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Beekeeping, Its Beginnings, and Early Uses

By: Sharon Bowie

pic The earliest records of beekeeping originated in Ancient Egypt at about 2400 BC on the walls of tombs. Wild bees were probably captured and loaded into hives. The hives that were used were very crude and were made of wicker baskets made of dried reeds, (a water plant) and covered with clay. On some of the reliefs, the hives are shown stacked on one another like bee hives today.

Probably the first method of beekeeping was migratory, which means that the beekeeper loaded the hives onto a small reed boat and followed the blooming flowers up and down the Nile year round. In later times, the beekeepers probably settled down in one spot with a large area of flowers. When the time came to harvest, the Ancient Egyptians would have to kill off the entire hive to get to the honey. It is still a mystery why they did it that way.

Honey was the only sweetener because sugar was unknown in the region. It was used to sweeten cakes, beer, bread, and wine. Honey was also used in medicine for minor cuts, and in mummification as an offering to the dead person. Honey never goes bad, so the honey found in King Tutankhamen's tomb was still edible after thousands of years.

In Egyptian mythology, the God of the sun, Re, created bees from his tears, so honey must have been sacred to all priests. During daily rituals, the priests would offer their God food, so, honey was probably given as well, in honor of Re.

Beeswax was another product the Ancient Egyptians used. At parties a cone made from animal fat, beeswax and, sweet smelling flower petals were placed on the guests heads. As the fat and wax melted on their wigs, a pleasant odor filled the room.

Another use for wax was for lining boats so water wouldn't seep through the reeds or wood.

There is a way to make statues hollow on the inside called the Lost Wax Method that works like this: A statue is made using bees wax. A clay mold is then formed around the wax statue. The clay mold is heated and the wax is allowed to escape through a hole in the mold, thus the wax was lost. Liquid metal is then poured into the mold and is rolled around so that all the inner surfaces are coated with metal. After cooling the mold is removed and a hollow metal statue remains.

Beeswax was also used in mummification as a sealant of the body.

The Ancient Egyptians might have built great temples and burial places, but, if they hadn't invented beekeeping, just think about how things would be.
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