Gifts from the Past #history #archeology #botany

Date palm grown from ancient seed

Date-palm nicknamed “Methuselah” germinated in 2005 from a 2000-year-old seed found in the Masada excavations.  By DASonnenfeld – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Zealots held a mountaintop
As they went to sleep.
Their Roman foes decayed to dust
While they were hidden deep.

Deep indeed sits the Dead Sea.
Nowhere is more secured
From cosmic rays, by denser air,
So in their shells endured.

The fallen palace of a king
Preserved their jar of dates.
Museum drawers then carried them
To their amazing fate.

Seeds that sprout two thousand years
After being packed away.
They bring a history to life,
We touch our past today.

Kate Rauner

Date-palm seeds from this era were taken from several ancient sites. A few looked good and germinated to everyone’s delight and then grew into trees:

The seedlings were genetically quite different from one another. These ancient seeds might represent lost genetic diversity we don’t see any more. As date-palm growers adapt to climate change and battle pests and diseases, they might want to tap into the pool of ancient genes hidden in archaeological archives.

[One male tree produced pollen that was used] to pollinate a modern female, and they made dates. The two female date palms from ancient seeds, Judith and Hannah, have not yet reached sexual maturity, so no ancient date fruits have been resurrected yet. The Atlantic

When dates are produced from the female trees, they aren’t likely to taste the same as the fruit people ate 2,000 years ago, because farmers were already planting their groves from shoots rather than seeds. I guess that means these trees are more like whatever wild dates inspired their domestication, a taste from even farther in our past. I’d love to eat one.

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