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Israeli Scientists Germinate 2,000-Year-Old Seed

  • Robert Berger

Israeli researchers are resurrecting a Biblical tree that has been extinct for two millennia. They are hoping it will lead to the discovery of new medicines that will benefit future generations.

Israeli scientists have germinated a sapling from a date palm seed that is nearly 2,000 years old. Dr. Sarah Sallon, who heads the project, told VOA that it is the oldest seed ever brought back to life.

"We are interested in preserving very valuable species in the Middle East, some of them are extinct but may be able to be resurrected," she said.

The seed was found at the historic fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea, where 960 Jewish zealots chose suicide over capture by the Romans in 73 A.D.

"We managed to get a few of these seeds, and we planted them, and some six or seven weeks later a bud appeared," said Ms. Sallon.

The sapling is now about 12 inches tall. If it survives, the team hopes to revive the Judean date palm praised in the Bible and Koran.

"In antiquity, there was a very famous date of ancient Israel, it was one of the most important exports of ancient Israel, it was on the coins, it was of extraordinary importance for the economy, for ceremonial reasons and also for medicinal reasons," said Ms. Sallon.

Ms. Sallon points out the medicines of the ancient past can be the remedies of the future.

"They were used for all kinds of things from fertility, to aphrodisiacs, against infections, against cancer, this is all part of the folk story," she said.

And last but not least, they taste good. "These dates were apparently, according to historians, very, very succulent," said Ms. Sallon.

The date sapling is symbolically named Methuselah, after the man who at the age of 969, lived longer than any other Biblical figure.

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