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Sicilians living under Islamic rule more than 1,000 years ago ate PORK even though it was banned

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Sicilians living under Islamic rule more than 1,000 years ago ate PORK even though it was banned
  • Experts analyzed residue found in 134 cooking pots dating 1,120 years ago
  • This occurred when Sicily was under Islamic rule, and experts want to see how that impacted the diets of those living on the small Mediterranean island 
  • The results showed diets varied depending on where people lived
  • Those in urban areas ate food that mirrored Islamic tradition
  • Those in rural areas ate pork, dairy products and grapes 
  • Islam forbids its followers to consume pork or pork-based products  

Sicilians living under Islamic rule more than 1,000 years ago ate PORK even though it was banned, residue on medieval cooking pots shows

Sicily was under Islamic rule around 1,120 years ago, but some natives feasted on pork even though it was prohibited by religious laws, a new study reveals.

A team of international researchers analyzed food residue on 134 medieval cooking pots used between the 9th and 12 centuries, revealing the ancient Sicilian palette depended largely on where people lived and what food was available locally.

Approximately 83 fragments came from Palermo and 51 came from the site in of Casale San Pietro, located on the plain outside of the town of Castronovo di Sicilia in the center of Sicily within the province of Palermo. 

Those living in Palermo, the center of the ancient Muslim world, ate foods that mirrored their Islamic conquers, such as beef, mutton and a variety of vegetables.

Meanwhile residents outside of the city ate not only the forbidden meat of pigs, but also dairy products and grapes.

‘Analysis of residues preserved in pottery has, for the first time, revealed important insight into cuisine in medieval Islamic Sicily,’ lead author Jasmine Lundy of the University of York and colleagues shared in a statement.

‘We have identified a diverse range of products processed in cooking wares, as well as regional differences in the use of ceramics such as for the processing of dairy and grapevine products.’

An analysis on residue taken from 1,120-year-old cooking pots found in Sicily shows those living in rural areas ate the forbidden meat pork, along with dairy products and grapes
An analysis on residue taken from 1,120-year-old cooking pots found in Sicily shows those living in rural areas ate the forbidden meat pork, along with dairy products and grapes

The Islamic Kingdom ruled the island of Sicily from 831 to 1091, with Palermo being a major cultural and political center of the Muslim world. 

Now, a researchers of the study, published inPLOS One, has embarked on a quest to learn how ancient Sicilians’ lives were impacted while under Islamic rule.

The Islamic Kingdom ruled the island of Sicily from 831 to 1091, with Palermo being a major cultural and political center of the Muslim world.

The ancient cooking pottery were found in the city of Palermo and the rural town of Casale San Pietro. 

The cooking pottery was used between the 9th  and 12th centuries and found in the city of Palermo and the rural town of Casale San Pietro. Those living in Palermo, the center of the ancient Muslim world, ate foods that mirrored their Islamic conquers, such as beef and sheep and a variety of vegetables
The cooking pottery was used between the 9th  and 12th centuries and found in the city of Palermo and the rural town of Casale San Pietro. Those living in Palermo, the center of the ancient Muslim world, ate foods that mirrored their Islamic conquers, such as beef and sheep and a variety of vegetables

Despite the fact that residue from pork products was mostly found, there was no evidence that the ancient people included marine or freshwater products, which is a staple among modern Sicilians.

‘The consumption of pork is forbidden as part of the Islamic religion, which is reflected by its absence from culinary literary sources. However, the complete absence of pork in Sicily during this time cannot be assumed,’ reads the study.

‘For all of the four sites investigated, faunal remains of caprine (both sheep and goats), cattle and domestic fowl have been identified.

The Islamic Kingdom ruled the island of Sicily from 831 to 1091, with Palermo being a major cultural and political center of the Muslim world
The Islamic Kingdom ruled the island of Sicily from 831 to 1091, with Palermo being a major cultural and political center of the Muslim world

The mixture of a diverse assortment of food products is consistent with the colorful dishes noted in Arabic literature, and the differences observed between rural and urban sites suggests there is more to be learned about how cultures differed across Sicilian society.

‘With the Islamic green revolution, certain vegetables, fruits and cereals gained new importance and written sources of Islamic and complex mixtures of herbs, spices and vegetables are well documented in Arabic literature,’ researchers shared in the study.

‘Alongside spinach, eggplant and artichoke, other vegetables mentioned in historical sources include turnip, cabbage, cauliflower, onion, garlic and leek.

‘Furthermore, dishes often reflect a sweet and sour/ salty palate, where fruits and fruit juices were added to savory meat dishes, for example citrus fruits (oranges and lemons), apples, pomegranates and grape products.’ 

THE EMIRATE OF SICILY SAW THE ISLAND UNDER ISLAMIC RULE FOR MORE THAN 200 YEARS

The island of Sicily was under Islamic rule from 841 to 1091 AD, known as the Emirate of Sicily and run as an Islamic Kingdom.

During the period the island became a political center of the Muslim world, famed for its culture and, according to recent studies, its wine trade.

It became increasingly prosperous and cosmopolitan during Muslim rule with trade and agriculture flourishing.

The capital of the island, Palermo, became one of the wealthiest cities in Europe and the island increasingly became multilingual as more moved for work and trade.

At the end of the Muslim rule of the island, following the conquest by Norman Roger II, various faiths and groups lived in relative harmony – including Normans, Jews, Muslim Arabs, Byzantine Greeks and native Sicilians.

It wasn’t long before Muslims, still dominant in industry, retail and production, were given the choice of leaving of being subject to Christian rule.

Many did leave voluntarily and some converted to Christianity, others remained and pretended to convert.

By 1206 there was a Muslim rebellion on the island which was quashed by 1223 when Frederick II started deporting the 60,000 Muslims

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