Industrial apiculture in the Jordan valley during Biblical times with Anatolian honeybees

Guy Bloch*, Tiago M. Francoy, Ido Wachtel, Nava Panitz-Cohen, Stefan Fuchs, Amihai Mazar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Although texts and wall paintings suggest that bees were kept in the Ancient Near East for the production of precious wax and honey, archaeological evidence for beekeeping has never been found. The Biblical term "honey" commonly was interpreted as the sweet product of fruits, such as dates and figs. The recent discovery of unfired clay cylinders similar to traditional hives still used in the Near East at the site of Tel Reh:ov in the Jordan valley in northern Israel suggests that a large-scale apiary was located inside the town, dating to the 10th - early 9th centuries B.C.E. This paper reports the discovery of remains of honeybee workers, drones, pupae, and larvae inside these hives. The exceptional preservation of these remains provides unequivocal identification of the clay cylinders as the most ancient beehives yet found. Morphometric analyses indicate that these bees differ from the local subspecies Apis mellifera syriaca and from all subspecies other than A. m. anatoliaca, which presently resides in parts of Turkey. 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 Rehcombining dot belowov imported bees superior to the local bees in terms of their milder temper and improved honey yield.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)11240-11244
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
StatePublished - 22 Jun 2010


  • Apis mellifera
  • Biogeography
  • Climate change
  • Domestication
  • Iron age IIA


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