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Olive oil..and history


Olive oil has been used for various needs since prehistoric times.

In Methana, Doefner found the oldest mill (said to be dated back in the 4th millenium B.C.) evidence which shows that olive oil was used at that time.

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In Homeric times, oil was primarily used for the body and not for food or for the lighting of fires.

In certain artefacts found in Pylos, and where we read the word "pa-qa" (fovri/fovras), we conclude that at that time the fruit of the olive tree was used as food for cattle. Moreover, the continual references to fragrant oils, we come to the assumption that, in that particular era, oil was used mainly in religious ceremonies, beautifying the body, and the making of ointments.

The importance of the olive in the diet, during ancient times, was testified by Sophocles. He stated, " 'paidotrofon'...which thrives more on this here land, the galanophylli (sky-blue coloured leaves) oil which nourishes men.

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An example of wealth from ancient times is testified by Aristophanes in his "Pluto",(wealth). Wine and oil are the products which are of basic needs. "Teamed with white flour in the cellar, black fragrant wine in the flasks. Silver and gold are brimmed over in the household's crockery, a miraculous sight. Filled with oil is the pot, with ointments in the small vials, and with figs in the attic".

From prehistoric times, oil was an essential food commodity. It was more widely used in cooking during the classical years. Complex ways of cooking were devised and there was a search for original recipes. Olive oil intended for the use of cooking was always of good quality, depending on the conditions in production that prevailed in each location. Farmers used to consume it raw (uncooked). Many finds from excavations show that the consumption of olive oil was widespread in ancient Greece. Plentiful findings of utensils, jars, etc., an indication that oil and olives were consumed,were primarily used for the storage of oil. In ancient times the well-known oil came from Samos and Ikaria, whereas Attica, in contrast with other products, was not only self-sufficient but the exporter of olive oil and olives.

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Oil was necessary for the lighting of a lamp. Dating back to prehistoric times, olive oil was used to give light to houses and public buildings. These ancient lamps give us a clear indication of daily life in ancient times, and the role olive oil played as combustible material for the lighting of homes.

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Light was the bonding between a colony and its motherland along with the nursery of olive trees, which were taken with them upon migration, resulting in the spreading of olive cultivation and to areas of the western mediterranean. At nightly rituals that required lighting the role of the oil was sacred as is the case in todays worship.


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