New research has uncovered evidence that olive oil was used in Israel and possibly the Mediterranean basin as early as 8,000 years ago.
A study published in the Israel Journal of Plant Sciences on November 24 revealed the results of tests carried out on pottery uncovered during excavations between 2011 and 2013 at En Zippori in Lower Galilee.
A team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Antiquities Authority used samples of the shards of pottery to conduct an organic residue analysis and found them to contain traces of olive oil. The tests also indicated that some of the pottery vessels found here date back to 5,800 BCE and were used for the storage of olive oil.
These findings, along with those uncovered at the submerged site of Kfar Samir off the coast of Israel where crushed olive stones and olive pulp were found buried in pits, provide the earliest evidence of the large-scale production and consumption of olive oil in Israel and possibly the entire Mediterranean region.
While the Kfar Samir study estimated that olive oil was produced in the region 6,500 years ago, the fact that the pottery found at En Zippori dates back to 5,800 BCE, means that olive oil production and consumption could go back as much as 8,000 years.
This indicates that olive oil was a diet staple in the region at the time, but researchers also speculate that it may have also been used as fuel in oil lamps.