Six seeds from the Judean date palm were gown by researchers in southern Israel, researchers have revealed. The newly grown fruit plants are thought to be the same as the dates that ripened around the time of Jesus, and is one of the oldest cultivated fruit trees in the world.
The seeds have been named Adam, Jonah, Uriel, Boaz, Judith and Hannah.
They were not the only seeds among the discoveries at several archaeological sites in the Judean desert.
Studies indicate the plant was first cultivated in Mesopotamia and the Upper Arabian Gulf from around 7,000 years ago.
The Kingdom of Judah – an ancient geopolitical region that emerged in the 11th century BC in southern Israel – was particularly renowned for its quality of dates.
Several notable classical writers including Herodotus and Pliny the Elder talked about how the “Judean date” fruits were widely recognised for their size, sweet taste, long storage life, and purported medicinal properties.
Sarah Sallon, lead author of the study from the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Centre, Israel, explained to Newsweek how the team came about researching and subsequently finding and planting the seeds.
She said: “I’m a medical doctor and in the last 20 years I’ve been doing research particularly into medicinal plants in this region.
“We saw from our research that lots of the plants have become very rare or endangered.
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“So I was becoming more and more interested in what used to grow here in Israel.”
“Some of the things that used to grow here, like the famous date plants of antiquity, there’s no trace of them left at all.
“The dates themselves are very medicinal in antiquity and even today.”
Judaea dates became highly prize following the region falling under the rule of the Romans.
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It was during this time period that the fruits became widely exported.
The cultivation of date palms in the region continued through the Byzantine and Arab rule periods – 4th to 11th centuries BC.
By the 19th century there were almost no traces of the historic plantations left.
This was due in part to a gradual change in climate, as well as the destruction of vital infrastructure by waves of conquest.
It isn’t the first time the team has attempted to recreate the effect growing environment for the ancient palms.
In 2008, Dr Sallon reported she and her researchers had managed to germinate a 1,900-year-old Judean date palm seed from Masada – an ancient site extended by Herod the Great in the first century BC that overlooks the Dead Sea.
That plant, a male, was named after the oldest character in the Bible: Methuselah.
The new study adds on this previous achievement ten-fold.
This time round, researchers were able to shed new light on the way Judean farmers may have cultivated the famous plants.
And, with the newly germinated seeds including females, Dr Sallon hopes to apply Methuselah’s pollen too Hannah – which is expected to produce a flower in the next two years.
Yet, it may not be quite a resurrection.
As Dr Sallon explained: “It won’t be the typical Judean date, because dates that were grown at that time – just like dates that are grown today – are not grown from seeds that somebody puts in the earth.
“They are grown from clones from very high-producing females.”
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