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

New evidence suggests olive oil was used in Israel and possibly the Mediterranean basin as early as 8,000 years ago.

Dec. 29, 2014
By Isabel Putinja

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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.

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