The palm some ancients called the “Tree of Life” has been revived from a 2,000-year sleep, genes and all. In what is now the germination of the oldest known seed, a date pit plucked from ancient rubble at Masada has sprouted, scientists report. The sapling’s genetic fingerprint suggests it is none other than the Judean date palm, a variety referred to in the Bible and long thought extinct.
Like the iceman found in the Alps, this Judean date palm opens a window into the past, comments Paul Gepts, a plant geneticist at the University of California, Davis. “A small window, but a window nonetheless.”
Excavations in the ’60s uncovered five date pits in the Dead Sea region of Israel at Masada — a mesa-top Herodian fortress and, in the first century A.D., the last stronghold of Jews who, as the story goes, chose to fall upon their own swords rather than be slaughtered by the Roman forces surrounding them.
You can also see a picture of the seeds and of the new plant in the National Geographic page.
Date trees currently growing in Israel come from California. If the new plant, called “The Methuselah Tree” because of its age, produces fruit, it will produce dates that are sweeter than other dates and it will be better suited for the dry climate of Israel.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Judean Date Palm, Masada