How Olive Oil Was Extracted in Ancient Times?

Olive oil is a staple in many households across the world and is known for its health benefits and versatility in cooking. But have you ever wondered how olive oil was extracted in ancient times? Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the traditional methods used by our ancestors.

Harvesting the Olives

The first step in extracting olive oil was harvesting the olives. This was done by handpicking the olives from the trees or by using long sticks to knock them off. It was important to ensure that only ripe olives were collected, as unripe ones could affect the quality of the oil.

The Olive Press

Once harvested, the olives were taken to an olive press where they would be crushed to extract their oil. The ancient olive presses were made of stone or wood and consisted of a large basin where the olives were placed and crushed under a heavy stone or beam.

The Crushing Process

The crushing process involved grinding the olives into a paste using either a millstone or mortar and pestle. The paste was then spread onto circular mats made of woven fibers, which were stacked on top of each other.

Pressing for Oil

The stack of mats was then placed into an olive press, which consisted of two large wooden beams with a screw mechanism. The beams would be tightened, applying pressure to the mats and forcing out the oil from the paste.

Separating Oil from Water

After pressing, there would be a mixture of oil and water, which needed to be separated. In ancient times, this was done by using settling tanks where gravity would cause any leftover water to sink to the bottom while the oil floated on top.

Final Step: Storing Olive Oil

Once separated, olive oil was stored in earthenware jars or amphorae, which were sealed with cork or resin to prevent air from getting in and spoiling the oil. The jars were then stored in cool, dark places to preserve the quality of the oil.


In conclusion, olive oil extraction in ancient times was a labor-intensive process that required a lot of hard work and patience. However, the end result was a pure and high-quality olive oil that was used for cooking, medicine, and even religious ceremonies. Today, modern machinery has made this process much easier, but it’s important to remember and honor the traditions of our ancestors who paved the way for us.