Book of Mormon/Anachronisms/Animals/Bees

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    Book of Mormon anachronisms: Bees


Ronan James Head,"A Brief Survey of Ancient Near Eastern Beekeeping", The FARMS Review, 20/1 (2008)

Nomadic Beekeeping

Both the ancient world and contemporary traditional apiculture elicit some evidence for nomadic beekeeping, what the Germans call Wanderbienenzucht. Ancient hives (and modern Near Eastern peasant hives) were most often shaped like pipes or logs (where bees naturally swarm) and were made from pottery, wicker, mud, clay, and wood. All of these hives would be portable on pack animals and boats. Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) describes the moving of hives along the River Po:

When food for bees is lacking in the immediate neighbourhood, the inhabitants put their hives in boats and take them by night five miles upstream. The bees emerge at dawn, feed and return every day to the boats. They change the position of the boats until they sink low in the water under the weight and it is realised that the hives are full. Then the boats are brought back and the honey harvested.

Writing in 1740, a French traveler described migratory beekeeping in Egypt: at the end of October (the end of the flowering season in Upper Egypt), the hives were placed on boats and floated down the Nile. At places where plants were still in flower, the boats were halted and the bees allowed to forage.
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Among the supposed Book of Mormon anachronisms is the mention of “bees” (Ether 2:3)...It should be noted firstly that the Book of Mormon's use of the term "bees" occurs in an Old World (Jaredite) setting, it is never used in connection with the New World, therefore the argument could simply end here. Did the Jaredites bring bees to the New World? We may never know. Some studies suggest, however, that bees were known in the ancient New World. Bruce Warren, for instance, notes that there “are many references in the Maya region to honey bees in ancient times, and these references occur in ritual contexts, i.e., are of native or pre-Spanish origin." Other New World scholars have observed that “not only was the domesticated bee in ancient America but that there were gods of bees and beekeepers . . . Honey was considered a real treat for the Indians. Equally important was black wax taken from the hives which was often traded for other commodities."[1]
  • Roman James Head, "A Brief Survey of Ancient Near Eastern Beekeeping," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008): 57–66. off-site wiki
  • Further information on New World bees in a domestic context can be found in F. Padilla, F. Puerta, J. M. Flores and M. Bustos, "Bees, Apiculture and the New World," in Archivos de zootécnica, 41/154 (1992-extra): 563–567. PDF link


  1. [note]  Mike Ash, off-site

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