Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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On the origin of the olive

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on February 19, 2019

The olive, known by the botanical name Olea europaea, meaning “European olive”, is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae. It is found in the Mediterranean Basin from Portugal to the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and southern Asia as far east as China, as well as the Canary Islands and Réunion.

The olive’s fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil; it is one of the core ingredients in Mediterranean cuisine.

The importance of olive manipulation has been well defined previously by Colin Renfrew (1972), suggesting that the rise of civilizations may have been made possible by the development of a polycultural triad of wheat, vineand olive in the Aegean Early Bronze Age.

Although the palynological evidence from Greece still seems debatable this far-reaching statement demonstrates the importance ascribed to olive exploitation. Fossil evidence indicates the olive tree had its origins some 20–40 million years ago in the Oligocene, in what is now corresponding to Italy and the eastern Mediterranean Basin.

The olive plant later was first cultivated some 7,000 years ago in Mediterranean regions. The edible olive seems to have coexisted with humans for about 5,000 to 6,000 years, going back to the early Bronze Age (3150 to 1200 BC).

Its origin can be traced to the Levant based on written tablets, olive pits, and wood fragments found in ancient tombs. As for the southern Levant, the period in which the manipulation of olives began is being reviewed.

It is evident that some type of olive oil production existed in many sites belonging to the Ghassulian Chalcolithic period. According to finds from several submerged sites along the Mediterranean coast, it seems that the use of olives for their oil started as early as the sixth millennium BC.

The ample remnants of olive found in archaeological contexts, together with other finds such as pottery vessels, oil lamps, and olive oil installations, indicate that the earliest widespread use of olives in Israel was noticed in the Early Bronze Age.

However, the archaeological data indicate that widespread use of olives in ancient Israel and adjacent regions should be dated not later than the Chalcolithic.

As for the domestication of olives, to date, it is still questioned whether the olives used in this very unripe industry were previously domesticated in earlier periods, such as what some authors called the Late Neolithic and others the Early Chalcolithic (sixth to fifth millennia BC).

It has been suggested that the domestication of olives occurred previously in the Chalcolithic. The palynological evidence indicates that the utilization of olives most probably began in the Chalcolithic period, when much higher olive pollen values are documented in several southern Levantine pollen spectra.

Some of these studies considered that the dramatic rise in Olea pollen reflected the spread of olive cultivation in the region, i.e. domestication of olives. However, this has been rejected by others.

According to new research the thin, small and bitter wild fruit first gave way to oil-rich, larger olives on the border between Turkey and Syria. From there the olive tree was brought into Palestine ca 4000 BC and spread to Mediterranean and North Africa.

The urban development of Canaan lagged considerably behind that of Egypt and Mesopotamia and that of Syria, where from 3,500 BCE a sizable city developed at Hamoukar.

Hamoukar is a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria (Al Hasakah Governorate), near the Iraqi and Turkish borders. The early settlement dates back to the 5th millennium BCE, and it existed simultaneously with the Ubaid and the early Uruk cultures.

It was a big centre of obsidian production. In the 3rd millennium, this was one of the largest cities of Northern Mesopotamia. It is now believed that Hamoukar was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer.

The origins of urban settlements has generally been attributed to the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC the Mesopotamian cities such of Ur and Uruk emerged.

In 2007, following the discoveries at Hamoukar, some archaeologists have argued that the Cradle of Civilization could have extended further up the Tigris River and included the part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.

It is evident that some type of olive oil production existed in many sites belonging to the Ghassulian Chalcolithic period. Ghassulian refers to a culture and an archaeological stage dating to the Middle and Late Chalcolithic Period in the Southern Levant (c. 4400 – c. 3500 BC).

The Ghassulian stage was characterized by small hamlet settlements of mixed farming peoples, who had immigrated from the north and settled in the southern Levant – today’s Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

The Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt and also seems to have affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or “bird vases”) with early Minoan culture in Crete. It was Greece however, through Phoenician merchants, who brought it in the European Mediterranean area – Italy, France, Spain, Portugal- from where it spread to America and Australia.

The findings are based on the genetic analysis of nearly 1,900 samples from around the Mediterranean Sea. Olive Trees have been a part of everyday life in the area since the beginning of civilisation.

After that first cultivation, modern-day domesticated olives came mostly from three hotspots: the Near East (including Cyprus), the Aegean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. They were then gradually spread throughout the Mediterranean with the rise of civilization. The many resources that the olive tree has to offer cannot be understated. It is believed to have contributed to the rise and power of the ancient Greek and Roman empires.

As far back as 3000 BC, olives were grown commercially in Crete; they may have been the source of the wealth of the Minoan civilization. Archaeological data and historical findings confirm that during the Minoan period (3000-1000 BC) olive cultivation and olive oil trading was widespread in Crete, which also accounts partly for the economic boom that occurred on the island during this period.

In the Palace of Knossos pottery (jars) and cisterns of stone for olive oil storage have been found, while at Phaistos one can see findings of an oil mill of that time.

In the Greek tradition, when a child is born, an olive tree is planted. The olive tree and the child will grow up together and when the child will become 6 years old, the olive tree will give its first fruit. It will grow with the family, survive through decades, and will still be there for all the coming generations to always remind us the continuity and the evolution of life.

They loved and deified the olive tree and attributed a religious and sacrosanct character to its origin, condemning to death anyone who destroyed an olive tree. Messengers would come to conclude peace carrying an olive branch, while the only award for the winners at the Olympic Games was a wreath from an olive branch.

Many Greek philosophers studied the medicinal properties of this sacred tree. Dioscorides, Diocles, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Hippocrates; the Hippocratic code features more than 60 olive treatments.

Olive oil has long been considered sacred. No fruit bearing tree in our land has been praised, painted, sung, as much as the olive tree. The olive branch was often a symbol of abundance, glory, and peace. Over the years, the olive has also been used to symbolize wisdom, fertility, power, and purity.

The olive tree’s powerful symbolism in many cultures and religions is rooted in history and tradition. It is referred to as the “blessed” tree and represents eternal life, wisdom, peace, hope and longevity and much more.

According to the Old Testament, when Noah released a dove to see if the floods had receded, it returned with an olive leaf in its beak. Genesis 8:11 in the King James Bible says, “And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.”

How far that dove must have flown to find an olive branch is beyond the scope of my knowledge and imagination. In 1974, Yasser Arafat, in a historic speech at the UN General Assembly said, “I come bearing an olive branch in one hand and a freedom fighter’s gun in the other. Do not let me drop the olive branch.” It was the first time that a non-state representative addressed the United Nations.

The leafy branches of the olive tree were ritually offered to deities and powerful figures as emblems of benediction and purification, and they were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody wars. Today, olive oil is still used in many religious ceremonies.

According to Greek mythology the olive tree was brought into being by the goddess Athena who won a contest with Poseidon god of the sea. The prize was the patronage of a great city and would be won by whoever presented the city with the best gift.

Poseidon struck the ground with his mighty trident and created a sea which although impressive, was too salty to drink. Athena, in less dramatic style knelt and planted something in the ground which grew into an olive tree. This turned out to be a much more useful gift. The tree produced not only food but oil for lighting, and wood for heat and building.

Athena won the contest and consequently the great city was named in her honour – Athens. Even today, an olive tree stands where this legendary contest took place, and it is said that all the olive trees in Athens are descended from the olive tree grown by Athena.

The olives produced are highly prized and a wreath made from its branches travels to the opening ceremony of each Olympic Games since the Athens games in 2004.

Olive trees can live for many years and carbon dating has revealed some to be over a thousand years old. The expected life of an olive tree is 300 to 600 years, yet there are olive trees more than 1,000 years old.

One of the oldest living olive trees in the world grows in Crete and is estimated to be more than 3000 years old. It has been growing and bearing fruit since Biblical times and has been declared a national monument.

The al Badawi olive tree in Bethlehem, which researchers peg to somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 years old, is likely the oldest living olive tree in the world. Though the tree is exceedingly old, in this ancient region of the Middle East the practice of squeezing oil from olives is even older.

According to finds from several submerged sites along the Mediterra-nean coast, it seems that the use of olives for their oilstarted as early as the sixth millennium BC. According to new archaeological research, the people were producing olive oil in the region as far back as 8,000 years ago.

In a dig at the site of the Bronze Age town of Ein Zippori, just over a mile west of Nazareth, researchers unearthed shards of broken pottery containers. According to Live Science, chemical analyses of the pottery shards revealed the traces of ancient olive oil.

Of the nearly two dozen pottery containers found at the site, two dated to around 5,800 BC. The find pushes back, by several centuries, the onset of olive oil production. The find may mark the earliest known case of olive oil production in the Mediterranean basin.

Realizing the value of the olive oil, the Romans contributed to the spread of the olive tree throughout the territories of their empire. Trade grew even more and Roman ships were carrying large quantities of oil in areas where olive trees were not cultivated, or in areas where there was a lack of olive oil due to low production.

It was the period when new olive extraction techniques were developed and great progress was made in the dissemination of the olive-related knowledge. In Byzantine times the traditional olive cultivation centers were maintained, while the olive groves of the Christian monasteries accounted for a large part of the total production.

Olive oil distribution followed the ancient schemes: it was stored in special jars, loaded onto vessels and led to major urban centers or wherever there was an increase of demand.

The need for light (illumination of temples, palaces and houses), alongside other uses, created a rising demand, meaning the Empire was continuously deficient in olive oil. It is not surprising therefore that quite often the authorities would prohibit exports, even though the Byzantine Empire was the largest exporter of olive oil worldwide. The Spanish spread the olive tree to the American continent.

In the years of the Ottoman Empire a further rise of olive oil trade occurred and maritime transportation was developed, facilitating the sea routes from the Aegean Sea to Western Europe. In the era of the Ottoman occupation, not only did oil trade reinforce local economies, but also boosted soap production, which in turn created dynamic manufacturing units.

In oil producing regions such as Crete, consulates of European countries were gradually settled. In the 1800 century oil exports supply the European markets not only with an edible product, but also with the raw material for the production of soap.

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