Sweet Waste: Medieval sugar production in the Mediterranean viewed from the 2002 excavations at Tawahin es-Sukkar, Safi, Jordan
By Richard E. Jones
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This book reports on the excavation of a medieval sugar refinery, Tawahin es-Sukkar near Safi, situated south of the Dead Sea in Jordan. There it was possible to explore many of the steps in the sugar-making process.
The history of cane sugar from its origins in the east to its status as a luxury foodstuff and even medicine in the medieval period to a commodity produced and consumed globally in today’s world is well known. Yet archaeologically, sugar is an invisible commodity, its presence usually being inferred from the humble sugar pots used in the last stages of its sophisticated production process. This book attempts to redress the imbalance between history and archaeology by reporting on the excavation of a medieval sugar refinery, Tawahin es-Sukkar near Safi, situated south of the Dead Sea in Jordan. There it was possible to explore many of the steps in the sugar-making process. The book’s title refers to the industrial waste whose study has shed light on those steps. To place this refinery in chronological and economic context, excavation was extended to the adjacent ‘support town’ of Khirbet Shaykh ‘Isa; the book presents its results. The available archaeological evidence for sugar production across the Mediterranean is reviewed. There is particular emphasis on the sugar vessels and the light they can shed on the poorly understood relationship between primary production centres, refining, storage and consumption centres. The book, which is fully illustrated, can be profitably read by archaeologists, archaeological scientists, historians and visitors to Jordan alike.