Is there really an American pineapple in an ancient Roman mosaic?

It happens that, by looking at works of art from the past, new windows open on history and we even have to go and rewrite it. May this be the case of mosaic Roman floor in which a pineapple? In fact, the alleged fruit placed in a large fruit basket, next to grapes, pomegranates, figs and apples, which is found on the floor of the second floor of the Museum of the Palazzo Massimo at the Baths of Rome It looks just like a pineapple. But these fruits did not arrive in the West from Americas after the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492?

Indeed, the pineapple plant, from the Bromeliaceae family, arrived in Europe only after the first European conquests overseas at the end of the 15th century and owes its name to the denomination xanananas in the indigenous Guaraní language. After the return of the first European expeditions to America it is in fact common to see representations of this fruit, especially in noble and royal contexts, given the value and exoticism of the plant. It's part of a process called the Colombian exchange.

The still life of the Roman mosaic, however, dates back tobeginning of the 1st century AD and also in a fresco inside the House of the Ephebe to Pompeii there is something similar to a pineapple included among votive offerings. How is it possible that the craftsmen back then knew what this tropical fruit looked like? Had the ancient Romans already reached America before Columbus?

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It's not impossible, but it's very unlikely. The answer should be much simpler. In the book Natural History of Pompeii of the American scholar Wilhelmina Feemster Yashemsk it is contested that the one found is a pineapple: the comparison of the presumed fruit with the pineapple, put forward in 1950 by the botanist Domenico Casella, is here denied by other botanists who identified the object as a cone of the maritime pine, originally from the Mediterranean. The similarity between pineapple and pine cones is also remembered in the English name of the plant, pineapplethat is literally apple-pine cone.

As for the tuft of leaves, it would be a poetic license (perhaps pine needles) to emphasize the characteristics of the object in an ornamental way.

Scots pine cone

Pineapple Origin Natural History of Pompeii