A honey bee. Image credit: Andy Murray / Flickr
A honey bee. Image credit: Andy Murray / Flickr

People have used honey and beeswax for a very long time, for at least since we became sedentary farmers some 10,000 years ago.

This, according to researchers who have analyzed several thousands of Neolithic vessels in pursuit of wax residue.

There are plenty of prehistoric art showing that we humans have a long history with bees, with the wax and the honey they produce.

But the question is how long?

A large team of European and North African researchers has examined 6,400 ceramic bowls used by the first farmers in Europe, Southwest Asia, and North Africa, several thousand of years ago.

They found plenty of traces of beeswax. The oldest traces were found in what is now Turkey and were 9,000 years old. This means that we humans have used bee products for at least as long as we have been settled, farmers.

Honey was used as a sweetener and beeswax was used for a variety of commodities, such as cosmetics, medicine, fuel for lamps, and to making vessels watertight.

Reference: Roffet-Salque et al: “Widespread exploitation of the honeybee by early Neolithic farmers“, Nature 2015. DOI: 10.1038 / nature15757.