3.4.4 Fruits and nuts

Nowadays, the Dutch River Area is known for its orchards, with apple, pear, plum and cherry trees. In the Roman period, there was no cultivation of fruit and nuts in the River Area. The fruits and nuts that were consumed were collected from bushes growing in the wild in the local environment. In Tiel-Passewaaij, seeds from elder (Sambucus nigra; Fig. 54) and blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) were found. In Geldermalsen-Hondsgemet, dewberry (Rubus caesius) and sloe (Prunus spinosa) were present. In many agrarian settlements, including Kesteren-De Woerd and Houten-Tiellandt, hazelnut (Corylus avellana) shells are found.

Figure 54

Figure 54: Waterlogged seeds of elder (Sambucus nigra). Photo BIAX Consult.

Fruits and nuts were probably collected for domestic use. All fruits and nuts mentioned above are from bushes and low trees growing naturally on streamridges or natural levees. The elder and blackberry found in Tiel probably grew on the streamridge, but it is possible that people went further away to the levee of the River Linge, which was possibly still covered by woodland. Elder bushes may also have grown in the settlements in Tiel.

In Kesteren-De Woerd, Houten-Tiellandt and Wijk bij Duurstede-De Horden, cultivated and imported fruits and nuts were found. In Kesteren-De Woerd, these are fig (Ficus carica), damson (Prunus domestica subsp. insititia; Fig. 55) and walnut (Juglans regia). The damson was also found in Houten-Tiellandt and Wijk bij Duurstede-De Horden. In Houten-Tiellandt, a fragment of walnut shell has also been found. Cultivated fruits and walnuts are only found in small quantities. Furthermore, wood from these species is absent in agrarian settlements. These are two reasons for assuming that the agrarian settlements in the Dutch River Area did not grow cultivated fruits and nuts. However, the phenomenon of cultivating fruit is not entirely unknown in our region. In a depression in the garden of a Roman inn in the town of Ulpia Noviomagus (Nijmegen), dating to the second half of the 2nd century, prunings from fruit trees including peach (Prunus persica) were found (van Rijn 2004, 88-89).

Figure 55

Figure 55: Waterlogged stones of damsons (Prunus domestica subsp. insititia. Photo BIAX Consult.


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