What happens after the olives are harvested?

Oded Borowski says the grape vines and the olive trees were the main fruit trees cultivated by Israelite farmers.

The main product of the vine was wine; olives were grown for oil. Both of these products were produced in special installations (winepress and olive press, respectively) as part of the harvesting season. The end products were stored in jars for local use, for barter, and for tax payments. The latter is well attested by the Samaria ostraca, which record the quantities of oil and wine received at the collection center in Samaria. Biblical and extrabiblical references indicate that there were different types and grades of wine and oil. (Daily Life in Biblical Times, 29)

The fresh olives are placed on one stone and crushed by rolling another stone over them. The olive is really between a rock and a hard place. The large top stone (the crushing stone) is turned by a person or an animal causing the stone to roll over the olives that have been placed on a hewn stone installation. The photo below was made at the Nazareth Village.

Olive crusher at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Olive crusher at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The olive crusher is most often seen outside near the olives. Here is a stone at Gezer. The view is toward the coastal plain.

Olive crusher at Gezer with view toward Coastal Plain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Olive crusher at Gezer with view toward Coastal Plain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Once the olives are crushed the pulp is put into bags or baskets with holes in the side. Heavy weights are placed on the bags to squeeze out the oil. This photo shows a simple oil press set up at Hazor.

Simple Olive Press at Hazor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Simple Olive Press at Hazor. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The archaeological excavations at Tel Mikne/Ekron revealed that the city was a large industrial oil production center. Only a few of these vats are visible at the site today. The tell is partially cultivated and the rest is overgrown. The small museum at the nearby kibbutz is closed and all of the artifacts have been moved to Ashdod. I was told that they are not on display at this time.

Crushing basin with a pressing vat on either side. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Crushing basin with a pressing vat on either side. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Based on the excavations, artist Balage has drawn the olive oil production center at Tel Mikne/Ekron.

Olive oil production at Ekron. Art by Balage, Archaeology Illustrated.

Olive oil production at Ekron. Art by Balage, Archaeology Illustrated.

Once the oil is retrieved it is stored in large ceramic jars. When Gedaliah became governor of Judah after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem he told the residents to “gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels” (Jeremiah 40:9-10).

One response to “What happens after the olives are harvested?

  1. Pingback: Index to Olives and Olive Trees | Ferrell's Travel Blog

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