The History of Beekeeping and Honey

Egyptian Bee Hieroglyph

The History of Beekeeping and Honey

The history of beekeeping and honey is an enlightening subject. For thousands of years, humans have recognized the health benefits of honey, and the important role the honey bee plays in our environment. Not only does honey taste amazing, but it is also packed full of minerals and nutrients to sustain life. King Solomon, the ancient king of Israel around 900 B.C., even says so in Proverbs 24:13:

13 My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to they taste:

But when did humans actually begin beekeeping in order to harvest honey? The earliest records indicate that beekeeping – the rasing and breading of honey bees – began roughly 5,000 years ago in the Nile river valley of Egypt. Records have been found that date as early as 2,500 B.C. in which the honey bee was carved into ancient, Egyptian hieroglyphs, suggesting that the Egyptians revered the honey bee and its importance.

To the ancient Egyptians, honey was considered a Pharaonic food, a staple vital to the Egyptian diet. In fact, archeologists have found ancient jars filled with honey within pharoah’s tombs. The reason for this is because honey does not spoil. A a matter of fact, another title for the pharoah was Bee King.

Beekeeping

The Egyptian beekeepers created hives out of the mud from Nile river. These cylindrical hives were stacked horizontally in rows up to eight high. One hive farm could contain up to 500 hives.

Egyptian Mud Beehives

Egyptian mud beehives discovered in the Nile river region of Egypt.

The importance of the hive and evidence that the Egyptians understood the honey bee’s usefulness was even documented in a 4th century BCE papyrus discovered by archeologists, which refers to the house of the bees:

One does not build a royal palace for the honey bee. A hive of dung is better than a hive of stone [like a barn]…The house of the bee is effectively an arrangement of combs, a place suitable for storing honey…It is more pleasant for the bees beneath the honey combs.

Myth of the Eye of Re, Leiden Cat, I 384

The hives were placed mostly in the lower kingdom of Egypt where many of the flowering plants thrived. As an astute observer of nature, the ancient beekeeper understood the relationship between flowers and the honey bee. They also recognized the role bees played in pollination. Egyptian farmers would use bees to pollinate their fields, much like farmers today.

Egyptian beekeepers are depicted in hieroglyphs wearing simple attire and having shaven heads. To keep from being stung, the beekeepers would blow smoke into the hives to make the bees placid. After the bees finished the honey process within the hive, the beekeeper would then harvest the honey, strain it, and pour it into earthen jars for storage.

Ancient Honey

Egyptian Honey

Wealthy Egyptians pouring honey onto their food to sweeten it.

Honey was very important to the Egyptian culture. During social events, honey cakes were often the delicacy of choice among the wealthy. The demand for honey became so great that its value skyrocketed to where only the rich could afford it. It was often referred to as liquid gold; not only for its color, but for its value. Peasants and servants were often denied the pleasure of partaking of this succulent treat. If they were caught, the punishment was most likely several lashes across the back.

Honey was also a delicacy for the Egyptian gods. Animals, sacrificed to the gods, were typically filled with honey. Herodotus, a Greek philosopher, referred to this practice in his writings, in which he states:

When they have flayed the bullock and made imprecation, they take out the whole of its lower entrails but leave in the body the upper entrails and the fat; and they sever from it the legs and the end of the loin and the shoulders and the neck: and this done, they fill the rest of the body of the animal with consecrated loaves and honey and raisins and figs and frankincense and myrrh and every other kind of spices, and having filled it with these they offer it, pouring over it great abundance of oil.

Herodotus, 5th century BCE

The practice of adding honey to wine and other foods was widespread through the Egyptian culture. In addition, the Egyptians used honey for medical purposes. They would apply honey to open wounds, burns, and other physical ailments. It was astonishing that at a time when the knowledge of bacteria was generally unknown, the egyptians knew the antibacterial properties of honey.

As you can see, the ancient Egyptians recognized how vital the honey bee was, to not only their civilization but to life itself. Honey became a primary staple but only for the wealthy class. As such, the bee was revered and so was the pure honey it produced. Much like the pure honey Cox’s Honey farms produces for millions of customers worldwide. Today, Cox’s Honey continues the tradition of excellent beekeeping that the Egyptians began 5,000 years ago, and we will continue to provide the freshest, purest honey found on the market. Moreover, just like the Egyptians, we don’t add any preservatives or chemicals to our honey. It is nature’s liquid gold in its finest.


Cox’s Honey Gift Pack #4

Cox's Honey Gift Pack #4

$38.00

Cox’s Honey Gift Pack #4. One 40-oz cup of creamed honey fresh from the hive and one 32-oz. liquid clover honey squeeze bottle. These honeys are fresh and have a smooth, delightful flavor.

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