The olive tree is known to be among the oldest trees in the world, which for years governed the destiny of mankind and left their imprint.
Olive leaf fossils have been found in Italy. Fossils have been discovered in North Africa, and pieces of wild olive trees and stones have been found in excavations during the Bronze Age in Spain. The existence of the olive tree therefore dates back to the 12th millennium BC.
The wild olive tree originated in Asia Minor (the peninsula also called Anatolia, the modern part of Turkey and the Armenian highland). Most people there today speak Turkish. The seas surrounding Asia Minor are the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
So, the birthplace was Asia Minor some six millennia ago. It appears to have spread from Syria to Greece to lower Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, Palestine, Iran, the Atlas Mountains to certain areas of Europe – the entire Mediterranean Basin.
In the 16th century BC the Phoenicians introduced the olive to the Greek isles where its cultivation increased and gained great importance in the 4th century BC when Solon requested decrees in olive planting. Another study though, shows that from the 6th century BC onwards the olive spread throughout the Mediterranean countries reaching Tunis and the island of Sicily, Italy.
The Arabs brought their varieties with them to the south of Spain and influenced the spread of cultivation so much that the Spanish word for olive (aceituna) has Arabic roots (azeitona).
With the discovery of America (1492) olive farming spread beyond its Mediterranean confines. The first olive trees were carried from Seville to the West Indies and later to the American Continent. By 1560 olive groves were being cultivated in Mexico, then later in Peru, California, Chile and Argentina, where one of the plants brought over during the Conquest – the old Arauco olive tree – lives to this day.