Here is the oldest bottle of oil in the world.

"Pompeii and Herculaneum provide unparalleled insights into the life of the ancient Romans." Pompeii and Herculaneum truly represent, as the prestigious journal ‘Nature’ writes, an extraordinary window into the life of the ancient Romans.

As one of the most important scientific journals internationally has stated, one of the most fascinating discoveries in the history of archaeological and scientific findings dates back to ancient Rome. 

That is the finding of the most ancient bottle of olive oil in the world, which survived the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, a catastrophe narrated in great detail by one of the most important historians of the history of mankind: Pliny the Younger.

The University of Naples and its faculty of Agriculture, a leading institution in the study of oil and its history, also reported the news. 

"As part of a collaboration between the Department of Agriculture of the University Federico II and the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (MANN), which aims at systematically studying the organic finds stored in  the MANN, in 2018 a group of researchers from the Department of Agriculture started a research on the contents of a glass bottle stored in the Museum." 

The University of Naples recalls that "The storage of the MANN contains the materials recovered in the most ancient phases of the excavations initiated by King Charles of Bourbon in the Vesuvian area and that continued in following decades; the bottle appears to be from Herculaneum, but, similarly to many other finds, over time, all information on the period of its recovery has been lost." 

The origin of the discovery is also peculiar:  “Alberto Angela (a well-known Italian scientist and journalist, editor's note) during an inspection of the storage of the MANN, noticed that the bottle was still more than half full. Angela hypothesized it was wine, but the analysis led to different and surprising results". 

The research carried out by a multidisciplinary team coordinated by professor Raffaele Sacchi, of the Department of Agriculture, has allowed, for the first time, to verify the authenticity and to analyze the molecular identity of a sample of olive oil preserved inside a glass bottle buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD."


Studies on the transformations undergone by olive oil over the course of two millennia are also very insightful: “The studies carried out by the team of researchers of the University of Naples Federico II, the National Council for Research (NCR) and University of Campania Vanvitelli, have shown that the organic material originally present in the bottle was indeed olive oil. However, due to the high temperatures the bottle was exposed to at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius and the profound changes that have occured in almost two millennia of storage in uncontrolled conditions, the oil had undergone deep chemical changes typical of altered dietary fats. Indeed, very little of the original molecular composition of olive oil, the experts write, has survived. The triglycerides that represent 98% of the oil have split into the constituent fatty acids; the unsaturated fatty acids have been completely oxidized generating hydroxy acids that in turn, with a slow kinetics, over about 2000 years, have condensed, forming the estolides - never previously observed in conventional processes of natural alteration of olive oil. The fatty substance (d) during rancidity has also produced a multitude of volatile substances that are those found in strongly rancid oil, resulting from the decomposition of oleic and linoleic acids. The profile of saturated fatty acids and that of phytosterols have allowed, then, to establish with certainty that the fat was of vegetable origin and unequivocally olive oil as it did not contain fat of animal origin, widely used by the people at the time.”

The importance of the discovery, even for those who are not experts in this field, is evident: "This is the most ancient sample of olive oil that has reached us and the most ancient oil bottle in the world - commented Raffaele Sacchi. The finding of the 'bottle of archaeological oil' provides indisputable proof of the importance that olive oil had in the daily diet of the populations living in the Mediterranean basin and in particular of the ancient Romans in Campania Felix". 

Once again the ancient Romans proved to be pioneers in the production of an extract which, thousands of years later, remains synonymous with quality, taste and health. 


12 November 2021

The content of this promotional campaign represents the point of view of the author who takes full responsibility for it.
The European Commission is not responsible for any use of the information contained therein.