Pottery Find Proves Olive Oil Used in Israel 8,000 Years Ago

Dec. 29, 2014
By Isabel Putinja

Recent News

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.