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Title: Primary domestication and early uses of the emblematic olive tree: palaeobotanical, historical and molecular evidences from the Middle East
Authors: Kaniewski, David ×
Van Campo, Elise
Boiy, Tom
Terral, Jean-Frédéric
Khadari, Bouchaïb
Besnard, Guillaume #
Issue Date: 2012
Series Title: Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society vol:87 issue:4 pages:885-899
Abstract: Our knowledge of the origins of olive tree domestication in the Middle East and on the processes governing its extension and persistence in different vegetation types from prehistory through antiquity to modern time derives from diverse sources, spanning the biological sciences to the humanities. Nonetheless, it lacks a robust overview that may lead to floating interpretations. This is especially true in the Middle East, considered as the cradle of agriculture, and where the evolutionary history of this emblematic tree is intertwined with that of civilizations. Olive fruit, oil and wood have been, since Prehistoric times, characteristic products of the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. In the domestic economy of these countries, the olive tree gradually became a traditional tree crop since the first oil extraction,
through the emergence of regional commerce that accompanied the rise and fall of early Near-Middle Eastern urbanism, until the development of modern trade, with an oil production estimated at circa 3,000,000 tons by year. The rising importance of olive in people’s life has
turned the tree into an endless source of fascination in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, a symbol and a sacred tree, widely cited in the Bibles, the Koran, and in ancient literature. Here we argue that advances in radiocarbon chronology, palaeobotany, genetics, and archaeology-history have profoundly refined the history of olive trees in the Middle East. This review shows that the heartland of primary olive domestication must be enlarged to the
Levant and not only focus on the Jordan Valley. The domestication of olive tree is a long and ongoing process, similar to the early production of oil and the development of olive trade. We also suggest that the olive tree became a particular icon, a sacred tree during the Biblical
period in the Levant.
ISSN: 0006-3231
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Near Eastern Studies, Leuven
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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