The olive tree over the centuries
This beautiful evergreen fruit tree called ‘olea europa’ is found in many Mediterranean regions.
Its exact origin, which is claimed by all people around the Mediterranean, remains unknown.
The olive tree has been known since antiquity but also since prehistoric times. Historians mention that it probably originated in northern Syria around 4,000 BC, as the slopes of its mountains on the border with Turkey were full of wild olive trees.
From there, the Phocians transported it to the Greek islands and mainland Greece.
Later discoveries such as the one by Camps in 1974, which was based on analyses
of carbon and pollen, showed that there were olive trees in Mauritanian regions near the shores of the Sahara Desert.
Since 12,000 BC and from there, they spread to Cyprus and the coasts of Northern Africa.
In 600 BC, they were transported by the Greeks to Italy, Sicily and Sardinia.
The olive tree arrived in Spain through the Greco-Romans and the Arabs, which is why some varieties
have Latin names and others Arabic. The olive fruit as well as the oil are called ‘aceituna’ and
‘Aceite’ respectively, which are Arabic words; the tree is called ‘olivo’, which is a Latin word.
In Greece, the olive tree has been cultivated for a long time, as archeological excavations have brought to light
fossils of leaves and seeds. Seeds dating back to the Middle Minoan period have been found in Phaistos, Crete.
A silver piece depicting an olive tree was found in Mycenae.
Fossilized olive leaves approx. 50,000-60,000 years old were found in the islands of Santorini and Nisyros.
Frescoes depicting the olive tree and the tools used to crush the fruit were found in
Knossos and Thira.
During the Minoan period, people used lamps that burned olive oil for lighting.
At that time, the wealthy people stood out, among other things, due to how much oil they consumed.
Poorer people ate barley rusks, usually dipped in watery wine and
seeds of various cereals, while the wealthy included more olive oil in their diet
and fewer seeds.