During the excavation of the palace of Herod the great in 1960’s, archaeologists came across an ancient clay jar. Inside it, they found a stockpile of seeds hidden from sight for over 2,000 years.
These seeds belonged to the Judean Date Palm. The discovery by itself proved to be the oldest VERIFIED human-assisted germination of a seed.
The extinction of these plants was basically determined due to a number of factors. In fact, cultivation of dates was almost disappeared because of climate change and infrastructure decay after the fourteenth century CE.
However , these ancient plants have been brought back to life in modern times.
The Judean Date Palms were considered as extremely important plants in ancient sites. These trees were one of the most recognizable and welcome sights for people inhabiting the Middle East. They were widely cultivated in this region: firstly, because of their fruit, and secondly because of the shade, the trees offer from the blazing desert sun.
Judean Date Palms became a staple crop in the Judah Kingdom through the history. They also present one of the many symbols of good fortune. In fact, King David named his daughter Tamar after the plant’s name in Hebrew.
Judean date palms grew around the Dead Sea in the south, to the Sea of Galilee and the Hula Valley regions in the north. The tree and its fruit are the reason why Jericho became a major population center and are praised in the Hebrew Bible possibly several times indirectly, such as in Psalms, 92, “The righteous himself will blossom forth as a palm tree does”, and date clusters are mentioned in Song of Songs 5:11.
The plant remained an important symbol for some 3,000 years until the Roman Empire sought to expand their reign. By 500 AD, the symbolic palm trees were wiped out as a result of climate change, infrastructure decay and conquest.
The Bible, the Koran, and other ancient literature contain references to these Judean Date Palms.Tree slipped from history and became a distant memory of what was once an important symbol for millions of people.
After archaeologists’ excavation of the site of Herod the Great’s palace in Israel in the early 1960’s they have discovered an ancient clay jar filled with seeds, these trees were brought back to life.
Archaeologist Ehud Netzer from the Hebrew University—who found the seeds—gave them to botanical archaeologist Mordechai Kislev at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv. Kislev in turn gave the seeds to botanical researcher Elaine Solowey.
The seeds practically remained in the shadow of history from their discovery until 2005, Solowey decided to plant a seed and see what, if anything, would sprout. “I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?”- said Solowey.
“Dates were famous in antiquity for medicinal value,” said Solowey. “They were widely used for different kinds of diseases—cancers, TB [tuberculosis]—all kinds of problems.”
The botanical researcher was proven wrong after that.
The Judean Date palm produced its first flower in 2011.