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02-10-2016, 06:08 PM
Did Ancient Man Employ Bees To Ward Off Elephants 9000 Years Ago?

I enjoy proposing theories that the ancients already knew much
of the beekeeping knowledge that is said to be discovered in
modern times, and I do propose the knowledge of using bees to
ward off crop raiding elephants to also be ancient knowledge.

Here is a excerpt of an old article I wrote some time ago:

An important discovery was made in 2002, when it was observed
that the African Savannah Elephant seemed to be afraid of honeybees.
It was observed that elephants specifically will not feed on acacia trees
which often contain beehives. Due to this finding, a study was led by
British Biologist, Lucy King of the University of Oxford and the charity
Save the Elephants, a two year pilot in Kenya in 2008 followed testing
the use of bees to ward of raiding elephants.

An interesting rock painting dating to 9,000 BCE with a theme of bees
and elephant is located in South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal (see link below).


The official description of this rock painting:

Elephant surrounded by crosses representing bees. In rock art, one sees
depictions of nested U-shapes with bees. Bushman shamans interpreted
this particular shape as a honeycomb because bees are a Bushman symbol
of potency. In the Kalahari, Bushmen dance when bees are swarming
because they believe that they can harness their potency for a particularly
effective dance.

In my eyes, I do not see what the experts describe. I see a depiction
of ancients employing bees to ward off a raiding elephant. Archaeologists
have previously deciphered this drawing as depicting an “elephant with bees,
and two bags“, -but there are other items of interest in the drawing which
need to be analyzed.

See This drawing:

In my eyes, the drawing depicts people in the back ground, who are either
spectators or participants to what is taking place. There is also a figure of
a man standing in front of the elephant with his right arm raised, -as if in
a throwing motion. Directly behind this man are lines, which may resemble
wheat stocks or some type of crop that the man appears to be warding the
elephant away from.

The rock art is dated to approximately 9,000 BCE, -well within the age of
early agriculture. The two items which were previously described by
archeologists as bags may be meant to depict baskets containing bees.
In support of this theory, I refer to the honey hunters of Nepal and other
tribes who gather honey as their ancestors have thousands of years ago,
who routinely use baskets as the preferred method of colleting and holding
bees nests and honey comb. The baskets of these honey gathers often had
long poles affixed to the handle in order to direct the basket under the nest.
It is interesting to note that one of these baskets in the drawing is depicted
with two poles attached, which might possibly be throwing sticks to aid in
the propulsion of the bee hive baskets. It is also clear that bees appear to
be flying out of the other basket, indicating that the baskets did contain bees.

In my opinion, the drawing depicts a man tossing two baskets containing
bees nests at a crop raiding elephant. I believe the line connected to the
tail of the elephant is intended to depict the elephants movement, -turning,
and moving away from the bees. The interpretation of all the items depicted
in this drawing provides powerful evidence in support of the theory that ancient
people may have employed bees to ward off raiding elephants. It is interesting
to speculate that this drawing may have been used as a teaching tool, -an ancient
manual, illustrating the procedure of how to employ bees to ward off
raiding elephants.

That's my interpretation of the drawing.

02-10-2016, 06:18 PM
Its a fun idea. I would expect hunter/gatherers were exploiting honey long before they had a problem with elephants. That would have come with farming.

You could see the elephant deterrence a the good side of defensive African bees. Hurling hives would no doubt result in the release of a lot of defensive recruiting pheromones on the target. But the hurler would have to be pretty danged tough. I wonder if there are some herbal approaches to reducing the sting problem. Lemon grass maybe? "Bee suits" made by smearing the bee-handler with light-colored mud?

All I can say first-hand is that we've had no elephant problems since we got bees, buuuuut .....

02-10-2016, 06:40 PM
Bushmen are nomadic hunter gatherers who do not grow crops, it is also doubtful if anyone in Africa was growing crops 9,000 years ago.

However people (not bushmen in this case) with primitive tools are certainly capable of successfully hunting elephants, as shown in this old, but very awesome video.


02-10-2016, 07:07 PM
Because plant based material does not preserve well in the archaeological
evidence, we have no means of knowing whether or not late Pleistocene
and early Holocene foragers in the East, Central, and South Africa collected
plants or practiced a more horticulture type behavior. It is possible according
to archaeologists that they may have practiced some type of limited horticulture.


02-10-2016, 07:15 PM
It can be determined or at least a good guess made, by looking at the tools they had if any can be found. On this basis it appears the earliest attempts at serious crop farming were in the Middle East.

However it just depends how you interpret crop farming or agriculture. For example there are people in the Amazon jungle who move around collecting from various areas seasonally. But they are careful to re - seed some of the plants they eat but the rest of the time these plants grow wild and unattended in the jungle. most early people likely had the smarts to do this kind of thing but whether on a level in 9,000 year old Africa to need to employ bees to protect crops from elephants, who knows.

To me the pic could just be depicting times of plenty. Elephant meat, and honey.

Michael Bush
02-11-2016, 06:04 AM
The links don't work for me. I get "no records found".

aunt betty
02-11-2016, 08:12 AM
You have to assume that these bush men want to brew some booze. If there was any type of agriculture 9000 years ago you can BET it was to make booze. That was used to purify water...necessity.
Put into that context it is completely feasible that them bush men had figured out a way to keep elephants from eating their hooch crop.

02-11-2016, 12:05 PM
A check up how bushmen live will show they have many ways to get water. They can see a damp patch, put a straw in to suck it out, and store it in hollowed ostridge eggs. They also no what plants they can dig up and crack open to get a rink, much of their time is spent in places with no readily available water.

For an entertaining film showing something of how Bushmen live, check out "The Gods must be Crazy".

Michael Bush
02-15-2016, 12:37 PM
Sorry, all I get is "record not found". But I did search for what you are referring to and I think I found them. A lot of it is abstract which makes it difficult to say. But apparently there was some connection between the bees and the elephants. Of course we now know that bees buzzing scares off elephants. We also know that elephants can make a mess of a village as well as a garden...

02-16-2016, 03:07 PM
Sorry, all I get is "record not found". But I did search for what you are referring to and I think I found them. A lot of it is abstract which makes it difficult to say. But apparently there was some connection between the bees and the elephants. Of course we now know that bees buzzing scares off elephants. We also know that elephants can make a mess of a village as well as a garden...

Hi Mike,

Sorry, bout the links.

Here are the images of the rock art.



Best Wishes

Michael Bush
02-16-2016, 04:35 PM
>Sorry, bout the links.

Maybe it has something to do with my browser, I don't know.

Yes, those are the ones I did the search on. Thanks. I love cave paintings of bees...

Rader Sidetrack
02-16-2016, 04:44 PM
>> >Sorry, bout the links.
>> >Maybe it has something to do with my browser, I don't know.

I doubt it is a browser issue. I think what is going on is that the "search results" as linked by naturebee are transient. The host webserver retained the search results for some defined period, then recycled the results file, making it unavailable to those that come along later.

The solution to this issue is to post a direct link to the JPG itself, as was done in post #10.