BEIRUT: Historically it is impossible to imagine the Mediterranean without olives. Ancient texts talk about olive oil trade routes built between Egypt, Greece and the Levantine coast. Entire coastal cities lived on selling their olive harvest.
Archaeological sites in Mount Lebanon indicate that the first cultivation possibly started in the early Bronze Age (3200-1500 B.C). With the arrival of the Romans in the 1st c. B.C, the cultivation of olives became a mass commodity, used in tapenades, for cooking, as dressing, soaps, as lamp oil, ointment base, and unguents. The lever-screw technique was developed and continues to be implemented today, while the older counter-weight technique remained a traditional abundant method.
One of those ancient installations lies in West Beqaa, between the village of Khalwat and Ain Tanta along section 25 of the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT.) Olive and pine trees dominate the landscape. The site comprises ca. 50sqm, formed by a set of rock-cut blocks, chiseled out of the bedrock and clearly well preserved.
Today, however, most of them have been altered into agricultural terraces after the installation was deserted. In the center of the rocky press installation lays a huge oak tree with a large trunk, offering soothing shade with its ever-growing branches. Unfortunately, surrounding garbage, as well as the introduction of modern mechanical presses in neighboring villages, led to its neglect and abandonment. Archaeological investigations are necessary, in order to understand the identity of this press and if possible, to attempt partial reconstruction and preservation.
Today, such sites are highly indicative of the traditions of our ancestors and their modes of economic survival. They represent the identity of Lebanese cultural heritage. Thus, protecting and preserving them, especially by their local representative communities, for future generations, is a must.
The Lebanon Mountain Trail is the primary long-distance hiking trail in the country since 2007. Stretching from Andqet Akkar in northern Lebanon to Marjeyoun in the south, LMT’s country-long trail serves as a reminder of natural beauty, heritage, and a strand of cultural connection for both locals and tourists of Lebanon.
Hundreds of archaeological and cultural heritage sites are found all along the 470km of the LMT; spanning a rich spectrum of at least 250,000 years beginning with prehistoric caves in the Qadicha valley, through the Neolithic period, as humans began to settle in the valleys. From the Bronze Age there can be found abundant settlements, Iron Age cities, Greek sculpture, and Roman roads, Byzantine deserted churches, Islamic shrines, Crusader citadels, Mameluke towers, and Ottoman fortresses.
The LMT boasts a heritage that can satisfy every curious soul!
For further information about the Lebanon Mountain Trail and its hiking trail, which crosses at 470 kms through all of Lebanon: www.lebanontrail.org
Information about the author: www.aliafares.webnode.com
Alia Fares holds a Bachelor of Arts (Archaeology) from the American University of Beirut 2002; Magister Artium (M.A) from the Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms University of Bonn (Classical Archaeology, Christian Archaeology, Early and Medieval Archaeology as well as History of Architecture) and is a PhD Candidate at the University of Cologne, Germany (Archaeology of the Roman Provinces): She is an Archaeologist, Building Historian, Cultural Heritage Consultant and Tour Guide for the Ministry of Tourism and various tour operators throughout Lebanon.
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