Olive oil history

Olive oil history

The olive tree is the subject of many legends. Dating back millennia, the oil originating from this tree’s fruits has accompanied the history of mankind. Second only to sesame oil, olive oil is one of the longest-standing edible oils on earth. In ancient times, olive oil was used not only as food but also as medicine, in cosmetics and in religious ceremonies.

The Origins of Olive Cultivation

It is believed that a particular variety of olive tree was selected in the Middle East in the Copper Age (4000 BC) for its large, fleshy fruits, obtained by hybridizing African and Asian trees. The fruit of this olive tree quickly found its place in our cultures, being used as food, as fuel for lamps and even as an ointment.

ánforas fenicias
Ánforas encontradas en la bodega del Palacio Real de Knossos, Creta (II-I milenio a.C)
Fuente: Los caminos del comer

In Babylon, doctors were known as Asu, meaning “one who knows about oils”.

The first olive plantations were established in Palestine, Crete and Egypt. Olive oil extraction technology was slow to develop, but eventually became a very important product for Ancient Greece and spread far and wide along the coastlines of the Mediterranean.



torno aceite egipto
Primitive Olive oil lathe founded in a tomb from Tebas (Egypt). Source: Sabor artesano
maceta de estribo
Maceta de estribo. Fuente: Cultura egipcia

The oil was transported in ceramic amphorae and leather wineskins. People were able to identify the origin of the oil depending on which vessel was used.

ánforas fenicias
Amphore from Knosso Royal Palace,
Crete (II-I millenium B.C.)
Source: Los caminos del comer

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