Biblical beekeeping discovered, according to articles in New Scientist, 9 June 2010, p16 and PNAS online 7 June 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1003265107. Amihai Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has found the oldest apiary in the world in the ancient town of Tel Rehov in the Jordan valley in northern Israel. The hives consisted of 30 clay cylinders similar to traditional hives still used in the Near East and depicted in ancient Egyptian paintings. The hives are dated as 10th–early 9th centuries BC and are described as being “about 80 centimetres long and 40 cm in diameter. Each one has a hole on one side which would have served as a ‘bee flap’ and a lid on the opposite side to give bee-keepers access to the honeycomb.” The hives contained remains of honeybee workers, drones, pupae, and larvae. The researchers who studied the hives expected the bees to be Syrian bees, a locally occurring subspecies of honey bee, but they turned out to be a subspecies that is now found in Turkey.

It seems this was a clever choice by the Biblical beekeepers. Turkish bees are less aggressive than Syrian bees and produce up to eight times as much honey. The research team write in their PNAS paper: “This finding suggests either that the Western honeybee subspecies distribution has undergone rapid change during the last 3,000 years or that the ancient inhabitants of Tel Rehov imported bees superior to the local bees in terms of their milder temper and improved honey yield.”

Turkish bees normally live in a cooler, wetter climate than Israel. Guy Boch, one of the researchers, commented: “In order to get the bees to thrive in the warm, dry climate of northern Israel, these bee-keepers must have been highly skilled.” New Scientist notes that the land of ancient Israel is described as “a land flowing with milk and honey” but goes on to say: “Because no evidence for bee-keeping had been found until now, ‘honey’ was deemed to mean jam.” Guy Bloch commented: “Our discovery suggests that this aspect of the Bible may need to be reinterpreted.”

New Scientist

Editorial Comment: Suggesting Biblical words like ‘honey’ should be read as ‘jam’, merely presumes the archaeologist is the final authority. But as has always turned out, the Bible does not need to be reinterpreted, because it has always told the truth. They may be correct about the distribution of bees changing over the last 3,000 years, but the finding reminds us again that it’s the Archaeologists who need to catch up to the Scriptures as an accurate document.

Such findings also remind us that ancient people were intelligent in many ways. Liberal theologians often claim that ancient people were simple, and could not understand modern science, and therefore had to be told simple myths about their origins. God who created human brains had no need to talk down to His ancient people, and has told them and us the truth, and there is no excuse for disbelieving it or trying to make it say something it doesn’t. (Ref. agriculture, insects, technology)

Evidence News 22 September 2010