Archaeologists Discover Ancient Olive Oil Dating Back To The Early Bronze Age In Italy

The olive oil was held inside pottery and with tests confirming it dates to around the 2nd century BC, it is the oldest olive oil ever recovered in Italy.

The oldest olive oil has just been discovered in Italy as archaeologists find Early Bronze Age era olive oil in jar.
Gregorio Borgia / AP Images

The olive oil was held inside pottery and with tests confirming it dates to around the 2nd century BC, it is the oldest olive oil ever recovered in Italy.

While olive oil is certainly a popular accompaniment to many Italian dishes, it would appear that it has been that way for even longer than previously thought as archaeologists have just discovered the oldest known olive oil in Italy that dates back to the Early Bronze Age.

The new study conducted on the ancient olive oil has shown that it can be dated from the very early end of the 3rd century BC to the start of the 2nd century BC, showing researchers that Italians were cooking with the delightful amber liquid for hundreds of years before it was actually believed to have been in use, as Phys.org report.

The new study on the Bronze Age Italian olive oil was led by the University of South Florida’s Dr. Davide Tanasi. Researchers took broken pieces of pottery that had been found in the 1990s at the Sicilian site of Castelluccio and conducted a chemical analysis on the residue that had been left behind inside the large jar.

After archaeologists carefully obtained the olive oil residue for tests, the 400 fragments of the unusual pottery were once again assembled to form a 3.5-foot container that also had three handles situated on each side of it.

Also discovered at the Castelluccio site were other cooking utensils that included a plate constructed out of terracotta and special pottery that was used to keep objects to be cooked all together in one place, yet separated.

Dr. Tanasi has commented on the other remarkable finds that were also discovered along with the oldest Italian olive oil, describing the items as being entirely different from other artifacts that archaeologists had recovered from the site previously.

“The shape of this storage container and the nearby septum was like nothing else Voza found at the site in Castelluccio. It had the signature of Sicilian tableware dated to the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE (Early Bronze Age). We wanted to learn how it was used, so we conducted chemical analysis on organic residues found inside.”

To accurately determine what the residue was that was found inside the pottery, researchers used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry.

After tests showed the presence of oleic and linoleic acids, it was determined that the liquid would have been olive oil, and excitingly would have dated all the way back to the Sicilian Early Bronze Age, which means that Italians were using olive oil 700 years before they were thought to, as Dr. Davide Tanasi explained.

“The results obtained with the three samples from Castelluccio become the first chemical evidence of the oldest olive oil in Italian prehistory, pushing back the hands of the clock for the systematic olive oil production by at least 700 years.”

The new study on the oldest olive oil that has ever been discovered in Italy can be read in Analytical Methods.