3000 BC to 200 BC

Arabs traded spices and herbs among early civilizations.

Believe it or not, the earliest recorded use of a spice – sesame seed – comes from an Assyrian myth. This myth claims that the gods drank sesame wine the night before they created the earth.

The first real evidence we have of spice use comes from the art work and writings of early civilizations. Hieroglyphs in the Great Pyramid at Giza show workers eating garlic and onions for strength. In Genesis, Joseph’s older brothers sold him to a passing caravan of spice merchants traveling from Gilead to Egypt. Later, in the book of Kings, the Queen of Sheba made a tribute to King Solomon in the form of spices, gold, and precious stones. In 1453 BC the first Olympians in Greece celebrated victory wearing wreaths of bay and parsley. Around 400 BC Hippocrates, the Greek physician, listed more than 400 medicines made with spices and herbs, about half of which we still use today.

An extensive spice trade route “the Golden Road of Samarkand” developed, stretching across the deserts of southern Asia and the Middle East between kingdoms. For centuries, Arabs controlled this route and made fortunes as middlemen, trading locally produced goods, products from Africa, and spices from the Far East. Caravans of donkeys and later thousands of camels followed this route carrying products to far-off lands where demand was great.