'Mad' Israeli quest to revive ancient dates bears fruit

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, April 25, 2024

'Mad' Israeli quest to revive ancient dates bears fruit
Dates harvested from "Hannah", the first female palm tree germinated from 2,000 year-old seeds discovered in the Judean desert, are displayed in Kibbutz Ketura in southern Israel, on September 27, 2021. When Israeli scientist Sarah Sallon first thought of cultivating 2,000-year-old date palm seeds from a Roman-era fortress, she received a less than encouraging response, but her bet that the Dead Sea's unique, bone-dry environment could enable the seeds from the Masada fortress to flourish has been proven right. With her project partner Elaine Solowey, she managed to grow date palms from seeds dating back to the Kingdom of Judah which emerged in the 11th Century BC. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP.

by Claire Gounon

KIBBUTZ KETURA.- When Sarah Sallon first thought of cultivating 2,000-year-old date palm seeds from a Roman-era fortress towering above the Dead Sea, she received a less than encouraging response.

"The botanical archaeologists said 'you're completely mad. It will never work'," the 72-year-old British-Israeli expert on natural medicine told AFP.

But Sallon's bet that the Dead Sea's unique, bone-dry environment could enable the seeds from the Masada fortress to flourish has been proven right.

With lots of patience and care, she and project partner Elaine Solowey managed to grow date palms from seeds dating back to the Kingdom of Judah which emerged in the 11th century BC.

The kingdom was "renowned for the quality and quantity of its dates", praised at the time for their "large size, sweet taste... and medicinal properties," the two wrote in an article for Science magazine.

Bringing back the ancient variety with Solowey, a specialist in sustainable agriculture, was not just a novelty project, Sallon said, but offered "a beacon of hope" for a planet battling the climate crisis and mass species extinction.

"Perhaps these amazing species that are everywhere around us will not disappear," she said, suggesting that "nature has tricks up its sleeves.

"It can let its seeds stay dormant for thousands of years, and we think it's gone extinct, and -- boom! -- it takes a pair of golden hands, like Elaine's, to bring it back to life."

'A lot of hassling'

Before embarking on her date palm revival, Sallon had read about 500-year-old lotus flower seeds that had germinated.

In 2004, she asked Israel's Bar Ilan University for access to a few of its preserved date palm seeds found in 1960 under debris at Masada, the Herodian-era mountain-top Jewish encampment famous for having been besieged by Roman forces in the first century.

Undeterred after being called "mad" by botanical archaeologists at Bar Ilan, Sallon showed them evidence of ancient seeds being germinated elsewhere.

With that and "a lot of hassling", she obtained five seeds and then approached Solowey, based on Kibbutz Ketura, near Israel's border with Jordan.

Solowey recounted how Sallon sent her the ancient seeds from the fortress with the instruction to "try to sprout them".

"So I said: 'What? How old are they?' She said: '2,000 years old.' I said: 'I can't sprout them!' She said: 'try.'"

Solowey said she spent several months considering the best approach, before deciding to use an enzyme-based fertiliser while ruling out the use of any man-made chemicals.

In her greenhouse, where she grows many dozens of plants, she tried to sprout three of the seeds, but for weeks saw no signs of life.

'Fickle process'

Then, one day in March 2005, small cracks opened in the earth of one of the date palm pots, a sign that roots were beginning to take hold.

"I began to think, wow, if this is what I think it is, I'd better start being a lot nicer to it," Solowey quipped.

"I didn't realise the significance that (the plant) had."

Out of the three seeds planted, just one thrived, acquiring the nickname "Methuselah" after the biblical figure known for his longevity.

But "Methuselah" was a male plant and therefore bore no fruit.

Having proven that cultivation can work, Sallon went in search of more seeds in hopes of sprouting a female plant.

Then last year, after a long wait, a date palm named "Hannah" produced about 100 dates.

An even more bountiful harvest followed this August: 800 light brown dates, slightly dry but with a delicate honey flavour.

Samples will be available for sale soon, the team promises.

There is also hope that Hannah's sister "Judith", planted this month, will produce more dates.

Sallon explained that sustaining a consistent date harvest requires meticulous work and treating the plants "like children".

It's a fickle process. When it works, she said, "you get these... magnificent dates". But when there is "a gap in this continuity, the whole thing falls apart".

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

October 5, 2021

Artemis Gallery to host Oct. 7 Exceptional Auction featuring museum-quality antiquities

Art sales rebound to record $2.7 billion

Warhol's portrait of Basquiat from the collection of Peter Brant highlights Christie's sale

Discovery at the National Museum of Norway reveals unknown underdrawings in Edvard Munch's Madonna

'Secret masterpiece' by Claude Lalanne sold in Paris

Exhibition of Sky Pape's recent work on view at June Kelly Gallery

Exhibition exposes damage done to the American landscape and environment by the U.S. military and related industries

'I've always been a feminist': Jean-Paul Gaultier becomes curator

Five emerging Black artists explore their inner lives in INWARD: Reflections on Interiority

Artcurial to offer a version of the portrait of Mona Lisa in its Old Masters & 19th Century Art

22 museums, galleries and networks secure Art Fund Reimagine Grants

Alvaro Barrington's first solo presentation in a UK institution opens at South London Gallery

Christie's 20th / 21st Century Evening Sale Including Thinking Italian, London is now online for browsing

Clark Art Institute names Daphne Birdsey to lead advancement efforts

New immersive installation transforms Rowan University Art Gallery into a microcosmic forest

Rocky Nook publishes 'The Art & Science of Drawing: Learn to Observe, Analyze, and Draw Any Subject'

Artcurial to offer works by Enki Bilal in Contemporary Drawing Sale

Review: In 'Six,' all the Tudor ladies got talent

'Mad' Israeli quest to revive ancient dates bears fruit

The 2021 Cordis Prize for Tapestry Shortlist revealed

Review: In 'Upload,' do blockchains dream of electric lizards?

Musicians flee Afghanistan, fearing Taliban rule

Nora Brown, the banjo prodigy singing tales of Appalachia

Silent disco helps South Africans beat virus blues

Working as a virtual assistant can support your creative career

How To Understand Emotional Needs of a Child?

Caesars Casino Review

The Reasons Why You Are Still Poor

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit
Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful