Oldest Known Bottle of Olive Oil on Display in Naples Museum

The nearly 2,000 year old bottle filled with solidified olive oil will be displayed at the National Archaeological Museum.

Likely the world’s oldest known bottle of olive oil will be soon exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (MANN), where it was recently presented during a press conference given by the director of the museum, Paolo Giulierini, and the paleontologist and TV host, Alberto Angela.

The dainty well-preserved glass container, almost full of what is almost certainty solidified olive oil, comes from one of the ancient Roman towns (most likely from Herculaneum), which were destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Angela’s crew was working on the popular show ‘Tonight in Pompeii,’ broadcast on Italy’s national network RAI1, when they noted the bottle in the warehouses of MANN. Then, the relic was brought to the attention of experts of the Department of Agricultural Sciences (DIA) of the University of Naples ‘Federico II,’ which were working on a line of research into ancient food, through an agreement with the Museum.

“The bottle was kept in the museum’s warehouses, and sometimes displayed in public during special events,” Gaetano Di Pasquale, of the Laboratory of Vegetation History and Wood Anatomy of DIA told Olive Oil Times. “However, considering the great interest that it generated thanks to its great conservation status, we decided to conduct further research, and to display it to the public in a three-month exhibition at MANN, which will open on 31 October,” revealed the researcher, who will take care of the show with Alessia D’Auria on behalf of DIA.

He explained that there are several ancient crates and jugs containing traces of organic substances which have been described as olive oils, but the data related to the analyses performed over the last centuries can no longer be found.

“The excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum began in the mid-1700s, then in the museum’s storerooms there is plenty of material discovered over last centuries, and part of the documentation relating to these finds is still unclear,” he pointed out. “That is why MANN entered into an agreement with DIA, in order to re-analyze and re-catalog all the food findings with the methods available to us today, and our olive oil bottle became part of this line of research.”

At this point, it would be interesting to understand where it has been stored, in order to get more information on the context and, therefore, on the use of olive oil at that time. We know that it was originally used as lighting fuel and as a cosmetic, and it started to be used as a food quite late. More