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Spice Trade and Arab Voyage to Pacific

BCFOS -- Arab traders brought these three spices to Europe’s markets via on the overland “Spice Route.” On this long voyage, the spices passed through the hands of countless middlemen, multiplying the price of the goods with each transaction. By the time the Asian spices reached Venetian merchants, the Arab traders were selling their wares at nearly a 6,000 percent markup. These spices had literally become worth their weight in gold, but Nutmeg, Mace and Clove were so highly coveted by Europe’s elite that the supply still couldn’t match the demand.

The Arab traders never divulged the exact location of their secret source of fragrant fortune, and no European was able to deduce their location.  Discovering this highly-guarded mystery source provoked speculation, and was perceived as a challenge to many. All that was known about these exotic goods was that they hailed from islands that were unfathomably remote and far away, the fabled ‘Spice- Islands’ of the Indies.

As the Arabs, Chinese and Javanese traders already knew, these mythical “Spice Islands” laid in the labyrinth of the South Pacific in what is now the province of Maluku in eastern Indonesia. While cloves were more abundant and could be found scattered around several islands in The Mollucas (Maluku,) Nutmeg and Mace were native to just ten miniscule volcanic islands, surrounded by a vast expanse of ocean. Laying just below equator and 800km north of Darwin, “the Banda Islands” historically were one of the remotest locations imaginable. It would seem that isolation gave nutmeg, mace and cloves their unique character and intoxicating influence, which the outside world found so irresistable.


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