Israeli scientists have germinated a date seed nearly 2,000 years old.
The seed was taken from an excavation at Masada, the cliff fortress where, in A.D. 73, 960 Jewish zealots died by their own hand rather than surrendered to the Romans. The point is to find out what was so exceptional about the date palm of Judea, praised in the Bible for its shade, food, beauty and medicinal qualities, but long ago destroyed by the crusaders.
Dr. Sallon, who runs a project on medicinal plants of the Middle East, said the date palm in ancient times symbolized the tree of life. But Sallon’s co-worker, Dr. Solowey, who is growing the seed in quarantine, said plants grown from ancient seeds “usually keel over and die soon.”
Three date seeds from the Masada dig were found in a storeroom and are presumably from dates eaten by the defenders, Dr. Sallon said.
Dr. Solowey planted the date seeds at the end of January. “It wasn’t a project with a high priority,” she said. “I had no idea if the food in the seed was still good. But about six weeks later, one of these came up.”
Radiocarbon dating showed the seed to be 1990 years old, plus or minus 50 years. So it dates from 35 B.C. to A.D. 65, shortly before the Roman siege.
Dates need to grow 30 years to reach maturity and can live as long as 200 years. It is the female date that is considered holy and that bears fruit. “If it’s a male, it will just be a curiosity,” Dr. Solowey said.
【題組】48 Which of the following is a synonym of “excavation” in the 2nd paragraph?