A TALE OF MILLENIUMS
No one is sure of the origins of the olive plantations in Catalonia. Research carried out indicates that the Phoenicians around 1050 BC brought this crop to the Iberian Peninsula. Despite this fact, it seems the olive tree already existed in its wild form during the Copper and Bronze Ages. Remains found in the settlement of Can Tintorer near Barcelona have proved this. The Greeks propagated the use of olive oil throughout the Mediterranean coastline and introduced it into Catalonia from 600 BC onwards as a bartering tool. The Iberians added it to their other crops which also meant it spread quickly throughout the country.
Later on, Rome increased the amount of land dedicated to this crop, especially after the Second century BC, a time when we can start talking about an industrial level of production. Remains of installations relating to the production and storage of olive oil have been discovered in the rural villas surrounding the city of Tarraco (present day Tarragona). There have been similar discoveries of amphora and DÒLIES (jars) for transporting and storing the oil as well as lamps for lighting. Two topographical names confirm this link: Oleastrum, in reference to a villa and Oleum flumen, relating to a river. The Romans perfected pressing techniques, designed better vats and improved the transportation of olive oil, all fundamental precursors to the procedures used up until very recently.
We don’t know however the extent of the Moorish influence on the production of olive oil. We do know that they continued to use the techniques learnt from the Romans, and in some cases, they improved them. They also used their knowledge of ceramics to perfect the jars used for storing oil, which are very similar to those used over the centuries.
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