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The History of Olive Tree

Olive Tree is a symbol of peace, wisdom, fertility, prosperity, health, luck and victory. Olive trees have existed longer than modern humans. For example, wild olive leaf fossils from the Greek island of Evia date back 23 million years. At Santorini, 37,000 to 50,000-year-old leaf fossils from the olive species Olea europaea have been discovered in the volcanic crater.

Humans began to use olive oil in the Middle Neolithic Period, as far back as 4500 BC, according to traces in a bowl found in Gerani Cave in Rethymno, Crete. The olive oil traces found in Rethymno about 6500 years ago imply that olive oil was already part of the Cretan diet then, and by 2000 BC the Cretans seem to have begun “to exploit the tree systematically, producing olive oil as we know it today”

During the time of Homer, the olive tree had already acquired a very important role in the daily life of Greeks. In Classical Athens, it was considered sacred, godsend, and it was protected by the state…

The prosperity of Athens during the Golden Age was attributed, amongst others, to olive oil production. The importance of the olive tree to ancient Greeks is highlighted in the ancient texts.

In Crete, a great part of the population was engaged in systematic cultivation of the olive tree, which contributed to the development of the famous Minoan civilization.

Cultivation of this sacred tree continued through the centuries. In Roman times, olive oil was well known and the empire took measures to protect it In the Byzantine era, olive oil was produced on a large scale in many regions of Greece, such as the Peloponnese.

Written evidence from that period proves that the olive tree enjoyed the same respect as in ancient times and its products were still considered beneficial to humans.

Later, during Ottoman occupation, olive oil trade was a factor for economic development in olive growing regions. After the establishment of the Greek state in 1830, olive oil cultivation quickly expanded throughout Greece. Olive oil was a key product in many regions, like the Peloponnese, Crete, the Ionian and Aegean islands and the mainland.

Nowadays in Greece, olive growing is thriving and olive oil is the main product in many areas. Olive trees cover around 60 percent of the cultivated land (approximately 132.000.000 trees in an area of 6.900 km²) and the 87 percent of tree crops. Greece produces around 360.000 tons of olive oil each year (3rd in the world), 82 percent of it is extra virgin (1st in the world with this ratio). The production of edible olives comes from the cultivation of 21 million trees which puts Greece first in the world with a production of...per year. Olive oil is the main source of income for around 700.000 families.

Finally, olive growing maintains agricultural activity in disadvantaged areas and prevents rural depopulation in regions with unfavorable climatic and soil conditions.


source: The routes of the olive tree

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