Traces of olive oil dating back 8,000 years have been discovered in Israel, providing evidence of the oldest production in the country if not the world.
Experts with Israel's Antiquities Authority announced the find was made during a salvage excavation in Lower Galilee.
Ancient vessels were unearthed and examined to find out what they were used for. Findings showed that 20 of the samples dated back to 5,800 BCE and that they contained traces of olive oil very similar to modern types.
Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov found the samples at the Ein Zippori site between 2011 and 2013.
Published in the Israel Journal of Plant Sciences, the authors say the find provides the first evidence of olive oil production in Israel and possibly the whole Middle East.
While the authors did not say the production is evidence of the earliest olive oil in the world, previous research showing thousands of crushed olive stones from Kfar Samir, Haifa, suggested the earliest process dated back 7,700 years.
"Now at Zippori, evidence has been found for the first time of the use of olive oil. Together with the Kfar Samir discovery, this is the earliest evidence of olive oil production in the country, and possibly the entire Levant (the Mediterranean basin)," the authors said.
"Although it is impossible to say for sure, this might be an olive species that was domesticated and joined grain and legumes – the other kinds of field crops that we know were grown then. Those crops are known from at least 2,000 years prior to the settlement at Ein Zippori.
"With the adoption of olive oil the basic Mediterranean diet was complete. From ancient times to the present, the Mediterranean economy has been based on high quality olive oil, grain and must, the three crops frequently mentioned in the Bible."