When did people start to eat honey?
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History of honey

Chimpanzee getting honey
Chimpanzee smashing a beehive to get honey

June 2016 - Bees first began to make honey about 200 million years ago, long before there were any people. People almost certainly ate wild honey even before they evolved into people, as monkeys do when they can get it. Chimpanzees strip leaves from sticks and then push the sticks into beehives in tree trunks or underground to get the honey. Probably early people in Africa also used sticks to scoop honey out of beehives. Honey is a great source of carbohydrates, plus it tastes delicious! In addition, you can use honey to preserve food so it won't go bad.

Arana cave honey gathering
Gathering honey (Arana Cave,
Spain, 8000 BC)

When people first left Africa, about 60,000 BC, they kept on looking for wild beehives and getting the honey out of them. People were collecting honey in Europe using baskets or hollow gourds by at least 8000 BC.

Egyptian beehives
Egyptian bee-keeping, 5th Dynasty
(Temple of Pharaoh Niuserre at Abu Gorab, ca. 2400 BC)

Climbing trees to get honey is dangerous and difficult, and that made honey very expensive. At some point, people began to capture beehives by taking home sections of hollow logs that had beehives inside them.

People were keeping bees by making clay beehives for them to live in by the time of Old Kingdom Egypt, in 2400 BC. Keeping your own bees was a lot easier! But by this time, most people probably weren't even keeping their own bees. They bought honey at the store, or got it as a gift from their boss or their governor. Bee-keepers were mostly professionals, as they are today - trained slaves working on big honey farms with hundreds of hives, often owned by the government.

Learn by doing: dip apple slices in honey for a great snack
More about honey

Bibliography and further reading about honey:

More about Sugar
More about honey
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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