Scientists set to resurrect 2000-yr-old extinct ancient date palm plants in Israel

  • The new study includes more ancient date palm plant seeds which involve both male and female trees

  • These seeds were found from Judean desert and Qumran

Researchers have found a handful of ancient date seeds which they are now trying to resurrect in the hopes of better understanding their vanished lineage. Adam, Jonah, Uriel, Boaz, Judith, Hanna and Methuselah -- are the seeds which were discovered at archaeological sites in the Judean desert.

In 2008, scientists had germinated a 1,900-year-old Judean date palm seed from Masada, which is an ancient site extended by Herod the Great in the first century BC. The plant was given a male name, Methuselah, after the oldest character in the Bible who said to have died at the age of 969.

The ancient seeds

After Methuselah was planted several other scientists also studied other plants. But the new study includes more seeds which involve male and female trees. It should be mentioned that at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel, scientists hope to breed Judean date palm, which was praised in the ancient period for its sweetness, the large size, long shelf life and supposed ability to fight diseases. This plant went extinct hundreds of years ago.

Dates Pixabay

The scientists stated that the ages of these ancient seeds range from around 2,400 to 1,800 years old. As per the researchers along with the newly sprouted seeds including females, the discovery could bear further fruit. The team is currently hoping to use Methuselah's pollen to Hannah, which is expected to produce flower within the next two years, to produce dates.

Judean desert
Judean desert Wikimedia commons

The study on ancient seeds

However, along with Judean desert, the researchers have collected these seeds from Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. In 1995, researchers reported that they had successfully sprouted approximately 1,200-year-old seeds of a Sacred Lotus found in an ancient lake bed in China.

It should be noted that these seeds can tolerate dehydration, and the ancient date seeds were found in an extremely dry environment, which could be one of the reasons behind their existence to this day.

These dates will be different

Dr Sarah Sallon, director of the Louis Borick Natural Medicine Research Centre at the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, stated that it would not be the typical Judean date, because dates that were grown at that time did not grow from seeds that somebody puts in the earth.

As per Sallon, they used to grow from "clones from very high-producing females." The researcher believes that the plants grown from their daughter seeds may not have the same qualities but still, they may display similar characteristics.

The only example of a Judean Date Palm located at Kibbutz Ketura, Israel. It was germinated in 2005 from a 2000-year-old seed found in the Masada excavations, and is nicknamed "Methuselah" DA Sonnenfeld / Creative Commons

After the scientists successfully resurrected their first ancient date plant, one of the leaders of the project, Sallon found it "exceptional." In addition, she also said that regularly she gets questions about Methuselah from kids. As per Sallon, the journey of these date plants provides some hope for future generations.

Related topics : Archaeology