THE HONEY BEE IN ART & HISTORY

BY 

HUMANS LEARNED TO WORK WITH HONEY BEES IN ANCIENT TIMES, AND OUR DESTINIES ARE INTERTWINED.

In the mid-1990s, a zoology professor at Oregon State University made an amazing discovery while visiting a mine in northern Myanmar. As if from a scene in Jurassic Park, he held a piece of amber up to the light and discovered, encased within the fossilized tree resin and semiprecious stone, a humble bee. Later estimated to be 100 million years old, the insect was a fraction of the size of today’s worker bees and was believed to be from an early branch of their evolutionary tree. It was also 40 million years older than any bee previously discovered.

Ancient Egyptians were writing about their relationship with bees as early as 3000 BCE. They believed honey bees were sacred gifts from the sun god Re, formed by his tears to produce liquid sunlight, which they prized for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Beeswax was also valued for producing candles without ash, as well as cosmetics and embalming materials.

“The god Re wept, and the tears from his eyes fell on the ground and turned into a bee. The bee made his honeycomb and busied himself with the flowers of every plant and so wax was made and also honey out of the tears of Re.”

—Ancient Egyptian papyrus inscription

 

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