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Opium or oil? Late Bronze Age Cypriot Base Ring juglets and international trade revisited

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 November 2016

Shlomo Bunimovitz
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel
Zvi Lederman
Affiliation:
Tel Beth-Shemesh Excavations, Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

The Base Ring juglets of Late Bronze Age Cyprus have long been associated with opium due to their hypothetical resemblance to inverted poppy heads. Analysis of organic residues on Base Ring juglets from Cyprus and Israel, however, showed no trace of opium; instead, the vessels had contained a variety of perfumed oils. The analytical results are supported by textual evidence attesting to a lively trade across the eastern Mediterranean in aromatic substances and compounds, rather than in opium. The poppy-head shape of the Base Ring juglets was not a reference to their contents.

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Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2016 

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