Beekeeping in Egypt
The God Ra wept and his tears fell to the ground and were
turned into bees. The bees began to build and were active on all flowers
of every kind belonging to the vegetable kingdom. Thus wax came into
being, thus was created honey from the tears of the God Ra.
The first official mentioning of bee-keeping dates
from about 2400 BCE, in official lists of apiarists. The kind of hives
depicted in reliefs are still seen in the Sudan today: woven wicker
baskets covered with clay.
Cylindrical hives like the ones in the picture on the
left from the tomb of Pabasa were made of clay.
centre of beekeeping was Lower Egypt with its extensive cultivated lands,
where the bee was chosen as a symbol for the country. But even nomadic
Upper Egyptians must have kept some bees, as their use of honey in the
production of green eye paint indicates. There were itinerant apiarists who
loaded their hives onto boats and shipped them upriver in early spring,
following the flowering of the plants northwards.
The Egyptians seem to have valued wild honey even more.
Honey hunters, often protected by royal archers, would scour the wild
wadis for bee colonies.
Temples kept bees in order to satisfy the
desire of the gods for honey and for the production of medicines and
ointments. But demand far outran local production. Honey, like many other
luxury goods was imported from Retenu and even further afield.