The World's Oldest Olive Oil

The World's Oldest Olive Oil

Not only is olive oil at the heart of almost every dish that comes from Italy (or the Mediterranean region in general), in the Roman era, it was so important that it was collected as part of provincial taxes. Recently though, the question has become about exactly when Italians began extracting olive oil. A study of pottery fragments recovered from an archaeological site in Castelluccio shows that oil was being produced in the region nearly 4,000 years ago, thus pushing the timeline of the production of olive oil in Italy 700 years earlier than previously believed according to Anne Ewbank at Atlas Obscura.

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 5.23.13 PM.png

Conservators from the Archaeological Museum of Siracusa pieced together some 400 fragments found at the site to rebuild a 3.5 foot jar and restored two basins separated by an internal septum as well as a large terracotta cooking plate. Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, the team discovered traces of oleic and linoleic acid which are present in the chemical makeup of olive oil. Further testing aided them in determining the actual age of the oil. 

Daniel Dawson of Olive Oil Times has written that storage jars dating back to the 12th and 11th century BCE in southern Italy’s Cosenza and Lecce previously held the record for holding the oldest traces of olive oil in Italy, and while the oil is a signature of Italy, it’s only half as old as the world’s earliest extra virgin which was uncovered in 2014 in Israel.


While the olive oil that was once stored in these containers is long gone(& would be rancid even if it did survive to this day), it’s still possible to taste some olives from the Bronze Age. An olive tree in Bethlehem is believed to be 4,000 to 5,000 years old and the Olive Tree of Vouves in Crete is believed to be 2,000 to 3,000 years old.

We hope you've enjoyed learning about The World's Oldest Olive Oil! Would you be willing to travel across the world to taste the olives produced by a 5,000 year old olive tree? Join the conversation below!