Archaeologists digging south of Beit She'an in the Jordan Valley have uncovered, for the first time ever, beehives from the period of Israel's kings.
The dig, at Tel Rehov, located between the religious Kibbutzim Sdei Eliyahu and Ein HaNetziv, is being supervised by archaeologist Amichai Mazar of Hebrew University. Mazar is a nephew of the famed archaeologist Binyamin Mazar, whose archaeologist daughter, Dr. Eilat Mazar, is a member of the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities.
The tel - a heap of ancient ruins from different periods, one on top of another - at Rehov is twice the size of Tel Megiddo, and the excavation team has found there rich destruction layers. Among the finds there were hundreds of restorable vessels, figurines, cult stands and the only beehives ever found in an excavation of an Iron Age site.
The discovery of the beehives was made this past summer, and "it is the earliest beehive complex currently known," Prof. Mazar says. "It is dated to the 10th–9th centuries B.C.E." - around the time of King Solomon.
The beehive complex was found to contain three rows of beehives, for a total of 30, and another 70 are believed to have been there as well. Each beehive, 80 centimeters (32 inches) long, is shaped like a cylinder 40 centimeters in diameter, and is made of clay and dried straw.
Present-day bee keepers who visited the site estimated that a half-ton of honey could be raised each year from the area that was excavated.
The city of Rehov, while not mentioned in the Bible, is listed in Egyptian writings from the times of Pharoah Shishak, mentioned in the Bible during King Solomon's times (Kings I 11,40).
The discovery of the beehives may also give new meaning to the frequent Biblical phrase, "Land of milk and honey." It is customary to understand "honey" as referring to that which is produced from dates and figs, but scholars increasingly believe that the Land of Israel was one of bees' honey as well.
"This find is unique," Prof. Mazar says, "in that never before have beehives been found in the Ancient East on such a scale. A complex so organized and large has never been found before. We have found clay vessels that were used to raise bees, but never have we found beehives."
The beehives have enabled researchers from other disciplines to make exciting finds as well. Dr. Guy Bloch of the Life Sciences Institute in Hebrew University is studying the biological aspects, and has found remnants of bees in the honeycombs removed from the beehives; Dr. Devori Namdar of Weizmann Institute has succeeded in identifying beeswax molecules in the beehive walls; and Prof. Mina Evron of Haifa University is researching the pollen found in the beehives.
A sweet new year to all!