Olive Oil: A Brief History

Olive Oil History: The Begining

References to the Olive and Olive Oil have been established within the civilized world for a very long time. For millennia, Olive Oil has been more than just a food to the cultures of the Mediterranean region: it has also been medicinal, ceremonial, magical, and the foundation of great wealth and power. The oil of its fruit has anointed the noblest of heads throughout history. The olive tree has given its branches to crown victorious athletes of sport, and victorious generals of war with wreaths. Homer called it “Liquid Gold”, and in Spain, a century-old saying states: “Olive oil makes the pain go away”.

The Olive Tree (Olea europaea); belongs to the family Oleaceae along with lilacs, jasmine and ash trees. It originated in the Mediterranean basin, in Asia Minor and near Syria. In the present day, it is extremely abundant in Asia Minor and it grows in thick forests. From here, it appears to have spread from Syria to Turkey, and then to Greece and Crete. In Asia Minor, cultivation of the olive began approximately 6000 years ago. The Olive Tree is among the oldest known of cultivated trees in the world, and was grown before the written language was created.

Olive Oil: Commerce and Power

By as early as 3000BC in Crete, the olive was widely cultivated and a very prized commodity. Very sophisticated ships loaded with earthenware amphorae were built solely for the olive oil trade. In fact, Olive Oil trade may have been the source of wealth for this advanced Minoan civilization.

Following this point, in the 2000 to 3000 years that followed, several cultures and civilizations are credited by several accounts, for being responsible for the spreading of the Olive Tree to the countries bordering the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans are all responsible to some degree for the olive’s introduction into coastal North Africa, Sardinia, Corsica, Marseilles and then the rest of Gaul (present day France), Spain and Portugal.

Olive Oil: The New World Expansion

Cultivation of the Olive Tree, its place in commerce, society, religion, and culture, continued to thrive in the Mediterranean until the discovery of America in 1492. At this time, olive cultivation spread beyond its Mediterranean borders. The first olive trees were carried from Seville, Spain, to the West Indies and later to the American Continent. By 1560 olive groves were being cultivated in Mexico, then later in Peru, California, Chile and Argentina. In the past several hundred years the olive has spread to North and South America, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and even Japan!

Olive Oil: A Renewed Cultural Wealth

Today consumers of increased awareness recognize the health benefits of a diet rich in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and at the same time, are embracing and supporting a revival in the culture of bath & body products that use Olive Oil and olive extracts as their primary ingredients. Is it possible that a diet rich in olives and Olive Oil is the answer to a lifestyle free of serious heart disease and longevity? A great amount of research clearly points to the Mediterranean Diet.