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

Publish date:
July 23, 2019
Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat

The foods we eat have a deep and often surprising past. From almonds and apples to tea and rice, many foods that we consume today have histories that can be traced out of prehistoric Central Asia along the tracks of the Silk Road to kitchens in Europe, America, China, and elsewhere in East Asia. The exchange of goods, ideas, cultural practices, and genes along these ancient routes extends back five thousand years, and organized trade along the Silk Road dates to at least Han Dynasty China in the second century BC. 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 found 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. With vivid examples, Fruit from the Sands explores how the foods we eat have shaped the course of human history and transformed cuisines all over the globe.

“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

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History Book
Books primarily about history.
History Entries - 10 per page
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