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History of Olives

I admire all the good food, and vegetables. If you don’t know anything about a fruit, first you look if the animals eat it or touch it, if they don’t you would be scared to do so. But if you look at an olive tree, birds will not eat the olives even bugs are very rare, and if you dare to eat it as it is on the tree it is horrible bitter and will disturb your stomach. How on earth mankind found out this fruit could become a delicious and precious item where ever it grows.

The answer to this is at the Oleatrium, near Ephesus in Davutlar, which should not be missed if you are anywhere near Ephesus, or if you are in Bodrum join us on our foodie trip to Oleatrium and Ephesus. Oleatrium Olive Museum owner Mrs. Gursel Tombul was very kind to share The below information on history of olives with us.

Ionian Era

The Ionians, who had shown particular developments on economy and culture between 900-300 B.C in western Anatolia, founded the 12 Ionic cities union. One of the most important and developed cities of this union was “Klozemenai” Urla today. According to the archaeological findings and excavations, olive oil extraction technic was founded in the 6th Century B.C. This technic known as “Klozemenai Workshop” which was the most developed olive oil producing technic of Anatolia or even of the world during this era. The running technic of the original workshop in Urla was created with the incredible genius pattern.
System was ;
1. Harvested and selected olives are crushed with a mechanism rotated by human-power and turns into a paste.
2. The olive paste filled in special sacks and carried over the pres. Filled sacks placed on the platform, pressed with a double-stranded winch.
3. Lifting up the weight Stone, with the support of the winch, increases the pressure and the power of the pres.
4. The Provided oil is transferred into the Stone-carved pools by a wooden canal. In these “combined vessels” formatted pools, the oil is seperated from its vegetable-water. Than the olive oil is transferred into the earthenware jars to store and fort he last to the amphoreas to transport.

Transitional Era

A long period, after the Ionian Era and several archeological findings in the Middle East, it is a pity that there is no historical record for the following 600 years about olive oil extraction. The next act of olive on historical stage took place again in Cyprus, within the Roman Age. Basic and principle olive oil production instruments were found in Cyprus and this system is stil used in the villages around “Besparmak Mountains”, oil is being extracted by using all these simple methods and foot-pressing system. First the water carried from the spring is boiled on furnaces by using some earthenware vessels. Then macerated olives with the help of boiled water are crushed by a human powered Grand Stone Mill. So the olives turn into a paste. The olive paste put into special sacks are extracted to oil by woman using the foot-pressing system.


“Oil, extracted from precious fruit of the olive, illuminated the nights of mankind, blessed our temples, and releived our souls first. Olive oil before it was edible, has been used in lamps as fuel first and so, illuminated our nights. The use of light, acting an enormous role by the development of civilization and science, so promoted the process of the invention of electricity.

Roman Era

For Romans, the value of olive oil which were inherited from Ancient Greeks, was priceless.
Since the legendary history of Roman establishment and the increasing value of social and economical structure, olive oil have always been the most supreme. Whether rich or poor, olive and grape were the two Essentials of a Roman’s table. An emperor or commander who returned with the victory, or a gladiator who defeated his rival was awarded the crown prepared with olive branches and leaves. Also Romans accepted olive oil as tax. Furthermore those who structured olive grove have been granted with the exemption from military service.

The worm screw

The invention of worm screw by the Romans has started a new era in the technology of olive oil extraction. This new technique has improved the efficiency and productivity by spending less energy and effort.


Another apparatus invented and frequently used by Romans named Trapetum, is a vertical and conical Stone-mill which crushes the olives into paste.

The Qualification of Olive by Romans

First Press : The most precious – Olei-flos (flower of oil)
Second Pres : Oleum Sequens
Caducum : Extracted from rottan olives used in soap production
Cibarium : Worst quality of oil only used in oil lamps

Roman Bath

After being used as the fuel in oil lamps for illumination, before it is edible, olive oil is used for personal hygen, beautyi wellness and health throughout Roman era.
Romans throghout history present several inventions in mechanics. Among them, which is known as “Hypocaustum” underfloor heating system, is the most considerable one. It is a genious pattern of engineering even today and is the Pioneer system of heating mechanism.
This invention also provided the inspiration for “Traditional Turkish Bath” hamam and used as the basic principle in the later years. The remainders of the olives caducum were used to make soaps the manufacturing of simple olive oil soap has not changed in small villages in Anatolia since the roman times, the sytem kept its authenticity and reached today. Small manufacturers and some people at home stil in our time use the same instruments an the same sytem in soap making. Thus in Yarbasan Holiday Homes you will find such olive oil soaps hand made as a gift on your beds.

Early Byzantium Era

This era preserved its precence for about 1.000 years, time beginning with the fall of West Roman Imperial in 476 A.C and ending with the conquest of İstanbul by Sultan Mehmet the Conquerer in 1453 A.C

In Early Byzantium Era, the Stone mills powered by animal were used instead the mills powered by human which was efficient in Roman Era. Another progression was about the worm screw which was invented by Romans. Next to the develepment of single worm screw used pres, also pres with double worm screw called masara were improved and began to be used, thus olive oil extraction became more efficient and needed less human effort.

Besides, during this era again, with the reshape of the earthenware jars which were used to store and to rest the olive oil, so they had a more aesthetic look and also became more balanced.

Late Byzantium Era

The improved wooden screw grinding mill system is a very particular sample which was used during the advanced Byzantium and early Otoman Era. This was the most improved transmission system and used for centuries until the 17th Century, the beginnin of early industrial era. The next important progression was the use of swirl wooden pres, besides the worm screw was used as a single centered mechanism, in this era it was also used to calibrate the height of the both levers of the wooden pres. The swirl wooden system working connected to the wooden pres, promoted the performance of the squeeze. With the help of fixing and locking ability, oil extraction became more efficient and needed less effort.

Early Industrial Era

Between 17th and 19th centuries with the invention and the improvement of steam engine a new era has started . The principal of the sytem ; The water turns to steam in a boiler and expands greatly in volume an can be used to generate mechanical power. The steam is then usually cooled to condense it, and it is pumped back into the boiler. So with the action to back and forth the power turns to mechanical work. The power impulses acquired are transmitted by the help of belt pulley to the mechanism. With the same power impulse, the bottom-rotated mill start to work and crushes the olive, thus the olive turns into pomace. The pomace filled in special sacks are placed on the platform of the pres working with the power of hydraulic pumps. The water hydraulic pumps again using the same mechanical power, start to move, so the olive is squeezed. The extracted olive oil is transferred into the special tanks/pools. The oil reserved in those combined vessels formatted tanks, is seperated from its vegetable water. The seperated oil transferred via some ladle shaped instruments and filled into tanks to reserve a transport. Apart from steam engine the equal mechanical power is produced by diesel motors that we can call the generators of today. In time , the mechanical power of diesel moters is turned into the electrical power vie alternator, a field winding mechanism, thus shed light on the use of electrical energy.

Electric Power Era

In this era, the principle of the system and mechanism of olive oil extraction is similar to the early industrial era. The only difference is that the electric power is used instead of mechanical power in oil extraction. The next improvement is about the mills. In this era, top rotated mills are used instead of the bottom rotated mills. But the working system is the same, like the use of presses and hydraulic pumps, seperation tanks etc.

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