The olive was believed to have first made its appearance in the third millenium BC in the Middle East and consequently spread throughout the Aegean Islands, Greece and other Mediterranean regions.

Fossils of olive leaves,

dating 50-60 thousand years



However, new fossil findings of olive tree leaves (Olea Europea) dating back 50 to 60 thousand years were discovered by Professor E. Velitzelos along strata of the volcanic crater in Santorini (Thera). Later, on the island of Nisyros, more such findings proved its indigenous existence in the greater region of the Aegean thousands of years ago.

The first inhabitants of Crete, is considered that, besides other crops, they occasionally collected and ate the fruit of the wild olive tree (Olea oleaster), from as far back as the Neolithic Period (6000-3000 BC).

Later on, during the 3rd millennium B.C, the inhabitants of Crete start the cultivation of the olive-tree and during the 2nd millennium proceed to its systematic exploitation.


Storage - jars, at Knossos palace


 On Minoan Crete, after 2000 BC, the olive assumes prominence in the royal economy of Knossos and is later passed on to the economy and life of Mycenaean Greece.


There was a great number of uses for olive oil in Minoan Crete. It was used either fragranced or not for cosmetic purposes, for religious ceremonies, as a body ointment, as a therapeutic substance, as a lubricant and as fuel for lamps.


Ideogramms depicting the olive tree, its crop and olive oil found in Linear A and B tablets, consist the evidence for Minoan's occupation with the olive tree and its produce, from 1800 BC.



 Many archaeological finds bear testimony to the dominant position of the olive in Minoan Crete.

Olive-Fruits from
Kato Zakros

Wall-paintings, tools, installations and inscriptions serve as proof of the importance placed by the Minoans on the production, storage and merchandising of olive oil as far back as 1700 BC.

A bowl of olives (1450 BC) found in a well in the palace of Zakros, Eastern Crete, shows that Cretans of the Minoan Period included olives in their diet.


In the following centuries, between 700 - 400 B.C, the olive and the olive-oil acquired a special importance all over Greece. Philosophers Anaxagoras and Empedocles investigate the history of olive, Aristoteles describes its cultivation, Solon legislates its protection and Platon teaches in its shade.

Oil-lamp from Sitia
Oil-lamp from
the Malia palace


 Godess Athena who, according to the Cretan Mythology was born on the shores of river Triton in Crete, won the contest against God Poseidon about naming the city of Athens, as the famous Greek myth says, by offering to the humanity an olive-tree, symbol of peace, wisdom and prosperity.
Ideogramms depicting olive-trees
and olive oil in Linear B script.