since when did we domesticate fruit trees? Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University reveal. The oldest domesticated tree existed 7000 years ago.
Charcoal remains from a site in the Jordan Valley were checked. It was determined that they came from olive trees. The olive tree did not grow naturally in the Jordan Valley. What does this mean? That the inhabitants intentionally planted the tree 7,000 years ago.
Olive and fig trees
The study was led by Dr. Dafna Langgut of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Tel Aviv University. The charcoal remains were found in the archaeological excavation. It was led by Professor Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“Trees, even when burned to charcoal, can be identified by their anatomical structure. Wood was the ‘plastic’ of the ancient world. It was used for construction, to make tools and furniture, and as a source of energy,” explains Langgut.
He identified the charcoal as belonging to olive and fig trees. “Olive trees grow wild in the land of Israel, but they don’t grow in the Jordan Valley,” he says. “This means that someone brought them there intentionally. He brought the knowledge and the plant itself to a place that is outside its natural habitat. It’s indisputable proof of domestication. It is the oldest domesticated tree in the world. There are also fig trees.
Granaries and riches
“Large houses with courtyards were discovered at the site, each with several granaries for storing crops. Clearly these were caches for storing great wealth. The wealth of the village was manifested in the production of elaborate pottery, painted with remarkable skill.”
It was no surprise to discover that these inhabitants were the first in the world to intentionally cultivate olive and fig trees. Growing fruit trees is a test of living standards. And this site was known to have been exceptionally prosperous.