A Judean date palm, long extinct, has been "brought back to life" by scientists who unearthed a 2,000 year-old seed of the plant and germinated it. A healthy 4-foot-tall seedling, named Methuselah after the oldest living man in the Bible, now holds the record for the oldest germinated seed.
The seed itself, perhaps the last link to the vast date palm forests that once grew in the Jordan River valley, was first discovered in 1965, as archaeologists excavated the ancient Israel site of Masada. Seeds discovered at the site were put into storage for 40 years.
Sarah Sallon, director of the Louis L. Brock Natural Medicine Research Center in Jerusalem, then recruited Dr. Elaine Solowey of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies to help revive the dormant seeds, in hopes of discovering some of the plant's medicinal properties mentioned in historical writings.
In 2005, the date palm now known as Methuselah was planted and sprouted. After it germinated, fragments of the seed shell clinging to the roots were carbon dated, placing the age of the date seeds sometime between 60 B.C. and A.D. 95, about the age expected for a seed that could have survived the famed attack on the Masada fortress described by the ancient historian Josephus. More