Submitted by Marcus Milwright:
New publication - The Queen of Sheba's Gift: A History of the True Balsam of Matarea, by Marcus Milwright and published by Edinburgh University Press in their series, Edinburgh Studies in Classical Islamic History and Culture.
The death of the last balsam tree in the plantation of Matarea in 1615 marks the end of practice of specialised cultivation that can be traced back two millennia. This interdisciplinary book uses written sources, visual data, and archaeological material to reconstruct the fascinating history of the balsam tree from Jericho and En-Gedi to Egypt, while also establishing links with resin-producing trees from the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. Chapters address the symbolic associations of balsam and the site of Matarea, the distribution of products from the tree through trade and diplomacy, and the applications of these products in medicine, ritual, and the domestic environment. These chapters allow for an exploration of the complex socio-cultural factors that contributed to the sense of value accorded to rare commodities.
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