Germination, genetics, and growth of an ancient date seed

Science. 2008 Jun 13;320(5882):1464. doi: 10.1126/science.1153600.


An ancient date seed (Phoenix dactylifera L.) excavated from Masada and radiocarbon-dated to the first century Common Era was germinated. Climatic conditions at the Dead Sea may have contributed to the longevity of this oldest, directly dated, viable seed. Growth and development of the seedling over 26 months was compatible with normal date seedlings propagated from modern seeds. Preliminary molecular characterization demonstrated high levels of genetic variation in comparison to modern, elite date cultivars currently growing in Israel. As a representative of an extinct date palm population, this seedling can provide insights into the historic date culture of the Dead Sea region. It also has importance for seed banking and conservation and may be of relevance to modern date palm cultivation.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arecaceae / classification
  • Arecaceae / genetics
  • Arecaceae / growth & development*
  • Crops, Agricultural / history
  • Genotype
  • Germination*
  • History, Ancient
  • Israel
  • Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA Technique
  • Seeds / growth & development*