Olive Oil, Almond Oil

Olive oil and almond oil are the two other vegetable oils used in early Mesopotamia beyond the dominant sesame oil introduced in the 23rd century BCE.

Olive oil appears already earlier, in the  24th century BCE in the Syrian capital of Ebla (A.1.2.03). It was pressed in the region where olive trees were cultivated, that is in the historical region of Syria west of the Euphrates (Dossiers A.1.2.02, A.1.2.03). Olive oil was traded to Mari on the Middle Euphrates and rarely even reached lowland Mesopotamia (A.1.2.01).

Almond oil was traded to Babylonia from the Zagros mountains and reached the court of Gudea of Lagash (around 2120 BCE, A.1.3.01), and we propose that almond oil was also imported during the Ur III period (21st century BCE, A.1.3.02).

Both vegetable oils were used for anointing and thus for skincare and medicinal application. Still, the written sources never indicate that they had served as foodstuffs or in the preparation of food. The evidence for almond oil can thus not be taken as indicative of the domestication and cultivation of the sweet almond.