By Nathan Steinmeyer, Biblical Archaeology Review—
A study published in the journal Palestine Exploration Quarterly has shown that large-scale olive oil production began in the land of Canaan much earlier than previously thought and that the competing interests of Iron Age Philistia and Judah were key to driving the industry’s growth. A joint project of Bar Ilan University in Israel and the University of Kentucky discovered evidence of olive oil production at Philistine Gath (modern Tell es-Safi) dating back to the 11th century B.C.E., proving that the industry existed in Philistia since at least the beginning of the Iron Age.
Gath, one of the largest cities in the southern Levant, appears to have held a monopoly on that production during the early Iron Age. That monopoly ended, however, when the city was destroyed by King Hazael of Aram Damascus (c. 830 B.C.E.). This opened the market for competitors, including the Kingdom of Judah, as evidenced by new finds from the site of Tell Beth Shemesh. Recent salvage excavations have shown that Beth Shemesh remained a thriving agricultural town even after the Assyrian campaign of 701 B.C.E. Excavations revealed more than a dozen olive presses used to produce oil at an industrial scale. Continue Reading….