West Africans Hunted for Honey 3,500 Years Previously

Historical and ethnographic literature from across Africa suggests bee merchandise, honey and larvae, had substantial importance both as a food provide and within the making of honey-primarily primarily based drinks. To investigate this, a team of workers of researchers from the University of Bristol and Goethe University analyzed lipid residues from 458 prehistoric pottery vessels of the Nok custom, Nigeria, West Africa, an rental where early farmers and foragers co-existed.

Modern-day straw beehive in a tree in Nigeria. Image credit: Dunne et al., doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22425-4.

Contemporary-day straw beehive in a tree in Nigeria. Describe credit ranking: Dunne et al., doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22425-4.

Nowadays, honeybees are an integral share of socio-ecological landscapes and beekeeping plays the largest world economic feature with around 1.6 million a whole bunch honey being produced every year.

Wild honey would possibly be known to be broadly amassed by foragers globally, besides in environments corresponding to the Arctic and Subarctic where bees attain no longer stay on.

Nevertheless, proof for extinct human exploitation of the honeybee is uncommon, saved in Paleolithic rock art depicting bees and honey, indicate in Spain, India, Australia and Southern Africa, spanning the interval 40,000-8,000 years within the past.

The extensive majority of prehistoric rock art, with over 4,000 net sites portraying bees, honeycombs and honey-collecting, is situated in Africa, at Didima Gorge in Namibia and totally different locations.

Furthermore, the archaeology of honey-collecting is largely invisible, in distinction to the, ceaselessly gorgeous, survival of totally different natural materials corresponding to animal bones or plant stays.

Now no longer too long within the past, lipid residue analysis identified proof for the presence of beeswax in prehistoric pottery vessels from across Neolithic Europe, the Approach East and Mediterranean North Africa, providing proof for human exploitation of the honeybee from no longer decrease than the seventh millennium BCE.

Nevertheless, limited is famous of its importance in totally different areas globally, shall we relate, within the subsistence of hunter-gatherer groups and early farming communities in West Africa, a astronomical geographic rental extending from the Atlantic Ocean within the west, and south to Cameroon.

One among basically the most famed cultures in prehistoric West Africa is the Nigerian Nok custom, which spans a interval of around 1,500 years, initiating around the heart of the 2nd millennium BCE.

The Nok custom is characterised by its powerful terracotta collectible figurines, which constitute the earliest colossal-sized figurative art objects in Africa out of doors Egypt and early proof for iron manufacturing in West Africa, ca. 1st millennium BCE.

In unusual research, Dr. Julie Dunne from the University of Bristol and colleagues performed natural residue analysis on a whole of 458 potsherds from 12 archaeological net sites in Central Nigeria, covering the Early, Center and Leisurely Nok intervals.

To their mighty shock, the scientists published that around one third of the pottery vessels dilapidated by the extinct Nok folks have been dilapidated to process or retailer beeswax.

The presence of beeswax in extinct pottery is identified by a fancy series of lipids, the fats, oils and waxes of the pure world.

The beeswax might seemingly maybe moreover be newest as a extinguish result either of the processing (melting) of wax combs by gentle heating, leading to its absorption inside of the vessel walls, or, alternatively, beeswax is thought to act as a proxy for the cooking or storage of honey itself.

“That is a powerful example of how biomolecular knowledge extracted from prehistoric pottery, mixed with ethnographic knowledge, has provided the foremost insights into extinct honey hunting in West Africa, 3,500 years within the past,” Dr. Dunne mentioned.

“We firstly started the peek of chemical residues in pottery sherds on memoir of the dearth of animal bones at Nok net sites, hoping to search out proof for meat processing within the pots,” mentioned Professor Peter Breunig, a researcher at Goethe University.

“That the Nok folks exploited honey 3,500 years within the past, became once fully surprising and is uncommon in West African prehistory.”

A paper on the findings became once published within the journal Nature Communications.


J. Dunne et al. 2021. Honey-collecting in prehistoric West Africa from 3500 years within the past. Nat Commun 12, 2227; doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22425-4