Origin & History of the Olive Tree

Origin History Olive Tree
Origin & History of the Olive Tree

Origin & History of the Olive. According to the findings of Paleobotany, the olive tree appeared thousands of years ago on the earth. The first findings of its existence in Greece come from volcanic rocks. In the volcanic landscape of Nisyros and Santorini, fossilized olive leaves, dating back 50.000-60.000 years have been found. The oldest charred olive tree wood comes from the Jordan River valley and dates back to 42.980 BC.

This region is considered the home of the domesticated olive tree. Research carried out by a branch of the Palaeobotany has shown that since 6,000 BC different varieties of olive trees have already been found in Greece. During the early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC) the exploitation of the tame olive tree began. We do not know the region where olive cultivation began, but we can speculate that Crete was the starting point.

This view is supported by the temperate climate and the geomorphology of the terrain, combined with the socio-economic development of the palatial centres of the island and the rapid development of the agricultural sector, along with the Cretans' commercial contacts with the cultures of Eastern Mediterranean.

The cultivation of the olive tree and the exploitation of its products dominated everyday life and the economy of the place, as evidenced by Linear B tablets found in Knossos and Pylos. In addition, olive oil processing infrastructure and storage vessels were found in the warehouses of the major palace centres and in shipwrecks of that period. One of the most awesome finds was recorded in an excavation at Zakros, where a conical bowl filled with thick black olives, perfectly preserved through time, was found in a flooded area.

The above findings and especially the written sources inform us about the production of olive oil, its trade and the quantities sent to various places, workshops, sanctuaries and deities. The olive oil was offered as a reward or as a gift to various persons. Large quantities of olive oil seem to have been intended for the production of aromatic oils. During this period, the olive tree is found in its two main varieties, wild and domesticated.

The Linear B tablets, in fact, show larger quantities of wild olive fruit, since the olive oil produced from them is considered more suitable for the preparation of ointments and perfumes. The large quantities of simple or perfumed oil sent as offerings to shrines, deities and priests served practical purposes (lighting, nutritional needs, medicinal uses, embellishment, etc.), but also cultic purposes.