Archaeologist tries to recreate ancient Egypt’s ‘torsion method’ for olive oil production

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Ancient Egyptian inscription of an olive tree – social media

CAIRO – January 9, 2022: Emlyn Dodd, an archaeologist specializing in the study of ancient food and drink, is attempting to recreate the ancient and original method of pressing Egyptian olive oil, known as the “torsion method,” which was first discovered before 4,600 was documented up to 4,500 years ago.

Dodd wanted to understand the practical aspects of ancient Egyptian olive oil production. The steps begin with crushing the olives and placing them in a permeable bag, and then sticks are attached to either end of the bag. The chopsticks are then rotated in opposite directions, squeezing the bag and extracting most of the olive oil.

The torsion method was used around 2600-2500 BC. Recorded in the Nebemakhet tomb, son of Khafre, a king and vizier during the Fourth Dynasty (ca. 2613-2494 BC), according to the Ancient Origins website.


Although the Egyptians originally used this torsion process to make wine, Dodd wanted to test this technique for making olive oil to see what quality could be produced. A simple cheesecloth was used as a sack for this process, and a simple mortar and pestle method dating back to 5000 BC. Used to crush a mixture of green and black olives until it turned into a paste.

Cretan
The Cretan Greeks were the first to produce olive oil in large quantities. This is an old olive oil production workshop in Klazomenai, Ionia, in present-day Turkey. (Public property)

The ancient Cretans understood the “Mediterranean diet” and the value of olive oil almost 10,000 years ago. Over time, olive oil quickly became one of the staple foods of the ancient Mediterranean world. In fact, olive oil has been an important part of international trade, cuisine, personal hygiene, rituals, medicine, fuel and soap making.

Screenshot from 06/09/2022 at 12:17:45 p.m

With the spread of Greco-Roman culture in the 8th century B.C. In less than 100 years BC, the cosmetic use of olive oil spread to most Greek city-states, although it was very expensive. With the establishment of Greek colonies in other parts of the Mediterranean, olive cultivation was introduced to places like Spain (Spain is now the world’s largest olive producer) and spread throughout the Roman Empire.

The civilizations that formed in and around the Mediterranean region devoted much of their time and energy to developing efficient methods of harvesting and producing olive oil. Ancient agricultural texts accurately describe the tools and implements required, how and where olive trees are grown, and other practical details of production. There are also some historical accounts dealing with olive oil. For example, a novel by Pliny the Elder mentions the importance of olive oil to the body and describes it as a “necessity”.

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