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article imageResearchers discover 8,000-year-old olive oil in clay pots

By Michael Thomas     Dec 22, 2014 in World
Researchers have discovered 8,000-year-old olive oil, completely by accident, during an expedition in Israel's northern region.
The team discovered the oil in ancient clay pots dating back to the 6th millennium B.C.
According to a statement from Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov, excavation directors at the Israel Antiquities Authority, this discovery shows the earliest use of olive oil so far not just in Israel, but the entire Mediterranean basin.
As detailed in the study in the Israel Journal of Plants and Sciences, the discovery of the clay pots was accidental. Netivei Israel Co. wanted to widen Highway 79, but before it could do so, the Israeli government ordered an excavation. The excavation took three years, from 2011 to 2013.
To find out what was once in the pots, Milevski, Getzov and Dvory Namdar, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Earth Sciences, extracted organic residue from the clay. It turned out that the pots dated back to the Early Chalcolithic Period.
To make sure the substance inside was indeed olive oil, the researchers compared it to modern-day clay shards with one-year-old olive oil residue on them. Analysis showed the ancient oil and the modern-day equivalent bore a strong chemical resemblance.
The team looked at 20 pots in total, with two dating back to 5800 BC. This corroborates previous research that says humans first domesticated the olive tree anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 years ago.
Olive oil is a staple of the "Mediterranean diet," and research earlier this year suggested that it may play a part in reducing blood pressure.
More about Olive Oil, Israel, en zippori
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