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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June, 2005, 01:21 GMT 02:21 UK
Date palm buds after 2,000 years
File photograph of a date palm
Dates have symbolic importance in the Middle East
Israeli researchers say they have succeeded in growing a date palm from a 2,000-year-old seed.

The seed was one of several found during an excavation of the ancient mountain fortress of Masada.

Scientists working on the project believe it is the oldest seed ever germinated.

Researchers in Jerusalem have nicknamed the sapling Methuselah, after the biblical figure said to have lived for nearly 1,000 years.

Future medicine?

The palm is from a variety that became extinct in the Middle Ages and was reputed to have powerful medicinal properties.

The plant is now nearly 30cm (12in) tall.

Researcher Sarah Sallon of the Louis Borick Natural Medicine Research Centre in Jerusalem said that one of the plant's leaves had been sent for analysis.

Dates had "an enormous amount of use in ancient times for infections, for tumours" she told the Associated Press news agency.

"We're researching medicinal plants for all we're worth, we think that ancient medicines of the past can be the medicines of the future," she added.

If it continues to thrive, scientists hope the palm will eventually reveal the secrets of its past.

Cloned dates bear fruit for Iran
28 Nov 98 |  Middle East


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