Palm from an ancient seed

JERUSALEM: Israeli researchers have germinated a sapling date palm from seeds 2,000 years old, in a bid to find new medicines that will benefit future generations.

Sarah Sallon, of the Louis Borick Natural Medicine Research Centre in Jerusalem, said she and her colleagues used seeds found in archaeological excavations at Masada, the desert mountain fortress where ancient Jewish rebels chose suicide over capture by Roman legions in A.D. 73. She said they were the oldest seeds ever brought back to life.

"A lotus seed was germinated [in China] after 1,200 years, but nothing has been germinated coming from this far back, not to 2,000 years," she said.

The palm plant, nicknamed Methusaleh after the biblical figure said to have lived for 969 years, is now about 30 cm tall. The scientists have sent one of its leaves for DNA analysis in the hope that it may reveal medicinal qualities that have disappeared from modern cultivated varieties.

The date palms now grown in Israel were imported from California and are of a strain originating in Iraq.

— AP

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