Date Palm History

A sacred tree

The date palm has played a crucial role in the history of human kind, and has been especially important in the Middle East and North Africa. It not only provided the main staple food for these desert cultures, but also shade (almost as important). It provided materials for building, baskets and mats, medicines, "and as many other uses as there are days in the year". Because it was one of the things that sustained life, it was given spiritual significance, and is revered as a sacred tree to Muslims. To the Israels it is known as "the tree of life". Three out of the five major world religions use date palms in their religious rituals; Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. It is believed by many to be the date tree not the apple tree that was spoken of in the Garden of Eden. The exact origin of the date palm, (Phoenix Dactylifera), is unknown. It probably first grew in North Africa or possibly South West Asia. Date pits 50,000 years old were found in a cave in Northern Iraq by archaeologist. One of the first cultivated crops was dates, starting as early as 8,000 years ago. In Egyptian hieroglyphics the symbol for one month is a palm frond (a tree grows about 12 fronds a year), and the Egyptian symbol for a year is a full date palm. The Moors introduced the date palm to Spain in the 8th century A.D. The Spanish brought date seeds to Cuba in 1513, and in 1765 dates were successfully grown at the Mission at San Ignacio in Baja California where they still flourish today. The first date palm offshoots of established varieties from the Middle East came to the U.S. around 1900, and were planted in Arizona and California.