Shalom Life | October 16, 2015

8,000-Year-Old Olive Oil Discovered in Israel

Reserachers state it may represent the earliest usage of oil in the Middle East

By: Daniel Koren

Published: December 17th, 2014 in News » Israel

Photo Caption: A clay pot reconstructed from fragments found in the Lower Galilee

Photo Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority


There's a reason why the dressing on an Israeli salad is basically just olive oil - with a squeeze of lemon.

After all, we've been using the substance for thousands and thousands of years.

According to Israeli archaeologists who worked at an antiquities site in the Lower Galilee, olive oil was used in the region of Israel some 8,000 years ago, they stated Wednesday.

The find indicates clear evidence of the earliest usage of olive oil in the country, and also quite possibly, the entire Middle East.

The Israeli team's findings were printed in the Israel Journal of Plant Sciences, depicting an illustration of how they came about their discovery. Between 2011 and 2013, they found historic fragments of pottery while excavating in the Lower Galilee, some dating back to 5,800 BCE.

On these fragments they were able to locate traces of olive oil that are apparently quite similar to olive oils we use today.

In order to get a clearer understanding of how olive oil was consumed and used during the period, the Israel Antiquities Authority's own Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov thoroughly examined the pieces, reports the Times of Israel.

“Although it is impossible to say for sure, this might be an olive species that was domesticated and joined grain and legumes – the other kinds of field crops that we know were grown then. Those crops are known from at least 2,000 years prior to the settlement at Ein Zippori. With the adoption of olive oil the basic Mediterranean diet was complete. From ancient times to the present, the Mediterranean economy has been based on high quality olive oil, grain and must, the three crops frequently mentioned in the Bible,” the two stated.

According to their tests, which was conducted with the assistance of Dvory Namdar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Earth Sciences, the fragment dating to the Early Chalcolithic period once stored olive oil.

The oil was then compared to modern-day olive oil, demonstrating that the two were in fact quite similar, implying that the ancient olive oil was able to maintain its form for roughly 8,000 years.

It is intriguing that such a fascinating story would come around right around the start of Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday that revolves around how oil that could only last for one day ended up lasting for eight.

It is important to note, however, that the inhabitants of the Lower Galilee back then were not Jewish and, according to Milevsky, were worshipers of fertility.

“We have no writing during that period so we know little about them. We do not know what language they spoke but we assume it was an early Semitic language, from which Babylonian and Akkadian evolved and later also Hebrew and Arabic,” he said.

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