Finally, Fresh Fruit from Ancient Date Palms

Remember the 2,000 year-old date palm from Masada? The original tree, nicknamed Methuselah, is now a daddy thanks to patience, science, and a little bit of luck. In a happy, very un-2020 report, we have a harvest of new ancient dates. These fruits are direct, first-generation descendants of ancient seeds excavated at Masada and a site near Jericho.

A New York Times article shares the fascinating story of the extinct Judean Date Palm’s revival, along with several photos. No paywall at the time of the writing, but that could change. Keep an eye open for other reports on this wonderful result. For previous posts on the process of reviving ancient date palms, see here and here.

Scientists harvest dates that sprouted from 2,000-year-old seeds retrieved from archaeological sites in the Judean wilderness. Credit: Dan Balilty for The New York Times

Judean dates were famous in antiquity for their taste and medicinal properties. Ancient Roman authors and coins, and even the Koran, attest to their popularity long ago. How do these new, revived dates taste?

“They were tasty… with a fresh flavor that gave no hint of their two-millenium incubation period. The honey-blonde, semi-dry flesh had a fibrous, chewy texture and a subtle sweetness.”

My friend Shane Scott raises a frightening parallel with Jurassic Park, but perhaps we will avoid the spectacle of angry Date Palm Ents stomping around the Jordan Rift Valley.

Let’s close with another quote from the NYT article.

“Lucky, it tasted good,” Dr. Solowey said. “If it had been awful what would I have said? That in the old days they didn’t know what a good date was? There’s a lot of literature about how they were the best dates in the world.”

Congrats to the team on reviving ancient and DELICIOUS dates. Wouldn’t it be nice if they can be produced and harvested in sufficient quantities to allow the common folk to experience a taste of the ancient past? With a little bit of luck…

About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister with the North Terrace Church of Christ and has participated in multiple archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke leads popular study tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
This entry was posted in Biblical Archaeology, Dead Sea, General Archaeology, Israel, Links to interesting stuff, Masada, New Discoveries and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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