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Friday, September 07, 2007
  Bee keeping at Tel Rehov

This undated photograph made available by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem shows an archaeologist next to an opening of one of the ancient beehives found in excavations in Tel Rehov in northern Israel. Archaeologists digging in northern Israel have discovered evidence of a 3,000-year-old beekeeping industry, including remnants of ancient honeycombs, beeswax and what they believe are the oldest intact beehives ever found. (AP Photo / Amihai Mazar, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Image and text from AP

Science Daily seems to have the best coverage of the find (from Tel Rehov, in the Beth Shean valley) of an apiary with straw and clay hives. The find dates from around the 10th century (according to Carbon 14 dating). The hives are similar in design to pictures of beehives from ancient Egypt, though these are the earliest actual hives discovered. Previously baked clay hives from the Graeco-Roman period were the earliest known. Remains of bees and wax make the identification of the straw and clay cylinders pretty sure.

The hives were found in rows three hives high, which suggests that a good number, possibly as many as 100 hives could have been situated in the room that was excavated. This means that honey and wax production at Tel Rehov is likely to have been on an industrial scale. This find therefore means that references to honey in the Bible that have often been understood to refer to syrups made from figs or dates are more likely to intend bees honey.

According to Science Daily:
Cultic objects were also found in the apiary, including a four-horned altar adorned with figures of naked fertility goddesses, as well as an elaborately painted chalice.
The connection between these finds is unclear, but may suggest something of the religious practices of the inhabitants of Tel Rehov at that time.

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