How Was Olive Oil Made in Ancient Times?

Olive oil has been used for centuries, both as a culinary ingredient and for medicinal purposes. The history of olive oil dates back to ancient times when it was first produced in the Mediterranean region.

The Origin of Olive Oil

The earliest evidence of olive oil production dates back to around 4000 BC in the eastern Mediterranean region. The ancient Egyptians were among the first to use olive oil for medicinal purposes, and it was also used in religious rituals.

How Was Olive Oil Made?

In ancient times, olives were harvested by hand and then crushed using large stone mills. The olives were placed on a flat stone surface and crushed with a heavy stone cylinder. This process would extract the juice from the olives, which was then collected in clay jars.


After collecting the juice, it was placed into woven baskets made of reed or hemp. These baskets were then stacked on top of each other with a wooden board between each layer. A press was then applied to the top of the stack, which would extract even more oil from the pulp.


Once all of the oil had been extracted from the pulp, it was separated from any remaining water or sediment using a process called decantation. This involved pouring the oil into large vats and allowing it to settle for several days. The clear oil would rise to the top, while any sediment or water would sink to the bottom.


Finally, once all impurities had been removed, the olive oil was ready for storage. In ancient times, it was stored in large clay jars or amphorae that were sealed with cork or wax to prevent air from entering.

The Importance of Olive Oil in Ancient Times

Olive oil played an important role in ancient Mediterranean culture. It was used for cooking, lighting lamps, and even as a form of currency. In addition, it was highly valued for its medicinal properties and was often used to treat wounds, skin conditions, and digestive issues.


The process of making olive oil in ancient times was a labor-intensive process that required a great deal of skill and patience. However, the end result was a valuable commodity that played an important role in the daily lives of people in the Mediterranean region. Today, olive oil is still highly prized for its culinary and medicinal properties and is produced using modern methods that are more efficient but still honor the tradition of this ancient ingredient.