is a very unique pollen assemblage," explains Dr. Langgut, a pollen expert. Among the unusual vegetation are willow and poplar, which required irrigation in order to grow in the garden; ornamentals such as myrtle and water lilies; native fruit trees including the grape vine, the common fig, and the olive; and imported citron, Persian walnut, cedar of Lebanon, and birch trees. Researchers theorize that these exotics were imported by the ruling Persian authorities from remote parts of the empire to flaunt the power of their imperial administration.

This is the first time that the exact botanical elements have been reconstructed in an ancient royal garden, say the researchers. The botanical and archaeological information they have collected will help them to re-create the garden so that visitors can soon experience the floral opulence of Ramat Rahel.

The origins of tradition

In their migrations, human beings distributed different plants and animals throughout the world, mostly for economic purposes, says Dr. Gadot. In contrast, at Ramat Rahel, royalty designed the garden with the intent of impressing visitors with wealth and worldliness.

Certainly, the decision to import various trees has had a lasting impact on the region and on Judaism as well, says Prof. Lipschits. The citron tree, for example, which made its first appearance in Israel in this garden, has worked its way into Jewish tradition. The citron, or etrog, is one of the four species of plants used at Sukkot, and the earliest appearance of these species was at the garden of Ramat Rahel.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Fossilized pollen unlocks secrets of ancient royal garden." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120216134112.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2012, February 16). Fossilized pollen unlocks secrets of ancient royal garden. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120216134112.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Fossilized pollen unlocks secrets of ancient royal garden." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120216134112.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) With plenty of honking, flapping, and fluttering, more than three dozen Caribbean flamingos at Zoo Miami were rounded up today as the iconic exhibit was closed for renovations. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins