A Sweet History: Honey, Bees, and Beekeeping in the Ancient World
Honey was used throughout the ancient Near East, and was widely valued as a sweetener, food, medicine, a source for alcoholic beverages (mead), and even for mummification. Honey also had very deep cultural significance as a metaphor for goodness, abundance, and God’s love, and honey bees were treasured symbols of industriousness and an ordered society.
But we know surprisingly little about how bees were first domesticated or about the origins of beekeeping. This lecture gives an overview of what we can learn from modern studies, ethnography, archaeology, ancient texts, and art about ancient Near Eastern bees, honey, and beekeeping – in a journey that takes us from ancient Egypt to the realm of King Midas (of the Golden Touch), and ends in “the Land of Milk and Honey” (the land of Canaan).
About the Presenter:
Gil Stein received his BA in Archaeology from Yale and his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. His research investigates ancient economies, the archaeology of colonialism, and the development of the earliest cities and states in the Near East. He has directed archaeological excavations at prehistoric sites in Turkey, Syria, and the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq. Since 2012 he has led the US State Department-funded partnership between the Oriental Institute and the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul. This project is rebuilding the Museum’s infrastructure by training curators, developing a computer database, and conducting the first full inventory of the Museum’s collections. He is also a novice beekeeper, which inspired him to delve into the hidden ancient history and archaeology of honey, bees, and beekeeping in the Middle East and the Mediterranean world.