Friday, June 25, 2010

Israel Imported Honeybees from Turkey

Several years ago, excavators at Tel Rehov (near Beth Shean) discovered a series of beehives.  Scholars have now concluded that bees were imported from Turkey because they were less aggressive and more productive than Syrian bees.  From the Jerusalem Post:

Although Turkey is currently in the dog house for many Israelis because of its involvement in the violent Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, during biblical times the Israelites imported bees from Turkey for the industrial production of honey in the Beit She’an Valley, according to a new archeological discovery by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The team, headed by HU archeology Prof. Amihai Mazar, found a total of 30 intact hives in the ruins of the city of Tel Rehov, dating back to 900 BCE, as well as evidence that there had been 100-200 hives made of straw and unbaked clay.

Three millennia ago, the joint Israelite-Canaanite settlement had 2,000 residents.

The hives, lined up in an orderly way, may be the earliest complete beehives ever discovered and offer a glimpse of ancient beekeeping during biblical times.

The team of archeologists and biologists was surprised that bee remnants had been found in an urban setting.


Syrian bees are aggressive and irascible, said Bloch.

Thus, it would have been difficult to keep them within a dense urban area. The Anatalyan bee, which produces five to eight times more honey, is less aggressive, making it possible to raise them in an urban setting.

The Beit She’an Valley digs also showed evidence of widespread commerce with lands in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as techniques for transferring bees in large pottery vases or portable hives. An Assyrian stamp from the 8th century BCE provided evidence that the bees had been brought 400 km. south from the Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey – a distance that was just slightly shorter than that between Taurus and Tel Rehov. Thus, the import of “docile” bees apparently was a solution for the beekeepers of the Land of Israel.

The full article is here.

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