Olive oil is a fat obtained from the olive, a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. The oil is produced by grinding whole olives and extracting the oil by mechanical or chemical means. 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. History
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 ancient Greece. 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;--> 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 BC. The earliest surviving olive oil amphorae date to 3500 BC, 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. Besides food, olive oil has been used for religious rituals, medicines, as a fuel in oil lamps, soap-making, and skin care application. The importance and antiquity of olive oil can be seen in the fact that the English word oil derives from c. 1175, olive oil, from Anglo-Fr. and O.N.Fr. olie, from O.Fr. oile, from L. oleum "oil, olive oil", from Gk. elaion "olive tree", which may have been borrowed through trade networks from the Semitic Phoenician use of el'yon meaning "superior", probably in recognized comparison to other vegetable or animal fats available at the time. Robin Lane Fox suggests that the Latin borrowing of Greek elaion for oil is itself a marker for improved Greek varieties of oil-producing olive, already present in Italy as Latin was forming, brought by Euboean traders, whose presence in Latium is signaled by remains of their characteristic pottery, from the mid-8th century. Recent genetic studies suggest that species used by modern cultivators descend from multiple wild populations, but a detailed history of domestication is not yet understood. Many ancient presses still exist in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and some dating to the Roman period are still in use today. Eastern Mediterranean
Over 5,000 years ago oil was being extracted from olives in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the centuries that followed, olive presses became common, from the Atlantic shore of North Africa to Persia and from the Po Valley to the settlements along the Nile. Olive trees and oil production in the Eastern Mediterranean can be traced to archives of the ancient city-state Ebla, which were located on the outskirts of the Syrian city Aleppo. Here some dozen documents dated 2400 BC describe lands of the king and the queen. These belonged to a library of clay tablets perfectly preserved by having been baked in the fire that destroyed the palace. A later source is the frequent mentions of oil in Tanakh. Dynastic Egyptians before 2000 BC imported olive oil from Crete, Syria and Canaan and oil was an important item of commerce and wealth. Remains of olive oil have been found in jugs over 4,000 years old in a tomb on the island of Naxos in the Aegean Sea. Sinuhe, the Egyptian exile who lived in northern Canaan about 1960 BC, wrote of abundant olive trees. Until 1500 BC, eastern coastal areas of the Mediterranean were most heavily cultivated. Olive trees were certainly cultivated by the Late Minoan period in Crete, and perhaps as early as the Early Minoan. The cultivation of olive trees in Crete became particularly intense in the post-palatial period and played an important role in the island's economy. The Minoans used olive oil in religious ceremonies. The oil became a principal product of the Minoan...
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