A new paper – published November 11 in the journal Nature – found that about 9,000 years ago, delicious honey may have sweetened the lives of humans.
Researchers found beeswax chemical residue on pots – which is evidence that Neolithic people used beeswax – but it is uncertain whether they also consumed honey. However, one thing that is certain is that the first bee-human interactions occurred earlier than some thought.
Mélanie Roffet-Salque, study researcher and a postdoctoral researcher in chemistry at the University of Bristol, in the United Kingdom said that farmers across Europe exploited beeswax from the beginning of farming.
Roffet-Salque worked together with Richard Evershed, a biogeochemist at the University of Bristol, on ‘the new history of honeybees’ project in which they examined fragments of pottery for chemical traces of food and other substances.
In their research – that lasted two decades – Roffet-Salque and Evershed managed to analyse about 6,400 shards of pottery. About three dozen of them had beeswax chemical residue.
The researchers noted that Stone Age people may have used beeswax to cook their meals, or to make fuel and cosmetics, and they may also have consumed honey.
The oldest pottery fragment that had beeswax residue dates back to 7000 B.C. in Anatolia or what is nowadays known as Turkey.
Beeswax residues were also found on pottery fragments in Greece (dating back to 5800 B.C. and 3000 B.C.), in north-west Anatolia (5500 B.C.), and the Balkan Peninsula (5500 B.C. and 4500 B.C.). Of the 1,915 Stone Age pottery shards found in the Balkan Peninsula, about 5.5 percent had beeswax traces, according to the researchers.
In what is modern-day Germany and Austria, people living in the Stone Age used bee products in 5500 B.C. In France, bee products were used in the second half of the fifth millennium B.C.
Roffet-Salque said that above 57 degrees latitude they found no chemical residue of beeswax in pot pieces. They analyzed about 1,000 pottery fragments from Scotland and Scandinavia and found no evidence for beeswax, only animal fats. It is possible that in prehistoric times, honeybees could not survive in very cold weather.
Researchers are not sure whether Stone Age people were also beekeeper, or were only collecting the beeswax and honey from wild hives.
In 2010, archaeologists found 3000-year-old clay beehives in Israel, and a mural on an Egyptian tomb that dates back to 2400 B.C. also depicts beekeepers and hives.
Image Source: thespiritscience