Posts Tagged ‘olive oil’



Chemical analysis conducted on ancient pottery discovered from the Early Bronze Age proves Italians started using olive oil 700 years sooner than what’s previously been recorded.

Source: Italy’s oldest olive oil discovered in peculiar pot

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Clay shards discovered in Lower Galilee may mark oldest evidence for use of oil in entire Middle East.

Olive oil was used in the Land of Israel as early as 8,000 years ago, archaeologists working at an antiquities site in the Lower Galilee said Wednesday, heralding the earliest evidence for use of the staple in the country and possibly the entire Middle East.

The findings by an Israeli team were published recently in the Israel Journal of Plant Sciences and announced Wednesday.

Tests of potsherds, some dating back to 5,800 BCE, found in 2011-2013 during a salvage excavation ahead of the widening of Road 79, showed traces of olive oil remarkably similar to modern versions, researchers said.

Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov of the Israel Antiquities Authority methodically sampled pottery vessels found in the excavation at Ein Zippori in the Lower Galilee in order to ascertain what was stored in them and how they were used by the site’s ancient inhabitants.

“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,” they said in a statement.

Their tests, conducted with Dvory Namdar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Earth Sciences, 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 20 pottery vessels sampled, two were found to be particularly ancient, dating to approximately 5,800 BCE.

The researchers said the findings went hand in hand with recent finds at Kfar Samir, a 7,700-year-old site now underwater off the coast of Haifa, where the oldest evidence of olive oil production was discovered.

“Now at Zippori, evidence has been found for the 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),” the researchers said in a statement.

The discovery is apparently timed for the start of the holiday of Hanukkah, which Jewish tradition holds marks the second-century BCE re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of a one-day supply of olive oil used to light a ceremonial menorah lasting for eight days.

Milevski said the find, dating from 5,000 years before the Hanukkah story, did not supply a definite clue as to whether the oil was used for consumption, lighting, or both. “We found two large vessels and another small one; all were probably only used to store the oil. What it was used for we can only guess.”

Small clay candles, flat bowls filled with oil in which a wick was placed and lit, “date from later periods,” he added.

The society using the oil was pre-Jewish and practiced a religion revolving around the worship of fertility. “We have no writing during that period so we know little about them. We do not know what language they spoke but we assume it was an early Semitic language, from which Babylonian and Akkadian evolved and later also Hebrew and Arabic,” Milevski said.

Milevski said that on the same site the archaeologists found stone palettes with engravings of schematic female figures with animals around them. “In the same site we also found bones from the limbs of large animals engraved with images of eyes, trees and triangles symbolizing the female sex,” he said.

One of the clay pots reconstructed from sherds found at the site near En Zippori at the Lower Galilee. (Courtesy Israel Antiquities ).

A clay pot from the Early Chalcolithic period as found on site at Ein Zippori (Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

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Archaeologists uncovered a large Byzantine Age compound west of Jerusalem, with a rarely preserved oil press, a wine press and a mosaic, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Thursday.

“This was very likely a monastery,” excavation director Irene Zilberbod said in a statement.

A spokesperson with the Antiquities Authority said the first clues of the compound were stumbled upon in recent weeks, during construction work on a new residential neighbourhood in the town of Bet Shemesh, some 35 km west of Jerusalem, Xinhua reported.

Excavations later revealed a massive compound surrounded by an outer wall and divided on the inside into industrial and residential areas.

In the industrial area, the archaeologists found an unusually large press that was uniquely preserved and was used to produce olive oil, and a large wine press. The wine press consisted of two treading floors from which the grape could flow to a collecting vat.

“The finds indicate the local residents were engaged in wine and olive oil production for their livelihood,” Zilberbod said.

She added that the impressive size of the agricultural installations shows that these facilities were used for production on an industrial-scale rather than just for domestic use.

Several rooms were exposed in the residential portion of the compound, some of which had a colourful mosaic pavement preserved in them. One of the mosaics was adorned with a cluster of grapes surrounded by flowers set within a geometric frame. Two entire ovens used for baking were also found in the compound.

Zilberbod said that although they found no unequivocal evidence of religious worship — such as a church or an inscription — the compound holds typical features of Byzantine monasteries.

“The impressive construction dating back to the Byzantine period. The magnificent mosaic floors, windows and roof tile artifacts, as well as the agricultural-industrial installations inside the dwelling compound, are all known to us from numerous other contemporary monasteries,” Zilberbod said.

“Thus it is possible to reconstruct a scenario in which monks resided in a monastery that they established, made their living from the agricultural installations and dwelled in the rooms and carried out their religious activities.”

At some point, which the archaeologists dated to the beginning of the Islamic period (7th century A.D.), the compound ceased to function and was subsequently occupied by new residents. They changed the plan of the compound and adapted it for their needs, the archaeologists said.

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Israel Antiquities Authority excavation of Byzantine-Era Compound, most likely a monastery, discovered near Beit Shemesh. Photo by Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

I found more information athaaretz.com

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Topic Olive oil

Antiquities Authority rescues Byzantine-era site from being paved over in Hod Hasharon

A 1,300 year old olive press found near Hod Hasharon. (photo credit: Hagit Turga courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority/Flash90)

An exceptional 1,300-year-old olive oil factory was unearthed Tuesday during excavations in the Tel Aviv suburb of Hod Hasharon. The Israel Antiquities Authority’s find, dated to the late Byzantine or early Muslim period, narrowly escaped being paved over by a planned roadway.

Excavators found a pressing floor for olives, a piping system, trenches, and cisterns that drained and stored the fresh olive oil. Stone weights used for pressing sacks of olives were found beside the ruins. By the archaeologists’ estimations, the site was an industrial concern and not private.

Archaeologist Amit Ram with the Israel Antiquities Authority told Maariv that the olive press was carved out of older building stones that were sunk into the earth.

The Hod Hasharon olive press is an exceptional find because most olive presses are typically hewn out of the living rock already in the place, he said. In this case, however, the soft, red earth demanded that a solid foundation be constructed, so mason-worked blocks were imported to build the press.

City authorities were investigating the possibility of diverting the planned roadway to make room for a small archaeological park centered around the site.

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By August 7, 2012

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Topic: Eating with the Ancient Greeks

In the beginning there was acorn. Then, ancient Greeks said “let there be bread and wine.” But this wasn’t enough and so, the ingredients became fruitful and multiplied – pulse, meat, bread and oil. And the situation continued like this until now, when our kitchen table is full of fats.

This could be the brief history of Mediterranean nutrition. But this history, or to be more precise, this experiment started 4,000 years ago in ancient Greece and keeps evolving.

According to a substitute professor of Biology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, this way of alimentation is not the intelligent invention of some clever Mediterranean people, but came as a result of the constant interaction between inhabitants of this region and the surrounding natural environment.

In the years before Homer, the situation was dramatic, the professor claims. Homeric period is defined as an important moment for the Mediterraneans, since this is the time when they began cultivating grain.

Ancient Arcades fed mostly on acorn. Later on, in the Mycenean Age, began a nutrition revolution – people introduced bread into their daily meals. Grain was the most important source of proteins and carbohydrates for both people and animals of the time.

Homer wrote that the main substances of the meals were bread, meat and wine. He never made reference to vegetables, despite the fact he often included details of the ancient Greek nutrition in his writings.

The reason why Mediterraneans used to consume great amounts of meat may have been the need for fats, which they could not get from another substance.

As for olive oil, which was already known in Homer’s Greece, they used it only as part of ancient Greek rituals – for example, in the Olympic Games athletes anointed oil to their body before entering the arena.

Oil was not included in the “Mediterranean trio” until the classical times.

Historian Herodotus reports that Athens was the center of olive tree cultivation. Scientists estimate that every adult Athenian consumed, on average, 55 litres of olive oil per year.

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