Olive oil has always been a part of our diet, our weekly shop and even our beauty routines; it’s been there in our lives for as long as we can remember. Everyone is aware of its importance, but not many people stop to think about when exactly it began to have a place in our lives. Where did it all start? In Crete? Egypt? Rome? To properly understand our roots, we often have to look to the past...
Archaeologists working in the Mediterranean area have discovered many tools used for harvesting and milling. Following these discoveries, researchers from all over the world have carried out a range of studies to determine the precise origins of olive oil in our culture. Although it has not yet been conclusively established, numerous reports point to the beginning of oil consumption as we know it today arising in Crete, Syria, Palestine and Israel over 5000 years ago, before spreading to southern Turkey, Cyprus and Egypt.
At that time, olive oil extraction technologies were gradually refined and by 1500 BC it had become an essential substance in Ancient Greece. In 1876, German archaeological digs in Mycenae, Tiryns and Argolis started to turn up olive seeds, oil lamps and containers for selling oil. There is evidence, then, that commercial networks were created and production techniques began to be refined and improved. Interestingly, in addition to the most common uses, athletes used to rub their body with oil. And so olive oil has always been much more than just food: it has been medicine, a symbol of abundance and even a sign of peace.
With the expansion of the Greek colonies, olive culture reached southern Italy and northern Africa in the eighth century BC, before eventually spreading to southern France, Spain and Portugal. Olive trees were planted throughout the Mediterranean basin under Roman rule, and finally arrived in America in the sixteenth century. These days, olive groves can be found in South Africa, China and Vietnam, southern Oceania, and throughout America, and the total global production of olive oil has been growing steadily since the beginning of the twentieth century.