3.9 Spices and seeds
In dismantling the bales of leather, hundreds of impressions of seeds were visible in the iron concretion, and a few uncharred round seeds could be recovered (Kleij 1992b, 17). The seeds had been hermetically sealed in between the hides and were therefore well preserved. The botanical remains were analysed by M. Manders and W.J. Kuijper at the Institute for Prehistory, Leiden University.
The spherical seeds are the most conspicuous (fig. 38). They are identified as black pepper (Piper nigrum). As the outer skin is lacking, white pepper is another possibility. The largest peppercorns are 4.5 mm across (Manders 1992, 43).
Impressions of cereal remains, in particular wheat grains (Triticum aestivum), were visible in the iron concretion. Husks of wheat grains were found in between the hides (Manders 1992, 43-44). In addition, two seeds of corn cockle (Agrostemma githago), a crop weed that is notorious for being poisonous, were found among the seeds.
The presence of pepper, an expensive spice, could indicate a shipment for trade. However, the combination with cereal remains in almost negligible quantities could also mean that pepper and wheat were taken on board for consumption, and only ended up with the cargo as a result of the wrecking process.