The Mediterranean of Olive trees

Try to imagine the natural landscape of the coastal areas of the Mediterranean basin many thousand years ago.
Let us say 50,000 or 60,000 years ago…

This is not a random number, as that is the age of the oldest olive tree, samples of which were found on the island of Santorini. The age of the olive tree was determined through laboratory testing, following its discovery by Mr. Evangelos Velitzelos1 , Professor of Paleobotany at the University of Athens, according to whom:

“plant fossils of rare phyto-geographical importance were collected from the walls of the Santorini caldera, such as fossilized olive tree leaves – quite rare for the Mediterranean – that are 50,000 to 60,000 years in age…”

In all likelihood, this is a type of “ancestor” of the contemporary olive tree. Apparently, it did not only grow on the island of Santorini, but covered large expanses of lowlands, coastal areas and semi-mountainous areas of the entire Mediterranean basin (according to other findings and samples, such as leaves, pollen, stones, etc.). In fact, the soil and climate conditions of coastal Mediterranean areas (long sunshine duration, mild winters, cool summers, mountainous and hilly topography, naturally fertile soil) are such that justify the now broadly accepted view that the Mediterranean is the birthplace of the olive tree. In fact, such is the interconnection between the Mediterranean and olive trees that many consider the presence of olive trees as a criterion for its demarcation.

“The Mediterranean begins in the north, where the first olive trees appear, and ends in the south, where the first palm trees appear”,

notes French historian Fernand Braudel.

 

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1 Minutes of the conference titled “The olive in the past and the future”, Andros, 1999.

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