We've Been Beekeeping For At Least 9,000 Years

Photo credit: A hollow log hive of the Cévennes (France) reveals the details of circular comb architecture in Apis mellifera. Eric Tourneret

Stone Age rock art, as well as ancient Egyptian iconography dating back to 2400 BCE, has hinted at our millennia-long partnership with honeybees, Apis mellifera. And now, researchers studying thousands of pottery fragments have discovered that Neolithic Old World farmers were harvesting bee products 9,000 years ago. The findings, published in Nature, suggest our close association goes back to the beginnings of agriculture.

When the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age, European honeybee populations were finally able to expand northwards. Yet in the fossil record, honeybees have been ecologically invisible for most of the last 10,000 years. In that time, Neolithic agriculture emerged and spread out of southeastern Anatolia and the Levant (modern day eastern Mediterranean), and humans moved into areas that were well suited for honeybees too. Also, clearing up woodlands would have brought in light-demanding herbs and fruit trees, which may have offered an added positive effect. And where there’s honeybees, there’s honey and beeswax. The latter has many technological, ritual, cosmetic, and medicinal purposes.

Since beeswax consists of a complex suite of lipids with a composition that stays highly constant, it acts as a chemical fingerprint on archaeological artifacts. Beeswax residue on pottery could be the result of cooking with honey or from processing wax combs. It’s also been used as.... read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/weve-been-beekeeping-least-9000-years

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