Ever-present on Mankind’s existence, the olive tree is a common factor in many milestones of our history. Native to the Mediterranean basin; wild olives were collected by Neolithic peoples as early as the 8th millennium BC. A widespread view exists that the first cultivation took place on the island of Crete. Archeological evidence suggests that olives were being grown in Crete as long ago as 2,500 BC. The earliest surviving olive oil amphorae dates to 3500 BC (Early Minoan times), though the production of olive is assumed to have started before 4000 BC.
The importance and antiquity of olive oil is demonstrated in the fact that the English word oil derives from c. 1175, olive oil, from Anglo-Fr. and O.N.Fr olie, from O.Fr. oile (12c., Mod.Fr. huile), from L. oleum "oil, olive oil" (cf. It. olio), from Gk. elaion "olive tree", which may have been borrowed through trade networks from the Semitic Phoenician use of el'yon meaning "superior", probably in recognized comparison to other vegetable or animal fats available at the time.Back