Please send me information on how I can find out how the ancients made fuel for their lamps out of olive oil. I would very much like to know how they did this so I can demonstrate for my college ancient history class. Thank you.
The long and short of it is that the oil does not need processing but you need the right kind of wick and lamp.
People have used olive oil with cotton or linen wicks to cleanse the air around them and to keep flames burning for light for thousand of years. Olive oil is 99% pure fuel; it does not produce smoke or soot and does not burn if spilled. Burning olive oil will smolder and put itself out or at least give you time to put it out. My understanding is that it is because olive oil has low volatility due to its high flash point (it won't burn until it reaches 550°F), which is also why you need a much thicker wick than for a regular candle or kerosene lamp.
The key to burning olive oil is to keep the wick saturated at all times. The thickness of the oil affects the capillary action so soaking the wick in oil before lighting it works best. Use wicks with a large weave or even tightly twisted strips of cotton cloth. You can also make a wick from a cotton swab. Dip the swab into the oil and then twist the oiled end off of the swab stick and shape it into a teardrop. Float the "teardrop" onto the oil and light. Use low-grade olive oil. It will burn just as well as any high-grade olive oil, but will be cheaper. A little will go along way because it burns quite slowly.
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