The Olive Tree

To quell the storm of discussions I have had to endure about olive oil and in the event that it should happen here, I decided to include a short note on my view of the origin of the olive tree.  Please note that this is merely my opinion and I still firmly believe that the olive oil, as we know it today, was first made in Greece. However, as to the tree itself, here goes:
There are theories that the tree originated in the region between Pamir and Turkestan, to my mind a good theory. However, fossils of the leaf have been found in Italy, Mongardino to be exact; at the Relilai snail hatchery in North Africa (as I mentioned in earlier articles) and also in Spain, dating from the Bronze age in the 12th millennium before Christ!!  All interesting, all probably true with a grain (or a pip) of truth.
It seems that the wild olive tree, itself, originated in an area near India all the way to Asia minor (where it grows well) and spread from Syria to Greece via Egypt which included Ethiopia. There are a myriad of hypotheses that consider Europe as the birthplace of the wild olive tree and the tree, as we know it, to have originated in Asia Minor 6 millennia ago. Only thing that niggles is that the tree as we know it (Olea europaea) derives from the wild one.   Only the Babylonians and the Assyrians did not know the tree, everyone else did.  It is a good theory.
Then in 1600  – 1700 BC the Phoenicians, being the great shipping nation that they were, started shipping the seeds throughout the Greek isles and later, Greece itself.  The Greek discussion will be found in earlier articles.  So, the Greeks got the seeds from Egypt who had received the seeds from either North Africa or Asia.  Whilst the Egyptians happily used the leaves, they just couldn’t get the oil right but the Greeks could.   It supports both the Asian and the African theories to some extent as well as the theory that the oil arrived in Italy during the reign of Lacius Tarquinius Priscus the elder who lived in 616 BC – 578 BC.  In other words, from Asia or Africa to Egypt via the Egyptians using the Phoenicians or themselves to Greece and then to Italy.  The Greeks knew that the Berbers had figured out how to graft wild olives and managed to learn from them.
That’s as much (or little) as I care to know, since all I really care about is the product and the oil.  So, thanks Greeks.


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