La Sapienza - Università di Roma

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A new research project conducted by the Sapienza Department of Environmental Biology and coordinated by Prof Alessandra Celant has uncovered the most ancient remains of lemon ever found in the Mediterranean. The discovery was made in the heart of Rome, in a small votive deposit uncovered inside the Carcer-Tullianum archaeological excavation.

The find consists of "a small fragment of peel and a few seeds of Citrus Limon, which were conserved via mummification and partial mineralization," explains the Professor who made the discovery. These remains date back to the Augustan Age. The dating has been confirmed both by archaeological and radiocarbon tests carried out at the CEDAD Facility (Dating and Diagnostics Centre of the University of Salerno, supervised by Lucio Calcagnile).

Other finds include a plant of Asian origin and other native Mediterranean seeds and fruits, including: grapevine (Vitis vinifera L. subsp. sativa Hegi), fig (Ficus carica L.), olive (Olea europaea L.), hazelnut (Corylus avellana L.) and cornelian cherry (Cornus mas L.).

Moreover, other offerings were found in the votive grave, including a pig (Sus domesticus Erx.) and goat bones (Ovis vel Capra), both of which were analysed by Claudia Minniti, from the Departiment of Cultural Heritage at the University of Salento, and two seabass vertebra (Dicentrarchus labrax L.) identified by Patrice Méniel from the French CNRS.

Based on the seasonal nature of the animal and vegetable finds - September to November - it has been possible to determine that the ritual offerings were presented in the Autumn.