Native to Asia Minor and spread from Iran, Syria and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean basin about 6,000 years ago.
It is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world, grown before the written word was invented.
Was grown in Crete by 3,000BC and spread by the Phoenicians to the Mediterranean shores of Africa and southern Europe and by the Greeks, and then the Romans as they spread their domains.
The olive trees on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem are over 2,000 years old, newcomers in the history of olive domestication.
Shrub-like "feral" olives still exist in the Middle East and represent the original stock from which all olives are descended.
Through human manipulation over thousands of years, there are now many hundreds of different varietals. Some grown for eating, some for oil, some for both.
In the past few hundred years the olive has spread to North and South America, Japan, China, new Zealand and Australia.
Olives were brought to California through the mission system. First brought to Texas by the friars in the late 1500's, then spread through the missions as they developed by successive cuttings