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8,000-year-old olive oil discovered in Galilee
18/12/2014
According to the excavation directors, Dr. Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov, "This is the earliest evidence of the use of olive oil in the country, and perhaps the entire Mediterranean basin." It seems that olive oil was already a part of the diet and might also have been used for lighting.

Jar sherds yielded remains of olive oil

Copyright: Israel Antiquities Authority

The earliest evidence for the use of olive oil in the country, and possibly the entire Middle East, was revealed at an antiquities site in the Lower Galilee. This is what researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority contend in a recently published article appearing in the Israel Journal of Plant Sciences.
 
 

 

 

In 2011-2013 Dr. Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov of the Israel Antiquities Authority directed an archaeological salvage excavation at Ein Zippori in the Lower Galilee, prior to the widening of Highway 79 by the Netivei Israel Company. This excavation led to research that indicates olive oil was already being used in the country 8,000 years ago, that is to say, in the sixth millennium BCE. 

 

Getzov and Milevski methodically sampled the pottery vessels found in the excavation in order to ascertain what was stored in them and how they were used by the site’s ancient inhabitants. Together with Dr. Dvory Namdar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Earth Sciences, they took small pieces of pottery and utilizing chemical methods for extraction and identification examined the organic remains that were absorbed in the sides of the vessel. 
 
 

 

These tests revealed that the pottery dating to the Early Chalcolithic period contained olive oil. A comparison of the results of the extraction from the archaeological sherds with those of modern, one-year-old oil, showed a strong resemblance between the two, indicating a particularly high level of preservation of the ancient material, which had survived close to its original composition for almost 8,000 years. 
 
 

 

Of the twenty pottery vessels sampled, two were found to be particularly ancient, dating to approximately 5,800 BCE. According to the researchers, "In underwater archaeological excavations directed by Dr. Ehud Galili opposite Kfar Samir, south of Haifa, remains of an olive oil industry from this period were previously discovered, whereas now at Zippori, evidence has been found for first time of the use of olive oil. Together with the Kfar Samir discovery, this is the earliest evidence of olive oil production in the country, and possibly the entire Levant (the Mediterranean basin)." 

 

 

Milevski and Getzov said, "It seems that olive oil was already a part of the diet and might also have been used for lighting. 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."

 

Source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

 

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