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AGRUMED: Archaeology and history of citrus fruit in the Mediterranean

 | 
Véronique Zech-Matterne
, 
Girolamo Fiorentino

Introduction to ‘AGRUMED: Archaeology and history of citrus fruit in the Mediterranean: Acclimatization, diversification, uses’

Véronique Zech-Matterne, Girolamo Fiorentino, Sylvie Coubray et François Luro

Texte intégral

1This book consists of the proceedings from the international workshop ‘The History and Archaeology of Citrus fruits in the Mediterranean: Introductions, diversifications, uses’ held in Pompeii, on the 5th December 2014, with the support of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici di Pompei and its director, M. Osanna.

2Related research was funded through the following projects:

3— L’introduction des agrumes en Méditerranée occidentale: une contribution originale à la biodiversité entretenue dans l’arboriculture fruitière depuis l’époque archaïque (V. Zech, 2011-12), ATM-Action Transversale du Muséum, ‘Biodiversité actuelle et fossile. Crises, stress, restaurations et panchronismes: le message systématique’.

4— AGRUMED - Histoire des agrumes en Méditerranée: introductions, diversifications, usages (V. Zech, 2013-14), Regional program ‘ENVI-Med’ (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), metaprogram MISTRALS – Mediterranean Integrated Studies at Regional And Local Scales (CNRS/INSU-National Institute of the Universe Sciences).

5We would like to express our gratitude to the LabEx BCDiv (Diversités biologiques et culturelles: origines, évolution, interactions, devenir), for having contributed financially to the English editing of this manuscript.

6We are also delighted to thank D. Karp, University of California, Riverside, USA, for his help in subsidizing the geometrical morphometrics analysis and publication, with a generous donation conveyed through the Jewish Communal Fund and the National Coalition of Independent Scholars. He provided also the nice picture of the front cover.

7The editors are most appreciative to C. Plewak who translated the text by Marie-Pierre Ruas and colleagues and also revised the articles, and J. Cucchi who undertook the copy-editing. Both of whom have greatly improved the quality of the book and the fluidity of the language. The editors are also very grateful to the reviewers Vincent Lebreton (MNHN, Paris) and David Karp who revised the manuscript. We thank Giuseppina Stelo (USR 3133 Centre Jean Bérard) for having taken care of the composition of the front cover. Finally, the editors would like to express their profound gratitude to Magali Cullin-Mingaud, multimedia editor, CNRS – USR 3133 Centre Jean Bérard (Naples)/UMR 8546 AOROC (Paris), for the making up of the online version of this book; and Claude Pouzadoux, Director of the Centre Jean Bérard, Naples (CNRS/EFR), for agreeing to publish this book in the dedicated collection and supporting us throughout the design process. Their encouragement and reactivity have been essential to the completion of this project.

  • 1 Spichiger et al. 2002.

8This book deals with the long and complex history and archaeobotany of citrus fruits (e.g. lemons, oranges, pummelos). The generic term ‘citrus fruit’ includes the botanical genus Citrus and five other genera of the sub-family Aurantioideae (Rutaceae), which produce a modified berry sometimes called hesperidium. These berries are characterized by a fleshy endocarp, consisting of hair cells filled with acidulate juice (vesicles), covered by a white and spongy mesocarp, or albedo, and a thick colored rind (exocarp) sprinkled with oil-gland pockets.1

9Although nowadays citrus represent the largest share of fruit production in the world, very little is known about the domestication and hybridization steps that contributed to today’s wide genus diversity. Cultivated on a large scale in warm areas, they seem to be a natural component of Mediterranean landscape, but although they are well-acclimatized to this region they are not a native species. Nevertheless, their reputation was already well-established in antiquity due to their medicinal properties and their importance in the perfume industry. Ancient authors emphasized the medicinal properties of the citrium/kitrion to such an extent that it was described as a miraculous fruit. Furthermore, they mentioned some curious utilizations and extraordinary properties, which turn the citrus and the citrium into a fabulous plant in their time.

10Beyond the myth, archaeology and archaeobotany have produced limited evidence for citrus fruit cultivation. For example, how many species of Citrus were potentially differentiated during the prehistoric and antique periods, and were some of them already being exploited in Greece and Italy? Where were they first planted? Did they require specific growing conditions and were special buildings or containers used? Were new cultivars obtained from cuttings or seeds and what was the scope of the knowledge applied to these aspects? And finally, what was the status and uses of these fruits? The following contributions will attempt to address these questions:

11The first point, concerning the taxonomy and phylogeny of the genus Citrus, is examined by F. Luro et al., who aim to hierarchize this complex diversity.

  • 2 Asouti, Fuller 2008.
  • 3 Gmitter, Hu 1990.

12The second question on primary dispersion is discussed by D. Fuller and colleagues. The primary centres of citrus domestication are now well identified: north-eastern India2 and south-western China3 are commonly considered, together with Burma and the Malay Archipelago, due to the wide diversity encountered in the wild. This paper sheds new light on some of these domestication aspects, especially the context of early citrus cultivation in South and South-East Asia.

  • 4 Bouchaud et al., this volume ; Langgut et al. 2013; Langgut 2015; Langgut, this volume.

13The history of the diversification and spread of citrus fruits from their primo-domestication areas towards the Mediterranean remains poorly documented. However, several contributors (Ch. Bouchaud, D. Langgut, and colleagues) have provided an overview of what we know about the presence of the genus in Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula and the Near East.4

14Further west, and due to their sensitivity to frost, the acclimatization of citrus probably took place mostly along the coastal perimeter (Greece, Italy, Spain and the islands of Cyprus, Crete, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic Islands), where minimum temperatures never fall below -1°C, enabling open ground cultivation.

  • 5 Amigues 2003.

15There is a general agreement with the classical sources, that the first mention of a citrus fruit species was made by the Greek philosopher Theophrastus (c. 372˗c. 287 BC), who, in his Historia plantarum, referred to the genus Citrus as a peculiar tree from Media and Persia (Hist. pl. 1, 13, 4; 4, 4, 2˗3). His description of the tree’s flower is so accurate that it undoubtedly belongs to the genus Citrus,5 but it is not possible to establish from the text if the species had already been cultivated in Greece by the 4th century BC. Virgil, in the first half of the 1st century BC, still considers it as an exotic species in Italy (Georgics 2, 126-7). In her article, C. Pagnoux reviews the textual mentions of citrus fruit trees and looks at how archaeobotanical studies complement, and sometimes challenge, written sources.

  • 6 Bui-Thi-Mai, Girard 2014.
  • 7 Frère et al. 2012.
  • 8 Pagnoux et al. 2013.

16According to palynological evidence, their occurrences are quite ancient. In the Euboean city of Cumae, Citrus pollen grains were recovered from a core dating from the 7th century BC onward.6 Chemical analyses by N. Garnier, on a Punic funerary glass vase found in Sardinia, dates the use of a paste made from a Citrus sp. to the 5th century BC.7 A. Celant and G. Fiorentino’s contribution on macroremains (seed and coat) recently found in Italy, notably in the cities of Pompeii and Rome, shown that the cultivation of the citron (Citrus medica), and even of derived species, could have already taken place during the Samnite and Imperial period, respectively.8

17E. De Carolis’s paper discusses the iconography of citrus fruit in antique Italy, and looks at the realistic depictions of the tree in Roman wall paintings – for example the well-known pictures of the ‘Casa del Frutteto’ in Pompeii (I 9, 5) – which suggests the presence of the lemon tree in Roman Italy, or at least that the a artist knew what they looked like. Cultivation of the lemon tree in the Campania region is furthermore supported by the discovery of C. x limon pollen grains. In order to find diagnostic features in the grain morphology, comparison with modern pollen material was carried out by E. Russo-Ermolli et al.; their paper debates species distinction within the Citrus genus.

18Classical sources are invaluable for providing a better understanding of the importance and uses of citrus in the ancient Mediterranean. The dedicated contribution of C. Pagnoux explores the status and uses of the fruit according to Greek and Latin sources. Regarding its use during antiquity, very little seems to be known, and references to its ritual use are completely unknown; however, citrium does appear in cooking recipes, medicinal and agricultural treatises. Greek and Latin texts are therefore highly informative about the perception of citrus fruits in antiquity, which were seen as a symbol of the ‘salutary apple’. The ancient and modern art of Citrus cultivation in Italy has been examined by Gina Maruca, Gaetano Laghetti and Karl Hammer in the following contribution: Religious and Cultural Significance of the Citron (Citrus medica L. ‘Diamante’) from Calabria (South Italy): A Biblical Fruit of the Mediterranean Land (http://www.davidpublisher.org/​index.php/​Home/​Article/​index? DOI:10.17265/2162-5298/2015.04.006).

19In colder regions, the Gulf Stream circulation might have enabled container cultivation along the French Atlantic coast and the English Channel. The complete absence of citrus fruit among the wide fruit diversity developed during the Roman period in the western Mediterranean areas (Spain and France) is therefore noticeable. In temperate Europe, citrus fruit cultivation did not start until the Renaissance or the Modern Period and required specific buildings such as greenhouses or orangeries. This part of their history is examined by M.-P. Ruas, W. van der Meer, H.-E. Paulus, C. Gröschel and colleagues.

  • 9 Nicolosi et al. 2000; Luro et al. 2001; Barkley et al. 2006; Nicolosi 2007; Ollitrault et al. 2010; (...)

20Despite advances in the knowledge of the ancient history of the genus, the rarity of ancient specimens and the difficulty in identifying them to species level remains problematic. This is rather discouraging, because the use of DNA genetic markers has already allowed the accurate reconstruction of the structure and genetic diversity of the genus complex. Furthermore, it laid the foundations of the phylogeny of the main Citrus species.9 Therefore, though the complexity of the domesticated compartment is effectively better understood, we lack the archaeobotanical remains for a DNA extraction to compare with modern specimens. Exploring the diversity and phylogeny of citrus relies on ex-situ collections where some of the known diversity can be maintained, protected from diseases and described via multiple phenotypic characters. One of the richest Citrus germplasms outside its area of origin was established by the Inra and Cirad institutions at San Giuliano in Corsica. F. Luro and collaborators will discuss the potentiality of these genetic resources.

  • 10 Mabberley 1997; Moore 2001.

21Ancient specimens are particularly difficult to determine, because they are morphologically quite different from modern cultivars. Citrus fruits are extremely diversified, due to their peculiar reproduction process, relying both on sexual and asexual reproduction. In many Citrus types facultative apomixis occurs, namely nucellar embryony: adventitious embryos initiate directly from the nucellar tissue and, these seedlings, are clones of the female parents. Thus, when a Citrus seed is planted, the resulting tree is often genetically identical to the tree from which it came, and these reproductive processes stabilize and perpetuate hybrid taxa characters.10 The wide diversity observed within this botanical genus originates from only four species or taxonomic groups: citron (C. medica L.), pummelo (C. maxima (Burm.) Merr.), mandarin (C. reticulata Blanco) and papedas (a range of more or less wild species). After a period of allopatric evolution in separated zones, these four species generated in the contact areas cultivated hybrids such as sweet orange (C. sinensis L.), sour orange (C. aurantium L.), lemon (C. limon (L.) Burm.) and lime (C. aurantifolia (Christm.) Swing.). These hybrid forms, subsequently accorded species rank, maintained themselves and multiplied with the help of apomictic reproduction and became even more diversified through mutation. The introduction of these species to the Mediterranean created a secondary centre of diversification for citrus fruit and supported the emergence of new types. This step should probably be considered as crucial as the domestication itself, being the process that led to present day diversification. The declination of the genus into so many species and cultivars, each with their own taste and appearance, increased man’s interest in these peculiar fruits, whichenabled their acclimatization and spread throughout every potential environment.

  • 11 Pagnoux et al. 2013.
  • 12 Grasso et al., this volume.

22Regarding the morphological changes constantly associated with this long evolution, one can appreciate the challenge of characterizing and identifying the ancient Citrus types (fig. 1) through SEM imagery11 and morphometric geometrics.12 The results are not completely redundant, probably because of the difficulties in using present day cultivars in the setting of the comparative references. Clearly, there is still much to be done to learn more about the history and archaeology of citrus fruit.

Fig. 1 - Comparison between ancient specimens and contemporaneous ones, on the basis of the epidermis cellular net patterns.

Fig. 1 - Comparison between ancient specimens and contemporaneous ones, on the basis of the epidermis cellular net patterns.

Seeds from a well, Samnite period, Pompeii (above; photograph V. Zech). SEM capture of one of the mineralized archaeological seed remains, fasciculate cells of the epidermis (left, no 1). Comparison with Citrus medica (right, no 2), Citrus x limon (no 3) and Malus domestica (no 4). Images S. Pont, MNHN.

23In order to enlarge the available dataset and increase the scopes of interest, an international research network with multiple competences was created. The AGRUMED project, coordinated by V. Zech and G. Fiorentino, aimed to address questions regarding the species of known citrus in antiquity, their cultivation and uses, and the agents, routes and timing of their dispersal. It relied on a selection of laboratories and associated researchers working in the fields of archaeobotany, ethnobotany, archaeology, genetic, molecular biochemistry and agronomy. French and Mediterranean laboratories took part in the project: the Radiocarbon Dating and Cosmogenic Isotopes Laboratory (Elisabetta Boaretto, director) in the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel; l’unité de recherche Inra-Cirad Amélioration Génétique et Adaptation des Plantes tropicales et méditerranéennes (UMR AGAP Corse), research station of San Giuliano, Corsica (François Luro, scientific manager of the research work lead on phylogeny and intra- and inter-specific diversity of the citrus fruits and co-manager of the citrus collections); the Laboratoire Nicolas Garnier (specialises in biochemical analysis of organic matters, both for patrimonial and research purposes); the laboratory of archaeobotany and palaeoecology of the university of the Salento, Lecce, Italy (Girolamo Fiorentino, anthracologist and carpologist, director); the Dipartimento di Biologia Ambientale, Università La Sapienza, Roma, Italy (Alessandra Celant, archaeobotanist); the Institut für Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie-IPNA, Basel, Switzerland (Angela Schlumbaum, specialist in mollecular archaeology) and the research unit Archéozoologie-Archéobotanique, UMR 7209, of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris (Marie-Pierre Ruas, Charlène Bouchaud, Sylvie Coubray, Jérôme Ros, Véronique Zech-Matterne).

  • 13 Fiorentino et al. 2014.
  • 14 Zech-Matterne et al. 2015.

24AGRUMED opened the investigation to disciplines other than archaeobotany, but first it encouraged the systemic search for remains and evidence from a large number of archaeological excavations. Heavy sampling and fine-sieving processes were implemented at 21 sites located on potential trade routes for the long-distance import of ‘exotics’ to the Mediterranean. Field work required that more than 10 tonnes of sediment were sieved through a mesh of 0.5 mm. and tens of thousands of plant remains be sorted and identified. New occurrences of Citrus (pollen grains and seeds) were reported.13 Two antique classical itineraries were also explored: the terrestrial road via the Syria-Palestine travelled by the Nabataean camel trains and the maritime road via Egypt, controlled by the Ptolemies. Part of the merchandise coming from the Far East and the Indian sub-continent ended up at the harbour of Pozzuoli, in the Bay of Naples, and could have been taken from there to Pompeii and the hinterland, via the Sarno River (fig. 2). Citrus and other exotics, like sesame, also of Indian origin, have actually been found in Pompeii and neighbouring sites, also destroyed by the Vesuvius volcanic eruption.14

Fig. 2 - Location of the rare archaeobotanical finds identified as citrus fruit remains around the Mediterranean (protohistoric and historic mentions).

Fig. 2 - Location of the rare archaeobotanical finds identified as citrus fruit remains around the Mediterranean (protohistoric and historic mentions).

Regarding their distribution, two roads are to be considered: the first one through Israel and the Mediterranean islands, Italy and the Alps; the second one through the Arabian Peninsula, Ptolemaic Egypt, northern Africa, Spain and the Pyrenees mountains (map V. Zech-Matterne).

25Although the field work did not achieve all its goals, the program at least drew attention to citrus fruit research and resulted in a conference and book publication.

26It is therefore our great pleasure to warmly thank the people and institutions, as well as the authors, for their generous help, support and interest in their implementation of this project.

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Barkley et al. 2006: N.A. Barkley, M.L. Roose, R.R. Krueger, C.T. Federici, Assessing genetic diversity and population structure in a Citrus germplasm collection utilizing simple sequence repeat markers (SSRs), Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 112, 2006, p. 1519-1531.

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Curk et al. 2016: F. Curk, F. Ollitrault, A. Garcia-Lor, F. Luro, L. Navarro and P. Ollitrault, Phylogenetic origin of limes and lemons revealed by cytoplasmic and nuclear markers, Annals of Botany, 117, 4, p. 565-583.

Fiorentino et al. 2014: G. Fiorentino, V. Zech-Matterne, E. Boaretto, A. Celant, S. Coubray, N. Garnier, F. Luro, C. Pagnoux, M.-P. Ruas, AGRUMED: The history of citrus fruits in the Mediterranean. Introductions, diversifications and uses, Antiquity. Project Gallery, 88, 339 <http://antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/fiorentino339/>.

Frère et al. 2012: D. Frère, É. Dodinet, N. Garnier, L’étude interdisciplinaire des parfums anciens au prisme de l’archéologie, la chimie et la botanique : l’exemple de contenus de vases en verre sur noyau d’argile (Sardaigne, VIe-IVe siècles av. J.-C.), ArcheoSciences, 36, p. 47-60.

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Garcia-Lor et al. 2012: A. Garcia-Lor, F. Luro, L. Navarro, P. Ollitrault, Comparative use of InDel and SSR markers in deciphering the interspecific structure of cultivated citrus genetic diversity: a perspective for genetic association studies, Molecular Genetics and Genomics, 287, 1, p. 77-94.

Garcia-Lor et al. 2013: A. Garcia-Lor, F. Curk, H. Snoussi-Trifa, R. Morillon, G. Ancillo, F. Luro, L. Navarro, P. Ollitrault, A nuclear phylogeny: SNPs, indels and SSRs deliver new insights into the relationships in the ‘true citrus fruit trees’ group (Citrinae, Rutaceae) and the origin of cultivated species, Annals of Botany, 111, 1, p. 1-19.

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Luro et al. 2008: F. Luro, G. Costantino, J. Terol, X. Argout, T. Allario, P. Wincker, M. Talon, P. Ollitrault, R. Morillon, Transferability of the EST-SSRs developed on Nules clementine (Citrus clementina Hort ex Tan) to other Citrus species and their effectiveness for genetic mapping, BMC Genomics, 9, p. 287.

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Notes

1 Spichiger et al. 2002.

2 Asouti, Fuller 2008.

3 Gmitter, Hu 1990.

4 Bouchaud et al., this volume ; Langgut et al. 2013; Langgut 2015; Langgut, this volume.

5 Amigues 2003.

6 Bui-Thi-Mai, Girard 2014.

7 Frère et al. 2012.

8 Pagnoux et al. 2013.

9 Nicolosi et al. 2000; Luro et al. 2001; Barkley et al. 2006; Nicolosi 2007; Ollitrault et al. 2010; Garcia-Lor et al. 2012; 2013; Curk et al. 2016.

10 Mabberley 1997; Moore 2001.

11 Pagnoux et al. 2013.

12 Grasso et al., this volume.

13 Fiorentino et al. 2014.

14 Zech-Matterne et al. 2015.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 - Comparison between ancient specimens and contemporaneous ones, on the basis of the epidermis cellular net patterns.
Légende Seeds from a well, Samnite period, Pompeii (above; photograph V. Zech). SEM capture of one of the mineralized archaeological seed remains, fasciculate cells of the epidermis (left, no 1). Comparison with Citrus medica (right, no 2), Citrus x limon (no 3) and Malus domestica (no 4). Images S. Pont, MNHN.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2240/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,5M
Titre Fig. 2 - Location of the rare archaeobotanical finds identified as citrus fruit remains around the Mediterranean (protohistoric and historic mentions).
Légende Regarding their distribution, two roads are to be considered: the first one through Israel and the Mediterranean islands, Italy and the Alps; the second one through the Arabian Peninsula, Ptolemaic Egypt, northern Africa, Spain and the Pyrenees mountains (map V. Zech-Matterne).
URL http://books.openedition.org/pcjb/docannexe/image/2240/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 737k

Auteurs

UMR 7209 CNRS/MNHN/Sorbonne universités, Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, Pratiques, Environnements, Paris, France; zech@mnhn.fr

Laboratory of Archaeobotany and Palaeoecology, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy; girolamo.fiorentino@unisalento.it

INRAP, UMR 7209 CNRS/MNHN/Sorbonne universités, Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, Pratiques, Environnements, Paris, France; sylvie.coubray@inrap.fr

UMR AGAP INRA-CIRAD Corse, Equipe SEAPAG, station INRA 20230 San Giuliano, France; francois.luro@inra.fr

© Publications du Centre Jean Bérard, 2017

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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