The Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil in Sparta aims to highlight the culture and technology of the olive and olive production, which is inextricably linked with the Greek and Mediterranean identity. Unique in Greece, it is located in the heart of Laconia, one of the main olive producing locations in Greece.
In the upper floor the first testimonies about the olive in Greece , its contribution to the economy from prehistoric times to the 20th century, its role in nutrition, body care (cosmetic, pharmaceutical uses), lighting, while special mention is made of its symbolic dimension in religion, mythology, customs and mores. The unit concludes with a brief presentation of the olive’s position in art.
The tour starts from the earliest findings that demonstrate the existence of the olive tree in Greece: rare fossil olive leaves, 50,000-60,000 years old, found in the Thera Caldera. The first texts date back to the 14th century BC, on clay tablets inscribed with Linear B script.
Olive oil’s capacity to cover a variety of different needs, rendered it one of the most important agricultural products, with a definitive role in the economy of each historical period.
The position of the olive and olive oil in nutrition are presented in a separate unit. A series of other long forgotten uses of olive oil are also revealed by the information panels and exhibits (lighting, body care, beautification). The importance of the olive and olive oil in the lives of the Greeks is vividly revealed by the many symbolisms, the worship rites and folklore. The few examples of ancient and modern art in the Museum demonstrate that the olive was a constant source of inspiration for Greek artists.
The Museum’s ground floor is devoted to the development of olive oil production technology from Antiquity until the early industrial era. The post-Byzantine technology and machinery are presented in the museum. An animal-powered olive oil press from Lefkada provides evidence for its survival during the 20th century. A wooden double oil press with a winch has been transferred from the neighbouring area of Xirokampi. Emphasis has been placed on the revival of the powered olive oil presses (water-powered, steam-powered, diesel-powered and power-driven) using large working models. In addition, given that olive oil is still linked to body care, one of the exhibition units is dedicated to soap-making, domestic and industrial. From the large cauldron that old housewives in areas where olive oil is produced still use to make soap, we pass on to industrial soap vats.
The semi open-air exhibition will soon be shaped, with the mechanisms of a prehistoric, a Hellenistic and a Byzantine olive oil press, which will be set in operation for the Museum’s educational programmes.