Olive Oil General Information

Mediterranean diet Health Effects

Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive (Olea europaea; family Oleaceae), a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Olive oil is used throughout the world, but especially in the Mediterranean countries. The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean basin; wild olives were collected by Neolithic peoples as early as the 8th millennium BC.

The wild olive tree originated in Asia Minor in modern Turkey.

It is not clear when and where olive trees were first domesticated: in Asia Minor in the 6th millennium; along the Levantine coast stretching from the Sinai Peninsula to modern Turkey in the 4th millennium; or somewhere in the Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent in the 3rd millennium.

A widespread view exists that the first cultivation took place on the island of Crete. Archeological evidence suggest that olives were being grown in Crete as long ago as 2,500 B.C. The earliest surviving olive oil amphorae date to 3500 BC (Early Minoan times), though the production of olive is assumed to have started before 4000 BC. An alternative view retains that olives were turned into oil by 4500 BC by Canaanites in present-day Israel.
Ancient oil press
Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, Bodrum, Turkey

Homer called it "liquid gold." In ancient Greece, athletes ritually rubbed it all over their bodies. Olive oil has been more than mere food to the peoples of the Mediterranean: it has been medicinal, magical, an endless source of fascination and wonder and the fountain of great wealth and power. Indeed the importance of the olive industry in ancient economies cannot be overstatedrranean countries.

 

 
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