The al Badawi olive tree in Bethlehem, which researchers peg to somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 years old, is likely the oldest living olive tree in the world. Though the tree is exceedingly old, in this ancient region of the Middle East the practice of squeezing oil from olives is even older. According to new archaeological research, the people were producing olive oil in the region as far back as 8,000 years ago, says the Times of Israel.
In a dig at the site of the Bronze Age town of Ein Zippori, just over a mile west of Nazareth, researchers unearthed shards of broken pottery containers. According to Live Science, chemical analyses of the pottery shards revealed the traces of ancient olive oil:
To make sure the ancient vessels once held olive oil, the researchers compared the chemical residues left on the ancient clay to those from a modern-day clay sample with 1-year-old olive oil inside. The analyses of the two were remarkably similar, they found.
Of the nearly two dozen pottery containers found at the site, two dated to around 5,800 BCE, says the Times of Israel.
According to the researchers in their study, the find pushes back, by several centuries, the onset of olive oil production.
Finding olive oil in ceramic containers from Ein Zippori, together with the ﬁnds from Kfar Samir at least, teaches us that the storage of vegetable oil and especially olive oil was a routine custom and had a major role in the diet of the pre-Ghassulian population.
According to the Times of Israel, the find may mark the earliest known case of olive oil production in the Mediterranean basin.