Amazing Ancient Inventions – Part 1

April 8, 2013

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1.2 Ancient Beekeeping

Collecting honey from wild bee colonies is one of the most ancient human activities and is still practiced by aboriginal societies in parts of Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. Some of the earliest evidence of gathering honey from wild colonies is from rock paintings, dating to around 13,000 BCE.   Gathering honey from wild bee colonies is usually done by subduing the bees with smoke and breaking open the tree or rocks where the colony is located, often resulting in the physical destruction of the nest location.

Honey seeker depicted on 8000 year old cave painting near Valencia, Spain

Domestication of wild bees

At some point humans began to attempt to domesticate wild bees in artificial hives made from hollow logs, wooden boxes, pottery vessels, and woven straw baskets or “skeps”. Honeybees were kept in Egypt from antiquity. On the walls of the sun temple of Nyuserre Ini from the 5th Dynasty, before 2422 BCE, workers are depicted blowing smoke into hives as they are removing honeycombs. Inscriptions detailing the production of honey are found on the tomb of Pabasa from the 26th Dynasty (circa 650 BCE), depicting pouring honey in jars and cylindrical hives. Sealed pots of honey were found in the grave goods of Pharaohs such as Tutankhamun.

In prehistoric Greece (Crete and Mycenae), there existed a system of high-status apiculture, as can be concluded from the finds of hives, smoking pots, honey extractors and other beekeeping paraphernalia in Knossos. Beekeeping was considered a highly valued industry controlled by beekeeping overseers — owners of gold rings depicting apiculture scenes rather than religious ones as they have been reinterpreted recently, contra Sir Arthur Evans.

Archaeological finds relating to beekeeping have been discovered at Rehov, a Bronze and Iron Age archaeological site in the Jordan Valley, Israel.[8] Thirty intact hives, made of straw and unbaked clay, were discovered by archaeologist Amihai Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the ruins of the city, dating from about 900 BCE. The hives were found in orderly rows, three high, in a manner that could have accommodated around 100 hives, held more than 1 million bees and had a potential annual yield of 500 kilograms of honey and 70 kilograms of beeswax, according to Mazar, and are evidence that an advanced honey industry existed in ancient Israel 3,000 years ago. Ezra Marcus, an expert from the University of Haifa, said the finding was a glimpse of ancient beekeeping seen in texts and ancient art from the Near East.
In ancient Greece, aspects of the lives of bees and beekeeping are discussed at length by Aristotle. Beekeeping was also documented by the Roman writers Virgil, Gaius Julius Hyginus, Varro, and Columella.

The art of beekeeping appeared in ancient China for a long time and hardly traceable to its origin. In the book “Golden Rules of Business Success” written by Fan Li (or Tao Zhu Gong) during the Spring and Autumn Period there are some parts mentioning the art of beekeeping and the importance of the quality of the wooden box for bee keeping that can affect the quality of its honey.

Egypt

The first official mention recognizing the importance of honey dates from the first dynasty, when the title of “Sealer of the Honey” is given; the oldest pictures of bee-keepers in action are from the Old Kingdom: in Niuserre’s sun temple bee-keepers are shown blowing smoke into hives as they are removing the honey-combs. After extracting the honey from the combs it was strained and poured into earthen jars which were then sealed. Honey treated in this manner could be kept years. From the New Kingdom on mentions of honey become more frequent , but only four depictions of honey production and no actual hives have been found.

Cylindrical hives like the ones in the picture above from the tomb of Pabasa (7th century BCE) were made of clay and stacked on top of each other.
Photograph is attributable to Dr. Kenneth Stein and can be found at: http://www.virtualinsectary.com/egypt/egypt_15.htm

Bee-keeping methods are conservative in this region, well adapted to local conditions, for instance the kind of hives shown in these ancient reliefs, apparently woven baskets covered with clay, are still seen in the Sudan today.

The main centre of bee-keeping was Lower Egypt with its extensive cultivated lands, where the bee was chosen as a symbol for the country.  One of Pharaoh’s titles was Bee King, and the gods also were associated with the bee.  The sanctuary in which Osiris was worshiped was the Hwt bjt, the Mansion of the Bee.

There were itinerant apiarists in the Faiyum in Ptolemaic times using donkeys to transport their hives and possibly also beekeepers living by the Nile who loaded their hives onto boats, shipped them upriver in early spring, and then followed the flowering of the plants northwards as they were reported to do in the 19th century CE.

The Egyptians had a steady honey supply from their domesticated bees, but they seem to have valued wild honey even more. Honey hunters, often protected by royal archers, would scour the wild wadis for bee colonies.

I appointed for thee archers and collectors of honey, bearing incense to deliver their yearly impost into thy august treasury.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Schoenung September 24, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Many of the “mysterious” accomplishments from our early recorded history were left over from an earlier age and simply taken advantage of and reused, sometimes for the original purpose and other times for something entirely different. The reason for that is because they didn’t have the slightest idea what to make of them either. This link is to a video I put together of a massive ancient irrigation system in South Africa covering hundreds of miles that was not reused, and there are presently no theories that I am aware of.

http://vimeo.com/64351951

I am looking forward to reading about any explanations for it.

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Elijah April 20, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I find the article shallow perpertrating and continuing fals concepts of 100 years ago. Breasted’s 4236bc is based on the date July 18 for Memphis when Thoth was on July 20 for 4245-4242bc and then July 19 for 4241-4238bc and July 18 for 4237-4234bc. However, shifting azimuth and shifting altitude from the sun was not accounted for and thats why Chicago’s Richard Parker in later encylclopedia made it quite clear that a Thoth 20 of 2782bc is to be revised to a Thoth 17 of 2770bc. If youre a Christian Hebrew adopted by Jesus you will then see how and why 2030bc July 17 is the true new year date which after Exodus became Persian Pamenot 1 after a 70-day absence of Sothis (May 8-July 17) that was 72-day at Ur (May 7-July 18) following Peleg’s death on May 6 which is why 365 days later Nahor Mes-Kalumdug and his (grand) son Haran (A-Kalumdug) poisoned themselves and four guards killing there 68 wives (exception Lot’s mother back in the city Harran preganant or nursing) to go to heaven to join Peleg as Christ the first leader into heaven. I shouldnt use the term Christ because christos comes from Xisuthros who is the spirit of Noah, and in true Genesis, Noah died on Christmas Eve almost 9 years after this suicide, and they claimed he was the Christ in heaven. The 365-day calendar did not exist before the Flood when years were 360 days. ALSO the word for 30-day “same-sized” months is civil month. A civil month is an artificial 30-day month.

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Herman King April 12, 2013 at 10:10 am

Who said “the deeper we dig we don’t find life beginning we find it continuing.”

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Chris Allan April 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

If find it hard to reconcile the statement that the Egyptians could not build dams, but had no trouble building pyramids. Is it possible that a more advanced people lived on earth long ago, and were wiped out by some catastrophic event. All the old legends of flying machines etc. are just to detailed for them not to be based on actual events. Visitations by aliens is not necessarily the only explanation, an advanced people may have existed (Atlantis???) on earth in antiquity.

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Gary Schoenung October 4, 2013 at 3:31 pm

They were so far ahead of us that we don’t even understand what they left behind yet.

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Brenda Brown April 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Couldn’t it be that it was a little of both? I agree, nothings to say that early man didn’t know a lot more than we do today, and because of a major cataclysm, lost a large portion of their knowledge. I wonder if such an event took out a majority of our populace today, how many would know how to work with metals, make computers, build defence weapons, etc.? But at the same time, whose to say that some space race didn’t visit us in the ancient past and help us along? Why would that be so improbable? I think it’s highly likely.

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bill heaney April 9, 2013 at 11:24 am

It is racism, no question about it, but is it wrong to think so? Using Occum’s Razor, the pyramids at Giza were built by people just like the one’s who live there now. If that is so, how did they lose their extraordinary building knowledge? There’s no modern building or monument in all of Egypt that can compare. It’s like they regressed. The inhabitants of the New World, in all of the Americas, didn’t have the wheel. Yet we are told they built the awesome pyramids attributed to them.
The marvel regarding the cave art has nothing to do with the work itself, it is how they were able to do it in darkness. They find no carbon deposits on the ceilings in those caves with the extraordinary art. How is that possible?

The recent archaeology find in Turkey, Gobekli Tepe[spelling?] is 12,000 years old, making the so-called Egyptian pyramids modern in comparison. Researchers have reported on finding petrified wood in and around the Giza monuments, hinting they are very much older, and modern dating has the Spinx much older.

Ancient man was smart, but not all ancient men were as smart as we who read your books. That stone in Baalbek is proof that ancient man, the ones like those who live there now, could not have achieved that awesome skill. Look at that stone and explain it. Look at Nazca and explain how people without metal leveled those mountain tops. Come on, man, give me a break!

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Gary Schoenung April 9, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Try this for your answer.

https://vimeo.com/album/2045605

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Daniel Moore April 9, 2013 at 8:58 am

Interesting article. I look forward to more. . . . The prevalent and pernicious idea that our lowly caveman ancestors needed the godlike help of aliens to become “civilized” needs to be set aside. It isn’t provable. I believe civilization before the Cataclysm was, in some ways, more advanced than ours. By the way, I prefer “chronocentrism”–but either will work. Thank you.

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