Discovery news: Earliest Beehives Discovered in Ancient Israel

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Earliest Beehives Discovered in Ancient Israel

11 June 2010 21:43:55

Throughout the bible, Israel is described as “the land of milk and honey.” A few documents and paintings hint that beekeeping may have occurred during biblical times, there has been no physical evidence – until now.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of the oldest earliest known apiary during an excavation of Tel Rehov, an important city during the Israeli monarchy located in northern Israel. The ancient bee colony dates to around 3,000 years ago.

The structure consists of three rows of clay cylinders -- which researchers believe are man-made bee hives -- situated within a courtyard. Some thirty hives were unearthed, but researchers expect up to 100 hives once existed.

“The exceptional preservation of these remains provides unequivocal identification of the clay cylinders as the most ancient beehives yet found,” the scientists wrote in a study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Each ceramic hive was fashioned with two holes. On one end was a small hole that acted as a door for the bees. On the opposite end was a clay lid beekeepers used to access the golden goods -- honey and wax.

Despite its antiquity, this was no small mom and pop operation. Researcher think the hives produced up to a half a ton of honey each year.

The architecture of the ancient hives is similar to bee farms found in modern-day Israel. But bee remains found at the site are from a variety of bee native to Turkey, not Israel.

Turns out the Syrian bees native to Israel are aggressive and hard to manage. Turkish bees, on the other hand, are calmer, making them more desirable for urban farms such as the one found in Tel Rehov.

Israelis most likely imported the bees from Turkey. According to the researchers, this indicates that, “beekeeping already was an elaborate agricultural process in Israel 3,000 years ago.”

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