3,500-Year-Old Olive Pits Provide Evidence of Early Cultivation in Dalmatia

The ancient pits provide evidence that olives have been cultivated in Croatia for more than 3,500 years.

Nov. 15, 2018
By Isabel Putinja

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Researchers from the archae­ol­ogy depart­ment of the University of Zadar, Croatia have dis­cov­ered 3,500-year-old olive pits at an archae­o­log­i­cal site off the north Dalmatian coast.

The dis­cov­ery pro­vides firm evi­dence that olives have been cul­ti­vated in the area for more than 3,500 years.

The archae­ol­o­gists have uncov­ered hun­dreds of well-pre­served olive pits found in thick lay­ers of marine growth under the sea in the Pašman chan­nel located between the island of Ričul and the Croatian main­land.

The dis­cov­ery also reveals that olives were a part of the diet of the pre-Liburnian inhab­i­tants who lived in the region over 3,500 years ago dur­ing the Bronze Age.

Mate Parica, one of the researchers from the University of Zadar Department of Archaeology par­tic­i­pat­ing in the exca­va­tion project, con­firmed the age of the pits to Olive Oil Times: We know that they are 3,500 years old because they are in a set­tle­ment layer, and we have three radio­car­bon analy­ses from the same strati­graphic layer,” he clar­i­fied.

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Parica also con­firmed that this is the old­est evi­dence of olive cul­ti­va­tion in the east­ern Adriatic and that the pits were found where a set­tle­ment once existed but is now sub­merged due to the rise of the sea level of the Adriatic Sea over the cen­turies.

Archaeologists have been explor­ing the archae­o­log­i­cal site since 2014. During a pre­vi­ous exca­va­tion, the researchers had uncov­ered this sub­merged pre­his­toric set­tle­ment cov­er­ing an area of over one hectare.

Artifacts like tools and ceram­ics dat­ing back to pre­his­toric times were found here, as well as a 125-meter-long struc­ture made of stone that linked the set­tle­ment with the nearby island of Ričul and may be part of a defen­sive wall.

One olive pit was also uncov­ered in this same area a few years ago but the sam­ple was not suf­fi­cient. With this recent dis­cov­ery of hun­dreds of pits, an analy­sis can be done to deter­mine the olive vari­ety they belong to and whether they’re of an exist­ing Dalmatian vari­ety.





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