The tears of Re: Ancient Egyptian beekeeping techniques

26.03.2016. 19:44

According to Egyptian mythology, when the God of the sun Re cried and his tears touched the ground they turned into honeybees to work the fields, to work the trees, to make honey and to make wax.

Bees and honey were important in Egyptian life right from the earliest moments of the country’s history. Honey was not just a staple food but also used as currency. The beekeepers must have been revered members of their communities and some carried very grand titles for their jobs.

Importance of honey in ancient Egypt

The God Ra is the queen of the honeybees and that make bees very sacrosanct in ancient Egyptian culture and honey a product of the Gods. The first official mention recognizing the importance of honey in ancient Egypt dates from the first dynasty. The oldest pictures of beekeepers in action are from the Old Kingdom, in Niuserre’s sun temple, where beekeepers are shown blowing smoke into hives as they are removing the honeycombs. After extracting the honey from the combs it was strained and poured into earthen jars which were then sealed.

The Tears of God Re

Gene Kritsky, author of The Tears of Re, holds a PhD in Entomology and specialized in the history of biology. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Egypt in 1981-1982, where he began his research in Egyptology. He describes the sophisticated beekeeping techniques of the ancient Egyptians—such as smoking the hive and the calling of the queen.