Beehives in Ancient times [Archive] - Beesource Beekeeping Forums

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08-04-2016, 06:51 AM
Dear Forum,

Sorry my English writhing is not so good, but I do my best. I'm new on this history-forum, so let me introduce me before I ask my question. My name is Piet Vanmarsenille from Belgium. I am beekeeper for 25 year now and I collect also ancient coins, especially coins with bees and beehives on it. That is why I am, off course, very interested in the history of beekeeping. I hope to find beekeeper historians on the forum. Because I have so many questions about this item, where I do not find an answer.
The first pictures of beehives are from the Egyptians there are a few pictures of Egyptian beehives who are made from clay and have a cylindrical form.
The Romans work also with clay as this picture shows.
But is there somebody on the forum know if the Greeks and Romans already use the hives in in the shape of a Sugarloaf like this one?
I ask this because I read in an article that the statuette of Artemis of Ephesus was erected between two beehives like this picture shows.
For me these are no beehives, but I can't give for sure. Because I do not know if the Greeks use already this shape of beehives. Is there somebody who can help me?
I'm always interested in other information of ancient beekeeping. And I can give more information about bees on ancient coins, if there is somebody interested.

Best regards, Piet

Hops Brewster
08-04-2016, 09:03 AM
welcome Piet. Thank you for your pictures and sharing your knowledge.
Very interesting hobby you have. I do not have the answers to your questions, but I do have a daughter with friends in Greece. I will ask her to send queries regarding ancient Greek beekeeping. This will take some time.

200 oaks
08-12-2016, 07:33 PM
Hi Piet. Very interesting what you do. I am a little bit of a bee experimenter and like to build and try various bee hives of different cultures and historical times. I have a clay pot hive ready for bees which I hope to try next year. I have a keen interest in how other cultures do bee keeping. Thanks for your post.

08-13-2016, 03:26 AM
Hi Dale, that is interesting, trying out all different beehives. Must be much work to harvest whit all these different types. But it must be very interesting to see how beekeepers work in other times and places. You learn al lot whit this work.

08-13-2016, 12:20 PM
Greek beekeeping 2500 years ago used a skep-like beehive but with the straw cone pointed down. They laid wooden strips across the top of the cone for combs to be attached. This was the first movable comb hive. The wooden strips could be pulled up with combs attached and used to make splits, or otherwise manipulate the bees. There was a very good writeup in Gleanings in Bee Culture about 40 years ago, would have been somewhere around 1977 to 1980.

08-13-2016, 03:05 PM
Hi Fusion_power, many thanks for your information, this is very helpful. When the Greeks already use a sort of "skep-hive", there is a possibility that the 2 item by the statuette of Artemis are beehives, maybe...
Do you know if there is a book about this writeup? This will interest me very much.
By the way, on the coins of Ephesos you see always 1 or 2 attributes of Artemis: the deer(stag) and the bee. The deer (stag), because Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and the bee because Artemis is also the goddess of fertility. To understand why the bee is the symbol of fertility you must go 1000 years ahead. Ephesos is built in Anatolia, but before the Greeks were in Anatolia the Hitittes lived in this region. In the Hittites mythology you have a son-god Telipinu, who was the god of fertility. He had a fight with the other gods, and that is why he has leaved the world of the gods. Because he is not in the world of the gods, there is no fertility, the flowers didn't blossom, no fruit. The cattle had no calves... the peoples are starvin... Al the gods are searching for Telipinu, but nobody know where he was. At last the mother of Telipinu has send the bees out to search for the son-god. And yes, the bees finding Telipinu and bringing him back to the world of the gods. Now the flowers are blooming again, there is fruit, the calves are drinking again from the caws, there is again prosperity.... That is why the bees are the attributes of the fertility-god Telipinu. When the Greeks are coming in Anatolia, they have another god for fertility. And like many times in the history they change the god, but keep the attributes of the old god. That is why Artemis and the bees are one.
I hope my English writing is not to bad.

08-17-2016, 05:27 PM
Skep beekeeping in hives the shape of what we traditionally know as
skeps probably began well over 2000 years ago. We know this because
the classical Roman writers Varro, Columella, virgil and Pliny all mention
hives made of plant stems or woven wicker etc. Because the skeps were
made of plant material which decays easily, there is no archeological
evidence to determine the actual shape of these ancient skeps.

However, archeologists have determined that the skeps of ancient Rome
and Greece may have been very similar in shape to the traditional skeps
used today. In ancient Rome and Greece, bees were associated with every
phase of bounty and wealth. Terracotta Beehive savings banks dating to
about 2200 B,P, have been excavated in Rome. 20 or so examples found
in the graves of children and young women, often being given as New Years
gifts. These savings banks are remarkably similar in shape to the traditional
skeps used today.

Joe Waggle

08-17-2016, 05:54 PM
It may well be that to the far-reaching invasions of Roman armies and
the military colonies subsequently established should be credited for the
spread of skep beekeeping and other ancient Grecian beekeeping methods
far into the European nations, such as Germany, Spain, and France, as
also its introduction into Great Britain. Much of the folklore and traditions
such as tanging may have also been introduced to Europe by the Roman

Joe Waggle

08-20-2016, 04:07 PM
Dear Joe, this is top information. Many many thanks for your knowledge, this helps me very much. this means that it is possible that the 2 items left and right by the statuette may be 2 beehives. I was almost sure that these 2 items were no beehives, now I must change my opinion, it can be true.

By the way your website on Facebook is very interesting. I have no account, but with the account of my wife I was able to see your site. So much information, I must make an account on Facebook to read on.
I saw a picture of Aristaeus, the beekeeper of the Greek mythology. The peoples of the Greek island Keos (Cyclades) worship this satyr like you can see on this coin of the city of Ioulis
Many thanks for your information, toppy :thumbsup:

09-23-2016, 12:29 PM
I have found a very interested article on internet about this topic, the answer of many of my questions , you can find it here (