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Cultural heritage along the Lebanon Mountain Trail – The Oil Press of Khalwat
Cultural heritage along the Lebanon Mountain Trail – The Oil Press of Khalwat
Alia Fares
Historically It is impossible to imagine the Mediterranean without olives. Ancient texts talk about olive oil trade routes built between Egypt, Greece and the Levantine coast. Entire coastal cities lived on selling their olive harvest. Archaeological sites in Mount Lebanon indicate that the first cultivation possibly started in the early Bronze Age (3200-1500 B.C). With the arrival of the Romans in the 1st c. B.C, the cultivation of olives became a mass commodity, used in tapenades, for cooking, as a dressing, soaps, as lamp oil, ointment base and unguents. The lever-screw technique was developed and continues to be implemented today, while the older counter-weight technique remained a traditional abundant method.

One of those ancient installations lies in West Beqaa, between the village of Khalwat and Ain Tanta along section 25 of the Lebanon Mountain Trail. Olive and pine trees dominate the landscape. The site comprises ca. 50sqm, formed by a set of rock-cut blocks, chiseled out of the bedrock and clearly well preserved. Today however, most of them have been altered into agricultural terraces after the installation was deserted. In the center of the rocky press installation lies a huge oak tree with a large trunk, offering soothing shade with its ever-growing branches. Unfortunately, surrounding garbage as well as the introduction of modern mechanical presses in neighboring villages led to its neglect and abandonment.

Archaeological investigations are necessary, in order to understand the identity of this press and if possible, to attempt partial reconstruction and preservation.

Today, such sites are highly indicative of the traditions of our ancestors and their modes of economic survival. They build the identity of the cultural heritage of Lebanon’s past. Thus, protecting and preserving them, especially by their local representative communities, for future generations is a must.
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