Olde England a `banana republic' banana is discovered

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The Independent Online
YES, WE had no bananas, in medieval England at any rate, but now we do. A banana skin found in a London archaeological dig indicates that the fruit was being eaten here nearly two centuries earlier than was first thought.

Hitherto, according to Anne Wilson's Food and Drink in Britain (1991), the first record of an English banana was believed to be of a bunch displayed to the citizens of London in 1633 after being brought back from Bermuda. They were hung up to ripen and be admired in the shop of a herbalist, Thomas Johnson in the City of London.

But now excavations by the Museum of London at a building site on the south bank of the Thames at Southwark have pushed back banana-tasting by about 175 years. A skin found preserved in the waterlogged remains of a 15th-century fish farm has been identified as banana by the museum's archaeobotanists, experts in relic plant material. It has been dated to about 1460.

"We did think bananas growing in West Africa may have been known to Europeans as early as the 15th century and imported as curiosities, but we had no evidence before now," said John Giorgi, from the museum.

Archaeologists say that other objects unearthed at the Tudor rubbish dump - including shoes, toys and tools - have given an unprecedented insight into how Londoners lived.