Olive Oil, Copper, and Cyprus

If I do write on Captain Zimrid, this may well be an important part of the story.

Italian researchers have discovered that environmentally friendly olive oil was used in furnaces at a site in southern Cyprus up to 4,000 years ago, instead of the fume-belching charcoal used in industry for hundreds of years since.

Described as “liquid gold” by the ancient Greek poet Homer, olive oil has long been associated with grooming, pampering and the religious rites of the ancients, but not – at least in the Mediterranean – with heavy industry.

“We know that olive oil made it into our food around 1,000 BC, but it is the first time we have laboratory evidence that it was used in smelting as a fuel,” archaeologist Maria Rosaria Belgiorno told Reuters.

Cyprus was famed in antiquity for its copper and is believed to have given its name to the Latin term for the metal, Cuprum.

And the article has other interesting points.

Belgiorno said researchers were puzzled by the fact that no charcoal — the fuel most widely used at the time — was found. Charcoal remains intact despite the passage of time, she said.

“There were no storage areas for charcoal. We have discovered that to melt copper you need five kilos of olive oil, compared to 80 kilos of charcoal.”

Dark marks on the hard-packed earth in the complex might escape the untrained eye. But these are stains from the oil used in the furnaces, traces which also do not fade.


Belgiorno said metallurgy sites have been found close to olive oil production areas in Egypt and Jordan, so Cypriots could not lay claim to being the first to use biofuels.

Maybe I should finish book one and two and then three and go to work on Captain Zimrid’s story.

in Science News from Reuter’s