Olives for Ancient Eating

The earliest signs that olives were produced to be eaten, from 6,600 years ago, have been found off Haifa's coast.

Olive pits found at Hishulei Carmel

Olive pits found at Hishulei Carmel. Photo: Ehud Galili

At the Hishulei Carmel excavation site under the Mediterranean sea, researchers have found two oval stone structures containing thousands of well-preserved olive pits. Because the pits were mostly whole, not crushed as were the pits found at the olive oil production site of Kfar Samir from 7,000 years ago, the researchers believe the olives at Hishulei Carmel were pickled for eating. Additionally, the site would have been at the ancient coastline, too close to the sea for preserving olives without mold. This discovery is the earliest evidence of olive production to eat the fruit by about 4,000 years.

Olives are mentioned many times in the Bible, though never as a fruit that was eaten. Olive oil was important as food, for light, as an ointment, and for soap. A man who had a large amount of olive oil was considered prosperous. The loss of the olive crop for disobediance to God was a serious threat (Deuteronomy 28:40). And the return of the dove with the olive branch told Noah that there was land to return to after the great flood (Genesis 8:11).

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Olive pits from Hishulei Carmel

Photo: Ehud Galili

The olives at Hishulei Carmel could have come from wild trees at Mt. Carmel, or even have been cultivated in ancient groves, though ancient groves of olive trees have not yet been found. Once harvested, “the pickling of olives in the utensils discovered could have taken place after the fruit was washed repeatedly in seawater in order to reduce the bitterness, and then soaked in seawater, possibly with the addition of sea salt,” explained Professor Ayala Fishman. The discovery and research into dfksdj was published in the journal Scientific Reports by researchers from University of Haifa, the Technion, Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University, the Volcani Institute, and others.

Read about the revival of an extinct palm tree that had thrived in the Judaean wilderness 2,000 years ago in New Fruit from old Seeds

Dr. Galili explained, “We did not find any residential buildings at the Hishulei Carmel site or at Kfar Samir, but we found pits, round utensils, stone grinding basins, sieves made of twigs – and now the olive production facilities. These sites may have served as ancient “industrial zones” for the settlements along the Carmel Coast in the Chalcolithic period, beginning to produce olive oil around 7,000 years ago and olives for eating 6,600 years ago.”

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The Ancient Diet of Roman Palestine by Susan Weingarten

What did people eat in Roman Palestine? The Mishnah, Tosefta, and Talmuds—compilations of Jewish laws and lore written by rabbis from the third to the seventh centuries C.E. in Palestine and Babylonia—are rich sources of information about everyday life, including many details about food. Looking at them, together with the archaeological evidence, gives us an excellent picture of everyday food eaten in Late Antique Palestine.


Is the Cultic Installation at Dan Really an Olive Press? by Suzanne F. Singer

In an article in the September/October 1981 issue of BAR (“The Remarkable Discoveries at Tel Dan,” BAR 07:05), John Laughlin identified an unusual installation at Tel Dan, in northern Israel, as an Israelite cult installation associated with a water libation ceremony. In explaining the installation as having been used in a religious water libation ceremony, Laughlin adopted the interpretation of Tel Dan’s excavator, Avraham Biran. The installation is dated to the tenth or ninth century B.C.


Ekron of the Philistines, Part II: Olive-Oil Suppliers to the World by Seymour Gitin

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