Olive trees in the Jerusalem garden where Jesus Christ prayed before he was crucified have "miraculously" lived through the past nine centuries bacteria-free, according to a molecular research presented last week at the Vatican Radio in Rome.
Carried by a team of researchers from Italy's National Research Council (CNR) and various Italian universities, the three-year study investigated eight gnarled olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of the holiest sites of Christendom.
The research found that three of the eight healthy trees (the only ones on which it was technically possible to carry out the dating) come from the middle of the 12th century, although the roots underground are certainly much older.
ANALYSIS: Can We Find Trees on Other Planets?
"These olives are among the oldest broad-leaved trees in the world. Plants of greater age are not reported in the scientific literature," lead researcher Antonio Cimato of the CNR's Tree and Timber Institute in Florence, said.
Carbon dating showed that the trees come from the years 1092, 1166 and 1198, a period when the Crusaders, engaged in the reconstruction of the great churches of the Holy Land, re-built the Basilica of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.
According to the researchers, it is likely that during the construction of the church, the olive garden was rearranged and renovated.
Indeed, olive trees can grow back after being cut down or even burnt.
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