Factoid: Ancient Seeds Sprout

The tree and ancient seeds. Photo: HO

In 2005, Sarah Sallon,  a scientist hoping to discover medicinal uses from the ancient date (fruit from the date palm tree), planted 2,000 year old seeds on a lark. One germinated! Its a little tree today. The scientists who germinated the seeds nicknamed the tree Methuselah after the oldest man named in the Bible.

Buried Seeds

In 1973, archeologist Ehud Netzer found these seeds buried in the rubble at Masada. Masada, a fortress built by Herod the Great, was the last stronghold of the Jewish Zealots in 73 AD. It is assumed the seeds were what was left of the fruit stockpiled against the siege. The ancients seeds were forgotten in a University drawer until 2005, when Sallon decided to see if they would grow. Read the original National Geographic article for the fun details.

CNG coins

Israel’s Date Palm

The Hebrew word for date palm is tamar. The tree is a symbol of grace and beauty. The branches became a symbol of the Judean Kingdom, much like our American flag. The fruit was exported from Israel until Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Sallon, the scientist who had the seeds planted, says:

“The Judean date was used for all kinds of things from fertility, to aphrodisiacs, against infections, against tumors,” she said. “This is all part of the folk story.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judean_date_palm)

The date palm, which provided beauty and income for Israel, became extinct in Israel by 500 AD.

In the Bible, Tamar is a well-known name.

  • Jericho was called the City of the Palm Trees.
  • Tamar was Jacob’s granddaughter-in law, and listed in the genealogy of Jesus.
  • Tamar was King David’s daughter who was raped by her half brother Amnon.

But I guess a 2,000-year-old seed is nothing compared to the 4,000 year old noodles found in China!

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2 thoughts on “Factoid: Ancient Seeds Sprout

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