Researchers unearth 2,100 year-old melon

Sunday, June 3, 2007
A piece of a fruit that is thought to be a family of melon was excavated from the Shimonosato Ruin in Moriyama in Shiga prefecture Japan. Based on a radiocarbon analysis, researchers estimated the half-rounded piece of fruit to be about 2,100 years old, said Shuji Yamazaki, a local official in the city of Moriyama. (Kyodo News)

TOKYO -- A 2,100-year-old melon with the flesh still on the rind was unearthed in western Japan, apparently preserved underground over the centuries in a vacuum-packed state, an official said Friday.

Archaeologists used radiocarbon analysis to estimate the age of the fruit, believed to be the oldest melon found with flesh still on the rind, said Shuji Yamazaki, a local official in the city of Moriyama.

Previously, the oldest such find was believed to be remains found in China that date back to the fourth century A.D., according to local media reports.

The melon might have been so well-preserved because it was in a vacuum-packed state in a wet layer below the ground, an environment hostile to microorganisms that might otherwise have broken down the remains, Yamazaki said.

Melon seeds have been often found in archaeological digs around the country, but researchers rarely find the remains of melon flesh, Yamazaki said.

Moriyama is about 200 miles southwest of Tokyo.

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