Figs in ancient times
Modern evidence of fig cultivation points to the Ficus carica being “farmed” more than 11, 000 years ago in parts of the Middle East. Fig trees are even found to predate grain cultivation in the region by hundreds of years. In addition, figs are regularly mentioned in the Abrahamic religions.
But the story of the humble fig has been prominently featured in every major religion, in lives of ancient kings and queens, and every day people. Figs were believed to be a part of human evolution and witnessed the dawn of civilisation.
One of the most well-known mention of figs is in the Bible. Adam and Eve had been described as clothing themselves with fig leaves in the Garden of Eden. It is not a stretch to assume that fig fruits were in abundance in the garden and consumed by the couple.
Meanwhile, in the Quran, figs are referred to as the “fruit of heaven”. It has been mentioned by name for its health and medicinal properties, and followers are encouraged to regularly eat the fruits.
In Buddhism, it is said that Buddha attain enlightenment more than 2,000 years ago under the branches of the Ficus religiosa. During that time, India’s king devoted his love and resources to the fig tree. This story can be found in the epic poem “The Mahavamsa”.
Figs were also a mainstay for ancient Egyptians. It was found that they cultivated Ficus sycomorus and farmers used trained monkeys to harvest the fruits. Aside from eating them, pharaohs were buried with dried figs to be used as sustenance for their journey into the afterlife.
Ancient kings worshipped the fig as well. There is evidence that Sumerian King Urukagina wrote about the Ficus carica nearly 5,000 years ago and King Nebuchadnezzar II was said to had them planted in the famed hanging gardens of Babylon.
Greeks and Romans placed high value on figs. The first Olympians were given figs are prizes – to be eaten and wore them as medals. The Greek philosopher Theophrastus, also known as the father of modern botany, studied the Ficus carica during his time.
It is no wonder why ecologists have termed figs as a keystone resource.