Jerusalem, Israel - Israeli scientists have confirmed that a date palm seed found in the Judean Desert in the ancient ruins of Masada is 2,000 years old and is the oldest seed ever to germinate.
The seed had been found in the 1960s and was preserved until scientists planted the seed three years ago. Since then, it has sprouted into a healthy four-foot tall seedling.
The plant is named Methuselah, after the oldest person in the Bible. The journal Science reports that Methuselah is seven centuries older than a 1,300 year-old Chinese lotus, which was previously thought to be the oldest germinated seed.
Jerusalem scientist Sarah Sallon and her colleagues are testing the plant to see if it represents an extinct species. They will know in about two years whether the plant is a female and capable of bearing fruit.
Sallon believes it is possible that the seed was left by the Jews who escaped the Roman sacking of Jerusalem for the fortress of Masada and held out against the Roman siege in AD 73, then committed suicide rather than submit to Roman rule. They burned their food supplies to show that they didn't starve to death.
Sallon said, "These people were eating these dates up on the mountain and looking down at the Roman camp, knowing that they were going to die soon, and spitting out the pits. Maybe here is one of those pits."
Sources: Science, Los Angeles Times, Infolive.tv