Historic and ethnographic literature from throughout Africa suggests bee merchandise, honey and larvae, had appreciable significance each as a meals supply and within the making of honey-based drinks. To analyze this, a crew of researchers from the College of Bristol and Goethe College analyzed lipid residues from 458 prehistoric pottery vessels of the Nok culture, Nigeria, West Africa, an space the place early farmers and foragers co-existed.
In the present day, honeybees are an integral a part of socio-ecological landscapes and beekeeping performs an vital international financial position with round 1.6 million tons of honey being produced yearly.
Wild honey can also be recognized to be extensively collected by foragers globally, besides in environments such because the Arctic and Subarctic the place bees don’t survive.
Nevertheless, proof for historic human exploitation of the honeybee is uncommon, saved in Paleolithic rock artwork depicting bees and honey, present in Spain, India, Australia and Southern Africa, spanning the interval 40,000-8,000 years in the past.
The vast majority of prehistoric rock artwork, with over 4,000 websites portraying bees, honeycombs and honey-collecting, is positioned in Africa, at Didima Gorge in Namibia and different places.
Moreover, the archaeology of honey-collecting is basically invisible, in distinction to the, typically wonderful, survival of different natural supplies akin to animal bones or plant stays.
Lately, lipid residue evaluation recognized proof for the presence of beeswax in prehistoric pottery vessels from throughout Neolithic Europe, the Close to East and Mediterranean North Africa, offering proof for human exploitation of the honeybee from not less than the seventh millennium BCE.
Nevertheless, little is thought of its significance in different areas globally, for instance, within the subsistence of hunter-gatherer teams and early farming communities in West Africa, an enormous geographic space extending from the Atlantic Ocean within the west, and south to Cameroon.
Probably the most well-known cultures in prehistoric West Africa is the Nigerian Nok tradition, which spans a interval of round 1,500 years, starting across the center of the 2nd millennium BCE.
The Nok tradition is characterised by its outstanding terracotta collectible figurines, which represent the earliest large-sized figurative artwork objects in Africa exterior Egypt and early proof for iron manufacturing in West Africa, ca. 1st millennium BCE.
In new analysis, Dr. Julie Dunne from the College of Bristol and colleagues carried out natural residue evaluation on a complete of 458 potsherds from 12 archaeological websites in Central Nigeria, protecting the Early, Center and Late Nok durations.
To their nice shock, the scientists revealed that round one third of the pottery vessels utilized by the traditional Nok folks had been used to course of or retailer beeswax.
The presence of beeswax in historic pottery is recognized by means of a fancy collection of lipids, the fat, oils and waxes of the pure world.
The beeswax might be current as a consequence both of the processing (melting) of wax combs by means of mild heating, resulting in its absorption throughout the vessel partitions, or, alternatively, beeswax is assumed to behave as a proxy for the cooking or storage of honey itself.
“It is a outstanding instance of how biomolecular data extracted from prehistoric pottery, mixed with ethnographic information, has offered the primary insights into historic honey looking in West Africa, 3,500 years in the past,” Dr. Dunne stated.
“We initially began the research of chemical residues in pottery sherds due to the shortage of animal bones at Nok websites, hoping to seek out proof for meat processing within the pots,” stated Professor Peter Breunig, a researcher at Goethe College.
“That the Nok folks exploited honey 3,500 years in the past, was utterly sudden and is exclusive in West African prehistory.”
A paper on the findings was revealed within the journal Nature Communications.
J. Dunne et al. 2021. Honey-collecting in prehistoric West Africa from 3500 years in the past. Nat Commun 12, 2227; doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22425-4