Humanities and Arts

Discovering Plum, Watermelon and Grape Cultivars Founded in a Middle Age Site of Sassari (Sardinia, Italy) through a Computer Image Analysis Approach

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The discovery of several waterlogged plant remains in a Middle Ages context (1330-1360 AD) in Sassari (NS, Sardinia, Italy) enabled the characterisation of archaeological plum fruit stones and watermelon and grape seeds through computer image analysis. Digital seed/endocarp images were acquired by a flatbed scanner and processed and analysed by applying computerised image analysis techniques. The morphometric data were statistically elaborated using stepwise linear discriminant analysis (LDA), allowing comparisons among archaeological remains, wild populations and autochthonous cultivars. Archaeological samples of plum were compared with 21 autochthonous cultivars of Prunus domestica from Sardinia, while archaeological watermelon seeds were compared with 36 seed lots of Citrullus from Europe, Africa and Asia. Moreover, archaeological grape seeds were compared with 51 autochthonous traditional cultivars of Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera from Sardinia, 16 cultivars from Tuscany, six cultivars from Liguria, and eight cultivars from Catalonia (Spain). Archaeological plum remains showed morphological affinity with five cultivars of Sardinia. Seed features of the archaeological watermelon remains demonstrated affiliation with a proper sweet dessert watermelon, Citrullus lanatus, and similarity with some Sardinian cultivars. Regarding the archaeological remains of grape, morphometric comparisons showed a high similarity with autochthonous cultivars from Catalonia and Liguria. This study provides new information about ancient fruit cultivated and consumed during the Middle Ages in Sardinia.