Olive Oil Origins

Spread of olive over the world
Where did the wild olive tree (Oleaster) first appear? Although there are different views in the international world of
science as to in what part of the world this wild but generous tree called “Delice” (Wild Olive Tree) was first
domesticated, there is still no definite view on the matter. According to the famous botanist Pelletier, the motherlad
of the wild olive tree is Anatolia, where numerous wild olive trees make up dense groves. And De Candelle opines that
olive was originated from Asia Minor and spread from Syria over to Greece via Anatolia. According to some, the
motherland of the olive is the island Crete and according to some other Southern Caucasia, Iran or perhaps Atlas
Mountains in North Africa, perhaps Lower Egypt, Sudan or even Ehtiopia.
The strongest one of the assumptions put forward about the origin of the olive is the one that claims that those who
frst domesticated the olive were the Persians, Mesopotamians, Syrians and Palestinians. The fact that the oldest
evidence about the growth of olive in the Near East goes back to the Calcholithic Period (3700-3200 BC) in Israel and
Jordan strengthens this thesis.

Olive tree is grafted by these civilisations who have competency and skills in the fields of agriculture and trading.
The olive tree is grown and made more productive, thus making it a cultivar. And then it is spread along the coastal
strip of the Mediterranean. Olive’s becoming a cultivar occurs in the 4000s BC. And some 1500-2000 years afterwards,
the fruit is pressed to extract oil. Remnants of olive Stones found in the Mediterranean basin as well as oil presses,
pots, vases and frescoes dating back to the Bronz Age all cast some light on the historical progress of the olive and
olive oil.

Olive’s crossing oevr the oceans and being grown in the North and South Americas occurs in the 16th century through the
Spanish missionaries who come from Europe. Olive seedlings taken by the Spaniards are first sown in the West Indian
islands and then in the continental America. It spreads over Mexico and Peru in the 1560s; over a wide geography from
California, Chile and Argentina to Australia and South Africa via the Italian immigrants in the second half of the 19th

Anatolia in ancient times
In the Limantepe Mound excavations carried out in Urla, Izmir under the supervision of Hayati Erkanal of the University
of Ankara, smll hand mortars and grinding Stones used to pres olive fruits, earthen pots which served to separate the
waste water from the olive oil which all date back to 3000-2000 BC as well as olive oil storages dating back to later
periods have been unearthed. Further, olives as well as pomegranates, figs and almonds have been found in a sunken ship
revealed at Uluburun off Kas, Antalya, which is thought to date back to the Late Bronz Age (1300 BC).

Let us go to the times centuries after the Hittites… This time, we are in the Aegean and Urla again: among the ruins of
the ancient town of Clazomenae, which the Ionians built in the 10th century BC, we encounter a significant olive oil
workshop which operates in a three-pit oil extraction mechanism carved into the native rock which was most probably
used in the 6th century BC and which is understood to be used for exports due to its procesing capacity. Erythrae, now
called Ildir, near Cesme, which is a neighbour to Urla, was a member of the Ionian League (Panionion) and a prominent
olive oil production and exportation centre of its age. Olive oil, wine and almonds coming from Anatolia were
distributed from here to the other coasts of the Aegean by small vessels. Clazomenae is also quite close to the ancient
town of Miletus near the modern town of Didim, which is the home town of the famous scientist Thales. It has been
related since the 6th century BC that the mathematician and philosopher Thales evaluated the meteorogical data and
leased a great many oil mills in Miletus and on the island Chios many months in advance in a year when he thought that
there would be an abundance of crops and prospered well after a harvest which was very productive indeed. Thales thus
proved that there might be such scientist-merchants in existence as well.

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