Ancient people pressed olive oil as far back as 8,000 years ago in Israel, a new study finds.
Researchers found residues of the Mediterranean-diet staple on ancient clay pots dating back to the 6th millennium B.C.
“This is the earliest evidence of the use of olive oil in the country, and perhaps the entire Mediterranean basin,” Ianir
Milevski and Nimrod Getzov, excavation directors at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.
The team discovered the clay vessels by accident. The government required an excavation at En Zippori in the Lower Galilee region of northern Israel before the Netivei Israel Co. could widen Highway 79. The researchers unexpectedly found the pottery during the excavation, which lasted from 2011 to 2013.
Milevski and Getzov wanted to find out what had once been stored in the vessels. So, the researchers, together with their colleague Dvory Namdar, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Earth Sciences, extracted organic residues left on the clay.
The analyses showed that the pottery containing olive oil dates back to the Early Chalcolithic period, a phase of the Bronze Age. To double-check their work, the researchers looked at modern clay shards with one-year-old olive oil residues on them, and found a strong chemical resemblance between the ancient and contemporary samples.