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The History of Olive Oil
(See how the people of Syria were the pilots in the art of Olive Oil making)

Specialists acknowledge that Olive was first a native of the lands of greater Syria (nearly six thousand years ago) before spreading to the rest of the Mediterranean basin. Legend claims that the Olive tree made its first appearance in Syria, in the ancient city-state of Ebla.
The kingdom of Ebla is located on the outskirts of the Syrian city Aleppo. During the height of its power
( 2600-2240 BC), Ebla dominated northern Syria, Lebanon, and parts of northern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and enjoyed trade and diplomatic relations with states as far away as Egypt, Iran, and Sumer

The interesting thing about Ebla, is that there was a library of clay tablets that had been perfectly preserved by having been baked in the fire that destroyed the palace. Many of the tablets dealt with administrative and commercial affairs. The tablets that have been consolidated by fire, included one considered as the first bilingual dictionary in the world. These tablets use cuneiform script and are written in many languages.

The first official documentation regarding olive trees and oil production was found in the archives of the ancient city-state Ebla. It consists of almost 12 documents, dated 2400 BC, describing lands in the property of the king & the queen concerning olive tree plantations. The archive sites 4000 jars of Olive Oil being held for the royal family and staff and 7000 jars for the people. As each jar could hold up to 60 kg of oil, the quantities cited in such documentation are impressive: 700 tons of oil and over 1465 hectares of plantations. The significance of this is realized when it is known that the Akkadian population of Ebla at the time was around 15,000. , which makes Olive Oil a major industry at the time. The term itself used in Arabic to name the olive (zeitoun) has a very close resemblance to the Akkadian term "zi-ir-tun" meaning Olive. One of the oldest olive oil related archaeological findings are huge jars found in the Ancient City of Ebla, which was filled with olive oil and used for trade with Egypt through the port city of Ugarit.

The cultivation of the Olive trees, is one of the oldest signs of civilization in the world. It even preceded writing. The Olive culture, derived from the benefits of Olive Oil, and the mythology linked to it spread through the Phoenicians to Greece, and from Greece to Rome, and then to the rest of the Western world. In the past few hundred years, the growth of Olive has spread to the Americas, Japan, Australia, and South Africa. Nevertheless, until this day around 99 percent of all olive oil still spills from the rim of the Mediterranean.
Ancestral devotion to the olive tree has carried down to later generations converting many into olive oil aficionados.

Today, 6000 years after the spread of Olive cultivation from Syria to the rest of the Mediterranean, Syrians are still among the leading producers of Olive Oil (it ranks sixth in Olive Oil output). The Syrian soil and climate is still as always, the best accustomed for the growth of Olive Oil. Syrian villages still linked to there past, have definitely got the best know-how of the art of Olive growing. This ancient know-how has definitely improved and advanced in time, however, some basics characteristics remain such as the use of natural mechanisms rather than chemical solutions.

Mystical Olive Oil.
Olive trees have a long life and are believed to live 300 to 600 years but perhaps even longer. Even when its trunk and branches may die, the olive tree sprouts once again bringing life into a new tree. Today it is estimated that approximately 800 million olive trees thrive on earth with approximately 400 different varieties of olive trees cultivated worldwide. But more impressive than the numbers is the divine air that seems to filter through the branches of the Olive tree.
The Mediterranean world has regarded the olive as sacred for thousands of years. In many religions and cultures throughout history, the olive tree has served some purpose and has been a symbol of peace, life, and fertility. Ebla, the first civilization proven to have known olive oil, offered the golden liquid to their gods. Later, the ancient Egyptian credited the Goddess Isis with teaching mankind its cultivation and wisdom. The Pharaohs also used olive oil to aid in building the pyramids. During modern excavations of Egyptian tombs, containers of olive oil were found among the graves. The Greeks believed that Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, bestowed the olive on mankind thereby winning a contest between the Gods for presenting the most useful gift. In Ancient Greece, athletes used olive oil to rub over their bodies. The first Olympic torch was a burning olive branch. The Bible is brimming with references to olive oil, from the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (oil as lamp fuel) to the story of the Good Samaritan (oil as unguent) to the prophet Elisha's rescue of the destitute widow (oil as item of trade). All in all, the Bible contains 140 references to Olive Oil and the Koran and Hadith mention the value of Olive Oil several times. In one Hadith, the Prophet (saws) was said to have stated that Olive Oil has in it a cure for seventy diseases. Today the king of Saudi Arabia gives it as a traditional gift to pilgrims to Mecca.

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By: Castalia