The Tears of Re:
Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt
by Gene Kritsky
Hardcover: 114 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Released: Nov. 1, 2015
Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Book Description from NetGalley:
According to Egyptian mythology, when the ancient Egyptian sun god Re cried, his tears turned into honey bees upon touching the ground. For this reason, the honey bee was sacrosanct in ancient Egyptian culture. From the art depicting bees on temple walls to the usage of beeswax as a healing ointment, the honey bee was a pervasive cultural motif in ancient Egypt because of its connection to the sun god Re.
Gene Kritsky delivers the first book to examine the relationship between the honey bee and ancient Egyptian culture, through the lenses of linguistics, archeology, religion, health, and economics. Kritsky delves into ancient Egypt's multifaceted society, and traces the importance of the honey bee in everything from death rituals to trade. In doing so, Kritsky brings new evidence to light of how advanced and fascinating the ancient Egyptians were.
This richly illustrated work appeals to a broad range of interests. For archeology lovers, Kritsky delves into the archeological evidence of Egyptian beekeeping and discusses newly discovered tombs, as well as evidence of manmade hives. Linguists will be fascinated by Kritsky's discussion of the first documented written evidence of the honeybee hieroglyph. And anyone interested in ancient Egypt or ancient cultures in general will be intrigued by Kritsky's treatment of the first documented beekeepers.
The Tears of Re described the currently available information about bees, honey, and beekeeping in ancient Egypt. Apparently, we know very little about ancient beekeeping practices, though we know they did it and they even had an administrative structure based around it. The author gave detailed descriptions of the existing visual evidence in tombs and temples related to bees, honey, and beekeeping. He described what can still be seen, what parts have been destroyed, and the different theories about what, exactly, the scenes depict.
He also included what ancient written sources say about beekeeping, the worth of honey, how honey was used in food and medicine, how beeswax was used, and the various myths about the origin and purpose of bees. He provided several translations of various texts that he quoted so we could get a good feel for what was meant. He also talked about beekeeping practices that were used in Egypt until recently which look very similar to the ancient visual record.
It's a short book, but it did a nice job of presenting the available information about beekeeping practices and bee products used in ancient Egypt. I'd recommend it to those seriously interested in the topic.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
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