Menu Close

How People practiced beekeeping in the Stone Age

honeycomb in an ancient pot

People knew that bee nests were valuable prey as early as the Stone Age, which lasted from 2 million to 5,000 years ago. So they hunted them diligently for honey and wax, even though it was dangerous and difficult. The bees could sting the pickers to death as they cut honeycombs from crevices of rocks or hollows of tall trees. The fact that our ancestors collected honey in ancient times is confirmed by ancient rock paintings.

The first images of honey collectors

An 8,000-year-old rock art known as “The Man of Bicorp” was discovered in the Cuevas de la Araña, or Spider Caves in Valencia, Spain. It depicts a man climbing vines to a nest of wild bees living in a crevice of rock. One hand of the forager holds a tall vessel, while the other disappears into a light, swirling cloud of bee swarms. The stone captures in paint a truly poetic vision, harmoniously linking the beauty of man and nature.

The picture of man climbing vines to a nest of wild bees discovered in the Cuevas de la Araña, or Spider Caves in Valencia, Spain
An 8,000-year-old rock art known as “The Man of Bicorp” was discovered in the Cuevas de la Araña, or Spider Caves in Valencia, Spain.

Another drawing is in the central part of the Barranco Gómez cave on the banks of the Guadalope River.  WITHIN THE FOOTHILLS OF THE Iberian System Mountain Range in northeastern Spain, archaeologists have discovered a 7,500-year-old cave painting depicting prehistoric man gathering honey. The detailed depiction shows a figure climbing a rope ladder to reach a bee’s nest. It is considered to be the best surviving image of its kind.

drawing in the central part of the Barranco Gómez shows a figure climbing a rope ladder to reach a bee’s nest.
A 7,500-year-old drawing in the central part of the Barranco Gómez cave depicting prehistoric man gathering honey.

When did the domestication of bees begin

It is difficult to say when ancient people switched from collecting honey to beekeeping, but archaeological evidence confirms that traces of beeswax can be found on the oldest ceramics from 9,000 years ago.

Researchers believe that the remnants of beeswax on pottery at human sites are evidence that bees began to be domesticated during this period.

 The study is in the journal Nature. [Mélanie Roffet-Salque et al, Widespread exploitation of the honeybee by early Neolithic farmers].

The oldest honey that has been found

The oldest honey was found in Georgia. This is why Georgia is the so-called “cradle of beekeeping. Honey, 5,500 years old, was found in the burial of a noblewoman during archaeological excavations in 2003 near the town of Borjomi. The ceramic vessels found with her contained several types of honey, including linden and flower honey. Prior to this find, the oldest honey was thought to be honey from Tutankhamun’s tomb some 3,000 years ago.

Thus, humans in the Stone Age obviously interacted with bees and bee products. It is debatable how much of this was beekeeping rather than collecting honey from wild hives.

Next we find images of beehives and bees in Ancient Egypt during the Bronze Age of 2-1 thousand years B.C. About this our next article – the history of beekeeping in Ancient Egypt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *