In the Renaissance (that is generally accepted as being between the 15th and 16th centuries) olive oil production techniques became more mechanised thanks to numerous scientific discoveries.
Ever since the classical age, olives had been squeezed by hand or using clay (or terracotta) pots, such as those found in multiple archaeological excavations in Greece. The ancient Egyptians crushed olives inside a concave stone using a large boulder. The liquid would then drip down into adjacent cavities along grooves cut into the stone.
The real revolution in squeezing olives came with the introduction of the levered press. A beam was weighed down by large stones, pressing the olive paste that was placed on a screen of interwoven fibres.
Another innovation, which some historians attribute to the Greeks, was the invention of the wooden screw press. The famous Archimedes made the discovery when he replaced the traditional spoke drum with a vertical screw that was attached to the ground and the ceiling with washers and upon which an oversized locknut was placed. The nut was turned using a large pole and would in turn raise and lower a beam. As the nut was turned to push the beam down, small blocks were inserted to maintain the pressure until the olives had been fully pressed.
The pruning of the trees occurred over a long period of time. In the past it always coincided with Easter time, when branches and twigs were chosen to be brought into the church for Palm Sunday blessing, a tradition that continues to this day.
The olive harvest, called “brucatura” in Italian, began in November, with the harvest of the olives that had ripened early, and lasted until 13 December, the feast of Saint Lucia for those that ripened later.