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Ancient Beehive Tombs of Oman – So, Where are the Bodies?

Ancient Beehive Tombs of Oman – So, Where are the Bodies?

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Lined up dramatically atop a rocky ridge, the beehive ‘tombs’ of Bat and Al Ayn are two of Oman’s most celebrated prehistoric sites. Little is known about the stone structures, or the culture that constructed them. However, despite this lack of knowledge, UNESCO feels it knows enough to conclude that “the necropolis of Bat bears characteristic and unique witness to the evolution of funeral practices during the first Bronze Age in the Oman peninsula” – a rather strange statement considering that not a single human or animal bone has been recovered from the hundreds of beehive-shaped monuments scattered across the rugged landscape.

No Burial Remains in the Beehive Tombs?

Visit any website about the beehive monuments of Oman, and you will read endless descriptions about these impressive ‘tombs,’ which form one of the largest proto-historic necropolises in the world. You will even read detailed descriptions of the ‘funeral chambers’ within the monuments and how many bodies would have been held within each room. However, what most of these sites fail to mention is that no burial remains have ever been retrieved from these so-called ‘tombs.’

Oman’s Beehive ‘tombs’ lined up dramatically atop a rocky ridge. ( Olja /Adobe Stock)

Unfortunately, the beehive structures of Oman demonstrate one of the greatest shortfalls of the field of archaeology – the tendency to impose pre-conceived ideas upon phenomena that cannot be understood through our modern-day mindset. As there seems to be no other obvious purpose for their building than as funerary structures, the conclusion has simply been drawn that they were built as tombs – case closed.

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World Heritage beehive structure at Al Ayn, Oman.

Three Main Clusters of Beehive Structures

It was during the 1970s, that a team of Danish archaeologists ‘discovered’ the beehive structures of Oman, although it is likely that the local people always knew of their presence. The monuments are composed of stacked local flat stones and have been dated to between 3,500 and 2,000 BC, a period when the Arabian Peninsula was subject to much more rainfall than now, and supported a flourishing civilization in what is now desert to the west of the mountain range along the Gulf of Oman. In 1988, the monuments were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The structures are arranged in three main clusters: one in Bat, which is arguably the most famous, as well as the sites of al-Ayn and al-Khutm. The best preserved are those located in al-Ayn, where 21 beehive structures are lined up over the mountain range before the impressive backdrop of the Jabal al Misht (‘Comb Mountain’).

5000-year-old stone beehive ‘tombs’ at the UNESCO world heritage site of Bat in Oman . ( Kylie /Adobe Stock)

In 2019, 45 more beehive tombs were identified in Al Sharqiyah along with an Iron Age settlement and a copper mine. It has been described as one of the best preserved sites found in Oman in the last decade.

The earliest of the structures are the simplest, with only one entrance and one chamber, and the later tombs have two entrances and up to four chambers. Only a few artifacts give any clue to the culture, and are basically limited to a few arrowheads, daggers, and water jugs.

The Hili Grand Tomb

Not far from Al Ayn beehive monuments are the circular tower tombs of Hili, including the Hili Grand Tomb, a reconstructed collective tomb, which is the largest monument in the UAE in terms of size of the stones used. It measures 12 meters (39.37 ft.) in diameter and 4 meters (13.12 ft.) high and has two entrances which are decorated with human and animal reliefs.

The tombs belong to the Umm an-Nar culture, a Bronze Age culture that existed from the second half of 3rd millennium BC. This culture is known for their circular tombs characterized by well fitted stones. Within the tombs at Hili, archaeologists have recovered hundreds of human remains, as well as some objects and personal items.

The Iconic Great Hili Tomb . ( David_Steele /Adobe Stock)

The circular tower tombs of Hili bear many similarities to the beehive monuments, but as you can see in the image above there are also distinct differences.

It appears that there is a presumption that the beehive monuments must have served the same purpose as the circular tower tombs of Hili because they date to around the same period of time and are located in the same region. However, the important question remains – why were no human remains found in the beehive tombs?

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Alternative Ideas on the Beehive ‘Tombs’ of Oman

Perhaps they were constructed as tombs but never needed to be used. Perhaps the deceased were placed in them and their bones moved to another location once decomposition had taken place. Or perhaps they served a different purpose entirely.

Some scholars have suggested they were used as silos or tanks, while researcher Brien Foerster has referred to the incredible acoustic properties that have been detected in other beehive-shaped monuments found around the world.

Beehive tombs at the UNESCO world heritage site of Al-Ayn in Oman . ( derusu /Adobe Stock)

The fact remains that we really do not know what the beehive monuments of Oman were used for and drawing conclusions based on assumptions and without sufficient evidence only serves to undermine and water-down the entire field of archaeology.

Archaeological Sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn

The protohistoric site of Bat lies near a palm grove in the interior of the Sultanate of Oman. Together with the neighbouring sites, it forms the most complete collection of settlements and necropolises from the 3rd millennium B.C. in the world.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Sites archéologiques de Bat, Al-Khutm et Al-Ayn

Le site protohistorique de Bat, au voisinage d'une palmeraie de l'intérieur du sultanat d'Oman, constitue avec ses sites annexes l'ensemble le plus complet de zones d'habitat et de nécropoles du III e millénaire av. J.-C.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

المواقع التاريخية في بات والخطم والعين

يشكّل موقع بات الذي يعود إلى عصور ما قبل الكتابة والمجاور لبستان النخل داخل سلطنة عمان، مع المواقع المرتبطة به، المجموعة الأكثر كمالاً في مناطق السكن والمقابر الكبيرة في الألفية الثالثة ق.م.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Археологические памятники Бат, Эль-Хутм и Эль-Айн

Доисторические памятники Бата расположены рядом с пальмовой рощей во внутренней части султаната Оман. Вместе с близко расположенными памятниками они образуют наиболее целостный, из всех существующих в мире, комплекс поселений и некрополей 3-го тысячелетия до н.э.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Sitios arqueológicos de Bat, Al Khutm y Al Ayn

Cercano a un palmeral situado en el interior del sultanato de Omán, el sitio protohistórico de Bat y los sitios arqueológicos vecinos constituyen el conjunto más completo del mundo de asentamientos humanos y necrópolis del tercer milenio antes de nuestra era.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Archeologische steden Bat, Al-Khutm en Al-Ayn

De protohistorische site Bat ligt in de buurt van een palmentuin in het binnenland van het Sultanaat van Oman. Samen met de naburige plaatsen vormt de plek de meest complete verzameling nederzettingen en begraafplaatsen ter wereld uit het 3e millennium voor Christus. De necropolis van Bat bevindt zich op een begrensde en coherente plek en toont karakteristieke en unieke eigenschappen van de evolutie van begrafenispraktijken tijdens de eerste bronstijd op het schiereiland van Oman. Er zijn twee archeologische vindplaatsen: de toren van Al-Khutm, 2 kilometer ten westen van Bat en de groep graftombes van Qubur Juhhal in Al-Ayn, 22 kilometer ten zuidoosten van Bat.

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Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The protohistoric archaeological complex of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn represents one of the most complete and well preserved ensembles of settlements and necropolises from the 3rd millennium BCE worldwide. The core site is a part of the modern village of Bat, in the Wadi Sharsah approximately 24 kilometres east of the city of Ibri, in the Al-Dhahira Governorate of north-western Oman. Further extensions of the site of Bat are represented by the monumental tower at al-Khutm and by the necropolis at al-Ayn. Together, monumental towers, rural settlements, irrigation systems for agriculture, and necropolises embedded in a fossilized Bronze Age landscape, form a unique example of cultural relics in an exceptional state of preservation.

Seven monumental stone towers have been discovered at Bat and one is located in al-Khutm, 2 km west of Bat. The towers feature a circular outer wall about 20-25 m in diameter, and two rows of parallel compartments on either side of a central well. The earliest known tower at Bat is the mud-brick Hafit-period structure underneath the Early Umm an-Nar stone tower at Matariya. The latest known tower is probably Kasr al-Rojoom, which can be ceramically dated to the Late Umm an-Nar period (ca. 2200-2000). All of the stone-built towers show dressed blocks of local limestone laid carefully with simple mud mortar. While conclusive evidence of their function is still missing, they seem to be platforms on which superstructures (now missing) were built – either houses, or temples, or something else entirely.

The vast necropolis at Bat includes different clusters of monumental tombs that can be divided into two distinct groups. The first group is Hafit-period “beehive” tombs located on the top of the rocky slopes surrounding Bat, while the second group extends over a river terrace and includes more than a hundred dry-stone cairn tombs. Another important group of beehive tombs is located at Qubur Juhhal at al-Ayn, 22 km east-southeast of Bat. Most of these tombs are small, single-chambered, round tombs with dry masonry walls dating to the beginning of the 3rd millennium BCE. Others are more elaborate, bigger, multi-chambered tombs from the second half of the 3rd rd millennium BCE.

As in many other ancient civilizations, monuments in ancient Oman were usually built with regularly cut stones. Unique of Bat and al-Ayn are the remains the ancient quarries from which the building materials were mined, and the many workshops that attest to the complete operational procedure, from the quarries, to the stone-masonry, to the buildings construction techniques. The continuous and systematic survey activities constantly increase the types and number of monuments and sites to be documented and protected, which include villages and multiple towers, quarries associated with the Bronze Age stone-masonry workshops, Bronze Age necropolises, an Iron Age fort, Iron Age tombs, and two Neolithic flint mines connected with workshop areas for stone tool-making.

Criterion (iii): The area encompassing the settlements, the necropolises and the workshop areas of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn is the most complete and best known archaeological complex in Eastern Arabia for the 3rd millennium BCE. Cuneiform texts of ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq), dating to the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, tell us that the country of Magan (Oman) was at the time the principal extraction centre of copper, which was exported overseas to Mesopotamia to the northwest, and possibly to the Indus Valley in the east. Archaeological evidence for the appearance of a more hierarchical and structured social organization is attested at Bat in both the settlements, where circular monumental structures contrast with rectangular houses, and the necropolises, where the arrangement of funerary space increased in complexity and the grave goods testify to higher living standards and social changes mainly due to the introduction of a long-distance trade economy.

Criterion (v): In a restricted, coherent space, the necropolis of Bat bears characteristic and unique witness to the evolution of funeral practices during the Early Bronze Age in the peninsula of Oman.

The archaeological sites of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn encompass the most unique ensemble of 4000-5000 year-old burial monuments, towers, and remains of settlement in the Arabian Peninsula, representing an extraordinary example of the unique response of the ancient people of Oman to the pressures of an increasing population and to the input from contacts with other civilizations.

The actions of time, erosion and weathering processes, has slightly damaged some structures, but in general, the sites at Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn are very well preserved and they continue to express their exceptional cultural value and incredible monumentality.


Bat and its surroundings represent a mosaic of intact, authentic monuments of great antiquity, represented not only by villages and funerary buildings, but also by the many monumental towers and irrigation dams. For centuries, the tombs were used and reused, thus preserving their original function and meaning.

Protection and management requirements

The archaeological complex of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn are protected by the law for National Heritage Protection of the Sultanate of Oman (1980), and they are studied and preserved under the control of the Ministry of Heritage & Culture and its Department of Excavations and Archaeological Studies (DEAS). The Ministry of Heritage & Culture is presently developing a new “Management Plan” and a new “Memorandum of Understanding”, focusing on the following three points:

(I) to protect the site from destruction by regulating access to and development of specific parts of the site (II) to promote understanding of the meaning of each site and monument through scientific study of archaeological remains and the contemporary landscape and (III) to promote the dissemination of these studies through the development of an interpretive programme oriented for local and international tourism, including the creation of one or more interpretation centre at site.

To answer these goals, the following elements are under way or planned: Since 2004 the Ministry of Heritage & Culture there has started a comprehensive international project in close collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania Museum (Philadelphia, USA), the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo, Japan), the German Mining Museum (Bochum, Germany), and the University of Tübingen (Tübingen, Germany), for the documentation, the study and the conservation of the archaeological complex of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn. Research have been concentrated on tombs (German Mining Museum and University of Tübingen), monumental towers (University of Pennsylvania Museum), local settlement patterns (University of Pennsylvania Museum and University of Tübingen), and quarries (German Mining Museum). In 2009, the Department of Explorations & Archaeological Studies of the Ministry of Heritage & Culture excavated the monumental tower at al-Khutm.

The continuous collaboration and interaction between all teams involved in the study of the archaeological complex of Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn, under the constant supervision of the Ministry of Heritage & Culture, has resulted in the creation of a more detailed typology for the tombs and the monumental towers. Moreover, this research strategy has led to an increasing understanding of the social-cultural and environmental contexts that eventually resulted in the foundation and the development of such a complex mosaic of villages, necropolises and hydraulic structures still visible at Bat, al-Khutm and al-Ayn. In light of recent discoveries at al-Ayn, it might be worth considering an enlargement of the boundaries of the property for the re-inscription of Bat, Khutm, and al Ayn to include also the row of tombs locally known as Qubur al-Jehhal, situated near the modern village of al-Ayn.

Plans are being developed to begin the restoration of the best preserved monumental tower, the so-called Kasr al-Rojoom.

A local inspector has been entrusted by the Ministry of Heritage & Culture to monitor the construction and the development of modern infrastructures and any potentially destructive access to the sites.

The main cemetery site was already partly fenced off from vehicular traffic, but the construction of a complete fence began in 2009.

Ancient Oman: Archaeological Digs and Historical Discoveries in the Sultanate of Oman

Everyone is aware of some of the major archaeological discoveries in the Middle East: the King Tut discovery in Egypt in 1922 by Howard Carter, the British archaeologist, or the 19th century archaeological discoveries of Babylon and Nineveh in what is today Iraq. Mesopotamia, that area between the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates is known as the cradle of civilization because it is the first place in the world where complex urban centers grew. However, anywhere you dig in the Middle East, you will find traces, remnants of ancient civilizations, and ancient peoples. The African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) has for years run annual conferences on some of these ancient but also, to the general public, lesser known civilizations. The purpose is to expand and enrich the knowledge of the countries of the Near East by placing the region in its historical context, whilst concomitantly drawing attention to the rich collection of archaeological materials available at the Library of Congress by displaying 60-80 relevant items during the symposia. In the last three years alone, for example, we organized a 2017 symposium entitled “From Oxus to Euphrates: the Sassanian Empire” in 2016, we held one on “The Assyrian Legacy: From Ancient Civilization to Today’s Cultural Revival” and in 2015, the annual symposium featured “The Phoenicians and the Ancient City of Tyre.”

On April 24, 2018, in partnership with the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center (SQCC) we held a symposium on “Ancient Oman: Archaeological Digs and Historical Discoveries in the Sultanate of Oman.” Like the others, it was an all-day three panel conference, with nine participants, three AMED moderators, a keynote speaker, and opening remarks by the ambassador of Oman, H.E. Hunaina al-Mughairy. Like the others, this was a first, as there had never been a symposium on the archaeology of Oman at the Library Congress. It was also, to the delight of the archaeologists gathered that day, the first time that they had all met, and were gathered together under one roof to discuss their findings. Although they were all working in Oman, and knew about each other, they were scattered in various regions and had not had the opportunity to get together to compare notes.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Said bin Nasser Alsalmi, director general of the Office of the Adviser to His Majesty the Sultan for Cultural Affairs, gave a PowerPoint presentation on the ancient history of Oman from the dawn of history to the present. This was followed by the first panel entitled “Ancient Magan: Connecting the Ancient World Through Copper.” As early as 2300 B.C. ancient Sumerian cuneiforms texts (the oldest writing system in the world on clay tablets in what is Iraq today) had identified the region, that is Oman today, as a rich source of copper. So the civilization located in Oman came to be known by that name Magan.

Map of Oman. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 1996. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

The first speaker on that panel, Kimberly D. Williams, associate professor of anthropology at Temple University, and director of Social, Spatial and Bioarchaeological Historical Studies of Oman, discussed mortuary rituals at the Umm an-Nar site at Dahwa on the Batinah Coast of Oman. She argued that during the period 2700-2100 BC Umm an-Nar site showed significant evidence of interregional exchange between Magan and Indus peoples (located in the northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan region). The exchanges likely centered on the industrial copper smelting at the site. Locally produced ceramics and Indus ceramics were found in both settlement and mortuary contexts at Dahwa, where a large tomb and bone pit provide an important avenue to explore if and how mortuary rituals were affected by these interactions.

Eli Dollarhide a doctoral student working together with Zenobie S. Garett in the Department of Anthropology at New York University on a project to map Magan, presented a paper on “Surveying de Cardi’s Oman: A re-examination of the Bronze Age record at al-‘Amlah.” Beatrice de Cardi was one of the first archaeologists to work in the Omani interior. Her work, carried out in the mid-1970s, on Bronze Age pottery from Oman dating to the 3rd millennium BC, offered an early glimpse of the important trade connections present between Mesopotamia, Ancient Iran, the Indus Valley, and southeastern Arabia. Her excavations also uncovered a dense cluster of prehistoric tombs and settlements near the village of ‘Amlah in present day Oman (approximately 34 miles east of the city of Ibri in northwestern Oman), and her discoveries have played a vital role in introducing the world to the rich archaeological record of Bronze Age Oman.

Group picture of some of the participants, SQCC Executive Director, and AMED moderators. (Photo by John Reagan)

Covering the same period, Mark Kenoyer, professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, discussed technology and trade in ancient Oman, and argued that “The wide range of pottery types, stone beads, stone vessels and copper/bronze objects found at these sites indicate a robust tradition of local production as well as inter-regional trade in raw materials and finished goods” with the region mentioned above.

The second panel moved to the first millennium AD, and focused on trade and settlements in ancient Dhofar, in southern Oman. Located on the Arabian Sea, Al-Baleed in the Dhofar region, was one of the most vibrant ports in ancient times. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Krista Lewis, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas, and the director of the “Land of Frankincense Archaeological Project,” discussed how the town grew into a thriving city, and experienced a series of political and economic developments and phases of reorganization, reconstruction, and expansion over more than a thousand years.

Joy McCorriston, professor of anthropology, at the Ohio State University, and director of the ASOM Project (Ancient Socioecological systems in Oman), discussed “Monuments, Mobility and Pastoral Territoriality in Ancient Dhofar.” She raised a question at the start of her presentation: “What can we learn from the dynamic lives of ancient Dhofaris?” and answered it by saying that 95 percent of all Omanis were pastoralists and that her work had established that they were among the earliest people to domesticate animals, namely cattle and sheep, some 8,000 years ago. It was only 2,500 years later that agricultural technologies were adapted in the region. She also discussed the monuments and tombs she and her team excavated in the Dhofar region.

The last panelist on the second panel was Michael Harrower, associate professor of archaeology, at the Johns Hopkins University, and the director of the “Archaeological Water Histories of Oman Project.” A specialist in satellite imagery mapping, whose research has been funded by agencies including NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Archaeological Institute of America, and National Geographic, he used hyperspectral imaging to find objects and identify materials. For example, he was able to detect areas where there had been copper, and regions where trees had been burnt for charcoal during the Bronze Age. He also identified more recent items in Dhofar such as metal tools, weapons including daggers, and household utensils such as spatulas. He also located semi-precious beads such as Carnelian beads.

The third panel focused on contemporary Oman, and how archaeology is affecting the country. The panelists included Nathan Reigner, a SQCC research fellow who discussed the impact of archaeology on Omanis and the growing awareness of the need to preserve their rich cultural heritage while promoting it to the world. He presented various frameworks that would promote stewardship of historical sites, and encouraging public-private partnership collaborations.

A sampling of books was on display at the conference, “Ancient Oman: Archaeological Digs and Historical Discoveries in the Sultanate of Oman.” (Photo by Levon Avdoyan.)

Christopher Thornton, senior director of Cultural Heritage, the National Geographic Society, and director of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bat in Oman, was the next speaker. He maintained that tourists who came to Oman never ventured inland, and never saw the historic sites. So in 2015, he experimented with a new approach: National Geographic Expeditions partnered with Mejdi Tours, an elite tour company, and together they created the first overland trip through Oman and the neighboring United Arab Emirates designed for tourists from the West. The 10-day-long trips ran monthly for two seasons and experimented with different itineraries, different themes, and different guides.򠫌ompanied by experts who could provide context and content where formal information was lacking, travelers were exposed to parts of Oman that most tourists had never seen. Thus, archaeology is beginning to shape the tourist economy of Oman.

The last panelist was Eric Staples, assistant professor of History at al-Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates. He discussed “The Jewel of Muscat Project” that being the reconstruction of a ninth-century sailing ship, which was built in 2008-2010 and on which he and a crew of Americans and Omanis sailed across the Indian Ocean. Staples’ paper discussed the project, an experimental archaeological project, and examined the ways in which the Jewel of Muscat was utilized to emphasize the more maritime aspects of Oman’s national heritage, while simultaneously including it within the larger discourse of Oman’s role in the Indian Ocean.

The audience was spell bound by the presentations and remained in attendance throughout the day. The display of books on Oman was held in AMED’s conference room and was visited during the lunch and coffee breaks. Some of the books were lent by SQCC, who promised to donate them to the Library to complement our already rich collection.

Countries of the Near East Section: Oman

Symposium video (to be posted here)

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              Kings and queens of ancient world buried in “beehive tombs,” including Trojan conqueror Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, the wife whom legend has it murdered him

              All across the ancient world, domed structures can be found, some of them dating all the way to 3000 years BC. From the Iberian peninsula to the islands of Greece, the Gulf of Levantes and Asia Minor, the ancient Mediterranean cultures shared similar buildings that were most likely used as burial grounds for kings and other notable figures.

              Constructed in a shape resembling a beehive, the tholos tombs (tholos being the Greek word for a domed tomb) represent some of the most important relics of the Late Bronze Age. The structures are built underground, with an entrance made of stone pillars.

              The entrance led to the cut in the slope of a hillside and into the burial chamber, which was set two-thirds below ground level with the top of the dome protruding above ground. The final touch was to cover the dome with earth and let time form the tomb into a small hill with a stone entrance.

              The tombs are similar in concept to the earlier Mycenaean chamber tombs―both consisted of a chamber, a doorway and an entrance passage. The main difference was that the chamber tombs were rock-cut, while the tholos was built and reinforced by the superposition of successively smaller rings of mudbricks or, more often, stones.

              Cross section of Treasury of Atreus, a beehive tomb

              The careful placement of these elements guaranteed that the dome would last throughout the ages, and it is incredible how the structures have managed to survive centuries of natural disasters, wars, and tomb raiding.

              Tholi are most typically found in the areas inhabited by Ancient Greek tribes and civilizations, such as the Mycenae on the Greek mainland and Minoans in the island of Crete, but they can also be found in today’s Spain, Iraq, and Syria. The tombs are also typical of other cultures that were in direct contact with Hellenic kingdoms, such as Thrace, located in today’s Bulgaria.

              The most famous and perhaps the best preserved is located on the Panagitsa Hill in Greece. The place was once the heartland of Mycenaean civilization and it’s believed this is where the legendary King Atreus was buried.

              The Beehive Tombs of Bat, in Oman, are among the most unique ensemble of 4000-5000 year-old burial monuments, towers, and remains of settlement in the Arabian Peninsula. They are a Unesco World Heritage Site.

              Atreus, the father of Agamemnon, the famous Greek king who conquered Troy, was allegedly buried here somewhere between 1350 and 1250 BC, but scholars are unable to agree on whether this was indeed his tomb, or perhaps his glorious treasury.

              Some consider the beehive tomb hosts the remains of his son, Agamemnon, while others argue that the tomb (or treasury) belongs to neither of them, as it is believed that both of the rulers of Mycenae Greece lived long after the tomb was constructed.

              Treasury of Atreus, the Famous Beehive Tomb at Mycenae Archaeological Site

              No physical remains were found at the site, most probably due to extensive looting which has plagued the locality since the late antiquity and throughout the modern age.

              Another significant tholos, also related to the ancient rulers who brought Troy to its knees, is the tomb of Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon, who, as the legend goes, murdered him after his return from conquest.

              Tholos of the Nuraghe Arrubiu CC BY-SA 3.0

              After 1500 BC, the beehive tombs became more common and replaced the older style because they offered a more stable and, most importantly, an easier to create solution. Through this shift, we witness the development of building technology in ancient cultures.

              The burial chamber often housed more than one person, together with everyday objects like pottery. These were intended to represent the wealth of the deceased and to serve him, or her, in the afterlife. Among the most important discoveries of these grave goods are the two gold “Vapheio cups” on which marvelous scenes of bull taming are illustrated.

              Other representations of wealth often came in the form of various decorations, expensive materials or exquisite craftsmanship.

              The treasury (or tomb) of Atreus was decorated with famous stone brought from quarries more than 60 miles away in the province of Lacedaemon, or Lapis Lacedaemonius, as it was known throughout the Greco-Roman world. This extremely rare and expensive volcanic rock was found in various colors ranging from dark green to red and yellow.

              Apart from the beehive tombs on the Greek peninsula and its numerous islands that served as burial crypts, examples found in the Middle East suggest that the beehive-like structures were used for storage of food, housing, or religious rituals.

              Lined up dramatically atop a rocky ridge, the Beehive Tombs of Bat, in Oman, are among the most unique ensemble of 4000-5000 year-old burial monuments, towers, and remains of settlement in the Arabian Peninsula. They are a Unesco World Heritage Site.

              Domed tombs of similar designs, created in various different periods, have been found in today’s Oman and even as far as Somalia.

              In Spain, Portugal, and southern France, similar burial traditions can be found dating back to the Chalcolithic period, 3000 BC, and are most often related to the Los Millares pre-historic culture of southern Spain.

              On the island of Sardinia, the autochthon Nuragic civilization, which occupied the Mediterranean isle in the period between the 18th century BC to 2nd century AD, used to build tholos-styled necropolis structures which served as burial grounds for up to 30,000 people.

              Apparently, the burial rites and traditions were very similar in various civilizations of the Bronze Age, even though most of these cultures never had any known contact with each other.

              Cultural similarities between different peoples, all of womh inhabited the Mediterranean basin in the ancient times, give us insight into a world long gone―a world upon which our world was built.

              Jebel Hafeet Beehive Tombs

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              The Jebel Hafeet Beehive Tombs (also spelled Jabel Hafit Tombs) are the remains of an ancient cemetery that dates back to between 3200 to 3000 BC. The cluster of domed structures and has been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

              More than 500 of these tombs sit at the foot of Jebel Hafeet mountain. They look like small stone igloos baking in the Sun.

              Incredibly, some of the tombs still contain skeletal remains. These tombs and architectural remains are significant, as they are a rare and unique illustration of human development in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age on the Arabian Peninsula.

              The drive alone to get to the tombs is an adventure in itself. Although Jebel Hafeet mountain is accessible on the United Arab Emirates side via an excellently maintained road, the tombs are off-road.

              Know Before You Go

              Drive toward the Mezyad Oman border post. Exit the first right at the roundabout toward the Oasis International School. The road will become a dirt road. Drive along until you come to some camel farms. At the farms, turn right and then follow the vague tracks in the sand toward the mountain. Eventually, after some rocky terrain, you will see the tombs ahead.

              A strong 4x4 vehicle is an essential requirement. The abandoned Mezyad fort is roughly five minutes away.

              Jebel Hafeet Tombs

              Approximately 5,000 years ago, in the shadow of the steeply rising, 1,160-metre Jebel Hafeet mountain, early inhabitants of the Al Ain region chose its northern and eastern slopes for a series of tombs for their dead. Hundreds of tombs have been found in this area, with artefacts at the tombs showing trade links with ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), Iran, and the Indus Valley (modern-day Pakistan and India).
              These Bronze Age tombs were built over a 500-year period between 3200 BCE and 2700 BCE, with the most prominent located in a necropolis along the eastern foothills. Other tombs are found along the crests of prominent hills and ridges leading northward from Jebel Hafeet toward Al Ain city, which lies approximately 20 kilometres to the north.

              Tomb Architecture

              Each domed tomb comprises a single round or oval chamber about 2 to 3 metres across and constructed of uncut or rough-cut local rock. One-, two- or three-ring walls encircle the chamber and rise to a height of 3-4 metres above the ground. The ring walls gradually slope inwards until they eventually meet forming a dome. A narrow entrance, usually facing south, pierces the wall at the ground level.
              The Jebel Hafeet tombs generally contained the remains of two to five people, but could have contained more individuals. This is in contrast to the later Umm an-Nar burial sites on the Arabian Gulf coast, where hundreds of people were buried in a single tomb. In another contrast to Umm an-Nar, limited numbers of pottery vessels were generally found in each Jebel Hafeet tomb.

              Burial Artefacts

              The extent of trade with distant Bronze Age societies is reflected in the imported Mesopotamian pottery discovered in some of the earliest tombs. Beads also were found in the tombs, the most significant of which were small blue-green tubular beads, perhaps also from Mesopotamia. Another type of bead found at the tombs was made locally of stone shaped in flat and trapezoidal or square shapes.
              Spearheads and daggers from the second millennium (2000 BCE to 1000 BCE) have been discovered in the tombs as well, alongside bronze and copper objects, and vessels made of soapstone.
              Other objects indicate the tombs remained in use or were re-used in later periods, mainly during the Iron Age (1300 BCE-300 BCE). The phenomenon of Iron Age people reusing old burial sites was common in the region.

              Archaeological Sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn

              The site of Bat is located inside a palm grove. Around 3000 BC there was an intense trade of copper (extracted locally) and stone (probably diorite) with Sumerians. [3] The necropolis consists of 100 graves and circular buildings each with a diameter of about 20 meters. [ citation needed ] These buildings have no outside openings, so besides the possibility of their ritualistic function, they may have been used as tanks or silos. Their precise function is as of yet unknown. In 1972, the excavations carried out by a Danish team led by Karen Frifelt showed that the area has been continuously inhabited for 4000 years. [ citation needed ]

              Al-Khutm Edit

              The ruins at Al-Khutm are thought to have derived from a stone fort, with a tower made of rock with a diameter of 20 metres (66 feet). They are located 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) west of Bat. [ citation needed ]

              Al-Ayn Edit

              Al-Ayn is a small necropolis, although it is in the best condition of the three necropolises. It is located 22 kilometres (14 miles) southeast of Bat. [4]

              The sites have not been subjected to restoration or other types of conservation before the protection provided by UNESCO, so their isolation has been their only protection. One of the greatest dangers concerning the sites preservation comes from locals who take building material from the archaeological sites. [3]

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              Early history Edit

              Depictions of humans collecting honey from wild bees date to 10,000 years ago. [2] Beekeeping in pottery vessels began about 9,000 years ago in North Africa. [3] Domestication of bees is shown in Egyptian art from around 4,500 years ago. [4] Simple hives and smoke were used and honey was stored in jars, some of which were found in the tombs of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun. It wasn't until the 18th century that European understanding of the colonies and biology of bees allowed the construction of the movable comb hive so that honey could be harvested without destroying the entire colony.

              At some point humans began to attempt to maintain colonies of wild bees in artificial hives made from hollow logs, wooden boxes, pottery vessels, and woven straw baskets or "skeps". Traces of beeswax are found in potsherds throughout the Middle East beginning about 7000 BCE. [3]

              Honeybees were kept in Egypt from antiquity. [5] On the walls of the sun temple of Nyuserre Ini from the Fifth Dynasty, before 2422 BCE, workers are depicted blowing smoke into hives as they are removing honeycombs. [6] Inscriptions detailing the production of honey are found on the tomb of Pabasa from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty (c. 650 BCE), depicting pouring honey in jars and cylindrical hives. [7] Sealed pots of honey were found in the grave goods of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun.

              I am Shamash-resh-ușur, the governor of Suhu and the land of Mari. Bees that collect honey, which none of my ancestors had ever seen or brought into the land of Suhu, I brought down from the mountain of the men of Habha, and made them settle in the orchards of the town 'Gabbari-built-it'. They collect honey and wax, and I know how to melt the honey and wax – and the gardeners know too. Whoever comes in the future, may he ask the old men of the town, (who will say) thus: "They are the buildings of Shamash-resh-ușur, the governor of Suhu, who introduced honey bees into the land of Suhu."

              Oldest archaeological finds directly relating to beekeeping have been discovered at Rehov, a Bronze and Iron Age archaeological site in the Jordan Valley, Israel. [9] Thirty intact hives, made of straw and unbaked clay, were discovered by archaeologist Amihai Mazar in the ruins of the city, dating from about 900 BCE. The hives were found in orderly rows, three high, in a manner that could have accommodated around 100 hives, held more than 1 million bees and had a potential annual yield of 500 kilograms of honey and 70 kilograms of beeswax, according to Mazar, and are evidence that an advanced honey industry existed in ancient Israel 3,000 years ago. [10] [11] [12]

              In ancient Greece (Crete and Mycenae), there existed a system of high-status apiculture, as can be concluded from the finds of hives, smoking pots, honey extractors and other beekeeping paraphernalia in Knossos. Beekeeping was considered a highly valued industry controlled by beekeeping overseers—owners of gold rings depicting apiculture scenes rather than religious ones as they have been reinterpreted recently, contra Sir Arthur Evans. [13] Aspects of the lives of bees and beekeeping are discussed at length by Aristotle. Beekeeping was also documented by the Roman writers Virgil, Gaius Julius Hyginus, Varro, and Columella.

              Beekeeping has also been practiced in ancient China since antiquity. In a book written by Fan Li (or Tao Zhu Gong) during the Spring and Autumn period there are sections describing the art of beekeeping, stressing the importance of the quality of the wooden box used and how this can affect the quality of the honey. [ citation needed ] The Chinese word for honey ( 蜜 , reconstructed Old Chinese pronunciation *mjit ) was borrowed from Indo-European proto-Tocharian language, [ citation needed ] the source of "honey", from proto-Tocharian *ḿət(ə) (where *ḿ is palatalized cf. Tocharian B mit), cognate with English mead.

              The ancient Maya domesticated a separate species of stingless bee, which they used for several purposes, including making balché, a mead-like alcoholic drink. [14] The use of stingless bees is referred to as meliponiculture, named after bees of the tribe Meliponini—such as Melipona quadrifasciata in Brazil. This variation of bee keeping still occurs around the world today. [15] For instance, in Australia, the stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria is kept for production of their honey. [16]

              Scientific study of honey bees Edit

              It was not until the 18th century that European natural philosophers undertook the scientific study of bee colonies and began to understand the complex and hidden world of bee biology. Preeminent among these scientific pioneers were Swammerdam, René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur, Charles Bonnet, and François Huber. Swammerdam and Réaumur were among the first to use a microscope and dissection to understand the internal biology of honey bees. Réaumur was among the first to construct a glass walled observation hive to better observe activities within hives. He observed queens laying eggs in open cells, but still had no idea of how a queen was fertilized nobody had ever witnessed the mating of a queen and drone and many theories held that queens were "self-fertile," while others believed that a vapor or "miasma" emanating from the drones fertilized queens without direct physical contact. Huber was the first to prove by observation and experiment that queens are physically inseminated by drones outside the confines of hives, usually a great distance away.

              Following Réaumur's design, Huber built improved glass-walled observation hives and sectional hives that could be opened like the leaves of a book. This allowed inspecting individual wax combs and greatly improved direct observation of hive activity. Although he went blind before he was twenty, Huber employed a secretary, François Burnens, to make daily observations, conduct careful experiments, and keep accurate notes over more than twenty years. Huber confirmed that a hive consists of one queen who is the mother of all the female workers and male drones in the colony. He was also the first to confirm that mating with drones takes place outside of hives and that queens are inseminated by a number of successive matings with male drones, high in the air at a great distance from their hive. Together, he and Burnens dissected bees under the microscope and were among the first to describe the ovaries and spermatheca, or sperm store, of queens as well as the penis of male drones. Huber is universally regarded as "the father of modern bee-science" and his "Nouvelles Observations sur Les Abeilles (or "New Observations on Bees") [17] revealed all the basic scientific truths for the biology and ecology of honeybees.

              Invention of the movable comb hive Edit

              Early forms of honey collecting entailed the destruction of the entire colony when the honey was harvested. The wild hive was crudely broken into, using smoke to suppress the bees, the honeycombs were torn out and smashed up — along with the eggs, larvae and honey they contained. The liquid honey from the destroyed brood nest was strained through a sieve or basket. This was destructive and unhygienic, but for hunter-gatherer societies this did not matter, since the honey was generally consumed immediately and there were always more wild colonies to exploit. But in settled societies the destruction of the bee colony meant the loss of a valuable resource this drawback made beekeeping both inefficient and something of a "stop and start" activity. There could be no continuity of production and no possibility of selective breeding, since each bee colony was destroyed at harvest time, along with its precious queen.

              During the medieval period abbeys and monasteries were centers of beekeeping, since beeswax was highly prized for candles and fermented honey was used to make alcoholic mead in areas of Europe where vines would not grow. The 18th and 19th centuries saw successive stages of a revolution in beekeeping, which allowed the bees themselves to be preserved when taking the harvest.

              Intermediate stages in the transition from the old beekeeping to the new were recorded for example by Thomas Wildman in 1768/1770, who described advances over the destructive old skep-based beekeeping so that the bees no longer had to be killed to harvest the honey. [18] Wildman for example fixed a parallel array of wooden bars across the top of a straw hive or skep (with a separate straw top to be fixed on later) "so that there are in all seven bars of deal" [in a 10-inch-diameter (250 mm) hive] "to which the bees fix their combs". [19] He also described using such hives in a multi-storey configuration, foreshadowing the modern use of supers: he described adding (at a proper time) successive straw hives below, and eventually removing the ones above when free of brood and filled with honey, so that the bees could be separately preserved at the harvest for a following season. Wildman also described [20] a further development, using hives with "sliding frames" for the bees to build their comb, foreshadowing more modern uses of movable-comb hives. Wildman's book acknowledged the advances in knowledge of bees previously made by Swammerdam, Maraldi, and de Réaumur—he included a lengthy translation of Réaumur's account of the natural history of bees—and he also described the initiatives of others in designing hives for the preservation of bee-life when taking the harvest, citing in particular reports from Brittany dating from the 1750s, due to Comte de la Bourdonnaye. However, the forerunners of the modern hives with movable frames that are mainly used today are considered the traditional basket top bar (movable comb) hives of Greece, known as “Greek beehives”, which also allowed the beekeeper to avoid killing the bees. [21] The oldest testimony on their use dates back to 1669 although it is probable that their use is more than 3000 years old. [22]

              The 19th century saw this revolution in beekeeping practice completed through the perfection of the movable comb hive by the American Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth. Langstroth was the first person to make practical use of Huber's earlier discovery that there was a specific spatial measurement between the wax combs, later called the bee space, which bees do not block with wax, but keep as a free passage. Having determined this bee space (between 5 and 8 mm or 1 ⁄ 4 and 3 ⁄ 8 in), Langstroth then designed a series of wooden frames within a rectangular hive box, carefully maintaining the correct space between successive frames, and found that the bees would build parallel honeycombs in the box without bonding them to each other or to the hive walls. This enables the beekeeper to slide any frame out of the hive for inspection, without harming the bees or the comb, protecting the eggs, larvae and pupae contained within the cells. It also meant that combs containing honey could be gently removed and the honey extracted without destroying the comb. The emptied honey combs could then be returned to the bees intact for refilling. Langstroth's book, The Hive and Honey-bee, published in 1853, described his rediscovery of the bee space and the development of his patent movable comb hive.

              The invention and development of the movable-comb-hive fostered the growth of commercial honey production on a large scale in both Europe and the US (see also Beekeeping in the United States).

              Evolution of hive designs Edit

              Langstroth's design for movable comb hives was seized upon by apiarists and inventors on both sides of the Atlantic and a wide range of moveable comb hives were designed and perfected in England, France, Germany and the United States. Classic designs evolved in each country: Dadant hives and Langstroth hives are still dominant in the US in France the De-Layens trough-hive became popular and in the UK a British National hive became standard as late as the 1930s although in Scotland the smaller Smith hive is still popular. In some Scandinavian countries and in Russia the traditional trough hive persisted until late in the 20th century and is still kept in some areas. However, the Langstroth and Dadant designs remain ubiquitous in the US and also in many parts of Europe, though Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France and Italy all have their own national hive designs. Regional variations of hive evolved to reflect the climate, floral productivity and the reproductive characteristics of the various subspecies of native honey bee in each bio-region.

              The differences in hive dimensions are insignificant in comparison to the common factors in all these hives: they are all square or rectangular they all use movable wooden frames they all consist of a floor, brood-box, honey super, crown-board and roof. Hives have traditionally been constructed of cedar, pine, or cypress wood, but in recent years hives made from injection molded dense polystyrene have become increasingly important.

              Hives also use queen excluders between the brood-box and honey supers to keep the queen from laying eggs in cells next to those containing honey intended for consumption. Also, with the advent in the 20th century of mite pests, hive floors are often replaced for part of (or the whole) year with a wire mesh and removable tray.

              In 2015 the Flow Hive system was invented in Australia by Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart Anderson, [23] allowing honey to be extracted without expensive centrifuge equipment.

              Pioneers of practical and commercial beekeeping Edit

              The 19th century produced an explosion of innovators and inventors who perfected the design and production of beehives, systems of management and husbandry, stock improvement by selective breeding, honey extraction and marketing. Preeminent among these innovators were:

              Petro Prokopovych used frames with channels in the side of the woodwork these were packed side by side in boxes that were stacked one on top of the other. The bees traveled from frame to frame and box to box via the channels. The channels were similar to the cutouts in the sides of modern wooden sections [24] (1814).

              Jan Dzierżon was the father of modern apiology and apiculture. All modern beehives are descendants of his design.

              François Huber made significant discoveries regarding the bee life-cycle and communication between bees. Despite being blind, Huber brought to light a large amount of information regarding the queen bee's mating habits and her contact with the rest of the hive. His work was published as New Observations on the Natural History of Bees.

              L. L. Langstroth revered as the "father of American apiculture" no other individual has influenced modern beekeeping practice more than Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth. His classic book The Hive and Honey-bee was published in 1853.

              Moses Quinby often termed "the father of commercial beekeeping in the United States," author of Mysteries of Bee-Keeping Explained. He invented the Bee smoker in 1873. [25] [26]

              Amos Root author of the A B C of Bee Culture, which has been continuously revised and remains in print. Root pioneered the manufacture of hives and the distribution of bee-packages in the United States.

              A. J. Cook author of The Bee-Keepers' Guide or Manual of the Apiary, 1876.

              Dr. C.C. Miller was one of the first entrepreneurs actually to make a living from apiculture. By 1878 he made beekeeping his sole business activity. His book, Fifty Years Among the Bees, remains a classic, and his influence on bee management persists to this day.

              Franz Hruschka was an Austrian/Italian military officer who made one important invention that catalyzed the commercial honey industry. In 1865 he invented the simple machine for extracting honey from the comb by means of centrifugal force. His original idea was to support combs in a metal framework and then spin them around within a container to collect honey as it was thrown out by centrifugal force. This meant that honeycombs could be returned to a hive undamaged but empty, saving the bees a vast amount of work, time, and materials. This single invention significantly improved the efficiency of honey harvesting and catalyzed the modern honey industry. [27]

              Walter T. Kelley was an American pioneer of modern beekeeping in the early and mid-20th century. He greatly improved upon beekeeping equipment and clothing and went on to manufacture these items as well as other equipment. His company sold via catalog worldwide, and his book, How to Keep Bees & Sell Honey, an introductory book of apiculture and marketing, allowed for a boom in beekeeping following World War II.

              In the U.K., practical beekeeping was led in the early 20th century by a few men, pre-eminently Brother Adam and his Buckfast bee and R.O.B. Manley, author of many titles, including Honey Production in the British Isles and inventor of the Manley frame, still universally popular in the U.K. Other notable British pioneers include William Herrod-Hempsall and Gale.

              Dr. Ahmed Zaky Abushady (1892–1955) was an Egyptian poet, medical doctor, bacteriologist, and bee scientist who was active in England and Egypt in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1919, Abushady patented a removable, standardized aluminum honeycomb. In 1919 he also founded The Apis Club in Benson, Oxfordshire, and its periodical Bee World, which was to be edited by Annie D. Betts and later by Dr. Eva Crane. The Apis Club was transitioned to the International Bee Research Association (IBRA). Its archives are held in the National Library of Wales. In Egypt in the 1930s, Abushady established The Bee Kingdom League and its organ, The Bee Kingdom.

              In India, R. N. Mattoo was the pioneer worker in starting beekeeping with Indian honeybee (Apis cerana indica) in the early 1930s. Beekeeping with European honeybee (Apis mellifera) was created by Dr. A. S. Atwal and his team members, O. P. Sharma and N. P. Goyal Punjab in the early 1960s. It remained confined to Punjab and Himachal Pradesh up to the late 1970s. Later on, in 1982, Dr. R. C. Sihag, working at Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar (Haryana), introduced and established this honeybee in Haryana and standardized its management practices in semi-arid-subtropical climates. Based on these practices, beekeeping with this honeybee could be extended to the rest of the country. Now beekeeping with Apis mellifera predominates in India.

              Fixed comb hives Edit

              A fixed comb hive is a hive in which the combs cannot be removed or manipulated for management or harvesting without permanently damaging the comb. Almost any hollow structure can be used for this purpose, such as a log gum, skep, wooden box, or a clay pot or tube. Fixed comb hives are no longer in common use in industrialized countries, and are illegal in places that require movable combs to inspect for problems such as varroa and American foulbrood. In many developing countries fixed comb hives are widely used because they can be made from any locally available material.

              Beekeeping using fixed comb hives is an essential part of the livelihoods of many communities in poor countries. The charity Bees for Development recognizes that local skills to manage bees in fixed comb hives [28] are widespread in Africa, Asia, and South America. Internal size of fixed comb hives range from 32.7 liters (2000 cubic inches) typical of the clay tube hives used in Egypt to 282 liters (17209 cubic inches) for the Perone hive. Straw skeps, bee gums, and unframed box hives are unlawful in most US states, as the comb and brood cannot be inspected for diseases. However, skeps are still used for collecting swarms by hobbyists in the UK, before moving them into standard hives. Quinby used box hives to produce so much honey that he saturated the New York market in the 1860s. His writings contain excellent advice for management of bees in fixed comb hives.

              Commercial beekeeping Edit

              Commercial Beekeeping occurs when a company possesses upwards of 300 hives and sells honey, beeswax, and other bee products for profit. A non-commercial beekeeper would typically keep less than 25 hives at one time. Commercial beekeeping companies are usually owned by a family and passed down to the next generation. Commercial beekeepers sell massive amounts of honey so their production output is categorized by state. The United States produced about 41.3 million pound of honey in 2016. In 2016, the top 5 production output states were North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, Florida, and California. Honey is often imported to meet consumer demands. 410 million pounds of honey was consumed in 2010 and the demand for honey has continued to rise. [29]

              Topbar hives Edit

              The initial costs and equipment requirements are typically much less than other hive designs. Scrap wood or #2 or #3 pine can often be used to build a nice hive. Top-bar hives also offer some advantages to interacting with the bees and the amount of weight that must be lifted is greatly reduced.

              Top-bar hives are being widely used in developing countries in Africa and Asia as a result of the Bees for Development program. Since 2011, a growing number of beekeepers in the U.S. are using various top-bar hives. [30]

              Top bar hives have been widely adopted in Africa, where they are used to keep tropical honeybee ecotypes. Their advantages include being lightweight, adaptable, easy to harvest honey, and less stressful for the bees. Disadvantages include fragile and fragile combs and cannot usually be extracted and returned to the bees to be refilled and cannot easily be expanded for additional honey storage.

              Vertical stackable hives Edit

              There are three types of vertical stackable hives: hanging or top-access frame, sliding or side-access frame, and top bar.

              Hanging frame hives include Langstroth, the British National, Dadant, Layens, and Rose, differing primarily by size or number of frames. The Langstroth was the first successful top-opened hive with movable frames. Many other hive designs are based on the principle of bee space first described by Langstroth, and is a descendant of Jan Dzierzon's Polish hive designs. Langstroth hives are the most common size in the United States and much of the world the British National is the most common size in the United Kingdom Dadant and Modified Dadant hives are widely used in France and Italy, and Layens by some beekeepers, where their large size is an advantage. Square Dadant hives–often called 12 frame Dadant or Brother Adam hives–are used in large parts of Germany and other parts of Europe by commercial beekeepers.

              Any hanging frame hive design can be built as a sliding frame design. The AZ Hive, the original sliding frame design, integrates hives using Langstroth-sized frames into a honey house so as to streamline the workflow of honey harvest by localization of labor, similar to cellular manufacturing. The honey house can be a portable trailer, allowing the beekeeper to haul the hives to a site and provide pollination services.

              Top bar stackable hives simply use top bars instead of full frames. The most common type is the Warre hive, although any hive with hanging frames can be made into a top bar stackable hive by using only the top bar and not the whole frame. This may work less-well with larger frames, where crosscomb and attachment can occur more-readily.

              Protective clothing Edit

              Most beekeepers also wear some protective clothing. Novice beekeepers usually wear gloves and a hooded suit or hat and veil. Experienced beekeepers sometimes elect not to use gloves because they inhibit delicate manipulations. The face and neck are the most important areas to protect, so most beekeepers wear at least a veil. [32] Defensive bees are attracted to the breath, and a sting on the face can lead to much more pain and swelling than a sting elsewhere, while a sting on a bare hand can usually be quickly removed by fingernail scrape to reduce the amount of venom injected.

              Traditionally beekeeping clothing was pale colored and this is still very common today. This is because of the natural color of cotton and cost of coloring was an expense not warranted for workwear, though some consider this is to provide better differentiation from the colony's natural predators (such as bears and skunks) which tend to be dark-colored. It is now known that bees see in ultraviolet and are also attracted to scent. So the type of fabric conditioner used has more impact than the color of the fabric. [33] [34]

              'Stings' retained in clothing fabric continue to pump out an alarm pheromone that attracts aggressive action and further stinging attacks. Washing suits regularly, and rinsing gloved hands in vinegar minimizes attraction.

              Smoker Edit

              Smoke is the beekeeper's third line of defense. Most beekeepers use a "smoker", which is a device designed to generate smoke from the incomplete combustion of various fuels. Although the exact mechanism is disputed, it is clear that smoke calms bees. Some claim it initiates a feeding response in anticipation of possible hive abandonment due to fire. [35] It is also thought that smoke masks alarm pheromones released by guard bees or when bees are squashed in an inspection. The ensuing confusion creates an opportunity for the beekeeper to open the hive and work without triggering a defensive reaction. In addition, when a bee consumes honey the bee's abdomen distends, which is theorized to make it difficult to make the necessary flexes to sting, though this has not been tested scientifically.

              Many types of fuel can be used in a smoker as long as it is natural and not contaminated with harmful substances. These fuels include hessian, twine, burlap, pine needles, corrugated cardboard, and mostly rotten or punky wood. Indian beekeepers, especially in Kerala, often use coconut fibers as they are readily available, safe, and of negligible expense. Some beekeeping supply sources also sell commercial fuels like pulped paper and compressed cotton, or even aerosol cans of smoke. Other beekeepers use sumac as fuel because it ejects much smoke and lacks an odor.

              Some beekeepers are using "liquid smoke" as a safer, more convenient alternative. It is a water-based solution that is sprayed onto the bees from a plastic spray bottle.

              Torpor may also be induced by the introduction of chilled air into the hive – while chilled carbon dioxide may have harmful long-term effects. [36]

              Effects of stings and of protective measures Edit

              Some beekeepers believe that the more stings a beekeeper receives, the less irritation each causes, and they consider it important for safety of the beekeeper to be stung a few times a season. Beekeepers have high levels of antibodies (mainly IgG) reacting to the major antigen of bee venom, phospholipase A2 (PLA). [37] Antibodies correlate with the frequency of bee stings.

              The entry of venom into the body from bee-stings may also be hindered and reduced by protective clothing that allows the wearer to remove stings and venom sacs with a simple tug on the clothing. Although the stinger is barbed, a worker bee's stinger is less likely to become lodged into clothing than human skin.

              Symptoms of a being stung include redness, swelling, and itching around the site of the sting. In mild cases, it will take about 2 hours for the pain and swelling to subside. In moderate cases, the red welt at the sting site with become slightly larger for 1-2 days before beginning to heal. A severe reaction, which is rare among beekeepers, results in anaphylactic shock. [38]

              If a beekeeper is stung by a bee, there are many protective measures that should be taken in order to make sure the affected area does not become too irritated. The first cautionary step that should be taken following a bee sting is removing the stinger without squeezing the attached venom glands. A quick scrape with a fingernail is effective and intuitive. This step is effective in making sure that the venom injected does not spread, so the side effects of the sting will go away sooner. Washing the affected area with soap and water is also a good way to stop the spread of venom. The last step that needs to be taken is to apply ice or a cold compress to the stung area. [38]

              Location of hives Edit

              There has been considerable debate about the best location for hives. Virgil thought they should be located near clear springs, ponds or shallow brooks. Wildman thought they should face to the south or west. One thing all writers agreed on is that hives should be sheltered from strong winds. In hot climates, they were often placed under the shade of trees in summer. [39]

              Beekeepers like to keep honey bees, which is not always the best for native bee species. Researchers found that domestic honey bees placed in national parks outcompeted native bee species for resources. This led to a decline in native bee species' populations. It is generally good practice to keep honey bees near crops and fruit trees where they won't negatively impact other bee species. [40]

              Natural beekeeping Edit

              The natural beekeeping movement believes that bee hives are weakened by modern beekeeping and agricultural practices, such as crop spraying, hive movement, frequent hive inspections, artificial insemination of queens, routine medication, and sugar water feeding. [41]

              Practitioners of "natural beekeeping" tend to use variations of the top-bar hive, which is a simple design that retains the concept of having a movable comb without the use of frames or a foundation. The horizontal top-bar hive, as championed by Marty Hardison, Michael Bush, Philip Chandler, Dennis Murrell and others, can be seen as a modernization of hollow log hives, with the addition of wooden bars of specific width from which bees hang their combs. Its widespread adoption in recent years can be attributed to the publication in 2007 of The Barefoot Beekeeper [42] by Philip Chandler, which challenged many aspects of modern beekeeping and offered the horizontal top-bar hive as a viable alternative to the ubiquitous Langstroth-style movable-frame hive.

              The most popular vertical top-bar hive is the Warré hive, based on a design by the French priest Abbé Émile Warré (1867–1951) and popularized by Dr. David Heaf in his English translation of Warré's book L'Apiculture pour Tous as Beekeeping For All. [43]

              Urban or backyard beekeeping Edit

              Related to natural beekeeping, urban beekeeping is an attempt to revert to a less industrialized way of obtaining honey by utilizing small-scale colonies that pollinate urban gardens.

              Some have found that "city bees" are actually healthier than "rural bees" because there are fewer pesticides and greater biodiversity in the urban gardens. [44] Urban bees may fail to find forage, however, and homeowners can use their landscapes to help feed local bee populations by planting flowers that provide nectar and pollen. An environment of year-round, uninterrupted bloom creates an ideal environment for colony reproduction. [45]

              Urban beekeepers are testing modern types of beehives, testing for urban contest and ease of use. In 2015 the FlowHive appeared and in 2018 Beeing, a hive made in Italy, that allows the beekeeper to extract honey without having contact with the bees.

              Indoor beekeeping Edit

              Modern beekeepers have experimented with raising bees indoors, in a controlled environment, or indoor observation hives. This may be done for reasons of space and monitoring or in the off-season. In the off-season, large commercial beekeepers may move colonies to "wintering" warehouses with fixed temperature, light, and humidity. This helps the bees remain healthy but relatively dormant. These relatively dormant or "wintered" bees survive on stored honey, and new bees are not born. [46]

              Experiments in raising bees for longer durations indoors have looked into more precise and varying environment controls. In 2015, MIT's Synthetic Apiary project simulated springtime inside a closed environment for several hives throughout a winter. They provided food sources and simulated long days and saw activity and reproduction levels comparable to the levels seen outdoors in warm weather. They concluded that such an indoor apiary could be sustained year-round if needed. [47] [48]

              Species Edit

              There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees. [49] Many species are solitary [50] (e.g., mason bees, leafcutter bees (Megachilidae), carpenter bees and other ground-nesting bees). Many others rear their young in burrows and small colonies (e.g., bumblebees and stingless bees). Some honey bees are wild e.g. the little honeybee (Apis florea), giant honeybee (Apis dorsata) and rock bee (Apis laboriosa). Beekeeping, or apiculture, is concerned with the practical management of the social species of honey bees, which live in large colonies of up to 100,000 individuals. In Europe and America the species universally managed by beekeepers is the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera). This species has several sub-species, such as the Italian bee (Apis mellifera ligustica), European dark bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), and the Carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica). [51] In the tropics, other species of social bees are managed for honey production, including the Asiatic honey bee (Apis cerana).

              Castes Edit

              Bee castes refer to a social colonies of bees made up of individuals who look different depending on their specialized function. A colony of bees consists of three castes of bee: [52]

              • a queen bee, which is normally the only breeding female in the colony
              • a large number of female worker bees, typically 30,000–50,000 in number
              • a number of male drones, ranging from thousands in a strong hive in spring to very few during dearth or cold season.

              The queen is the only sexually mature female in the hive and all of the female worker bees and male drones are her offspring. The queen may live for up to three years or more and may be capable of laying half a million eggs or more in her lifetime. At the peak of the breeding season, late spring to summer, a good queen may be capable of laying 3,000 eggs in one day, more than her own body weight. This would be exceptional however a prolific queen might peak at 2,000 eggs a day, but a more average queen might lay just 1,500 eggs per day. The queen is raised from a normal worker egg, but is fed a larger amount of royal jelly than a normal worker bee, resulting in a radically different growth and metamorphosis. The queen influences the colony by the production and dissemination of a variety of pheromones or "queen substances". One of these chemicals suppresses the development of ovaries in all the female worker bees in the hive and prevents them from laying eggs.

              Mating of queens Edit

              The queen emerges from her cell after 15 days of development and she remains in the hive for 3–7 days before venturing out on a mating flight. Mating flight is otherwise known as "nuptial flight". Her first orientation flight may only last a few seconds, just enough to mark the position of the hive. Subsequent mating flights may last from 5 minutes to 30 minutes, and she may mate with a number of male drones on each flight. Over several matings, possibly a dozen or more, the queen receives and stores enough sperm from a succession of drones to fertilize hundreds of thousands of eggs. If she does not manage to leave the hive to mate—possibly due to bad weather or being trapped in part of the hive—she remains infertile and becomes a drone layer, incapable of producing female worker bees. Worker bees sometimes kill a non-performing queen and produce another. Without a properly performing queen, the hive is doomed.

              Mating takes place at some distance from the hive and often several hundred feet in the air it is thought that this separates the strongest drones from the weaker ones, ensuring that only the fastest and strongest drones get to pass on their genes.

              Worker bees Edit

              Most of the bees in a hive are female worker bees. At the height of summer when activity in the hive is frantic and work goes on non-stop, the life of a worker bee may be as short as 6 weeks in late autumn, when no brood is being raised and no nectar is being harvested, a young bee may live for 16 weeks, right through the winter.

              Over the course of their lives, worker bees' duties are dictated by age. For the first few weeks of their lifespan, they perform basic chores within the hive: cleaning empty brood cells, removing debris and other housekeeping tasks, making wax for building or repairing comb, and feeding larvae. Later, they may ventilate the hive or guard the entrance. Older workers leave the hive daily, weather permitting, to forage for nectar, pollen, water, and propolis.

              propolis foraging robbing other hives

              Drones Edit

              Drones are the largest bees in the hive (except for the queen), at almost twice the size of a worker bee. Note in the picture that they have much larger eyes than the workers have, presumably to better locate the queen during the mating flight. They do not work, do not forage for pollen or nectar, are unable to sting, and have no other known function than to mate with new queens and fertilize them on their mating flights. A bee colony generally starts to raise drones a few weeks before building queen cells so they can supersede a failing queen or prepare for swarming. When queen-raising for the season is over, bees in colder climates drive drones out of the hive to die, biting and tearing their legs and wings.

              Differing stages of development Edit

              Stage of development Queen Worker Drone
              Egg 3 days 3 days 3 days
              Larva (successive molts) 8 days 10 days 13 days
              Cell Capped day 8 day 8 day 10
              Pupa 4 days 8 days 8 days
              Total 15 days 21 days 24 days

              Structure of a bee colony Edit

              A domesticated bee colony is normally housed in a rectangular hive body, within which eight to ten parallel frames house the vertical plates of honeycomb that contain the eggs, larvae, pupae and food for the colony. If one were to cut a vertical cross-section through the hive from side to side, the brood nest would appear as a roughly ovoid ball spanning 5–8 frames of comb. The two outside combs at each side of the hive tend to be exclusively used for long-term storage of honey and pollen.

              Within the central brood nest, a single frame of comb typically has a central disk of eggs, larvae and sealed brood cells that may extend almost to the edges of the frame. Immediately above the brood patch an arch of pollen-filled cells extends from side to side, and above that again a broader arch of honey-filled cells extends to the frame tops. The pollen is protein-rich food for developing larvae, while honey is also food but largely energy rich rather than protein rich. The nurse bees that care for the developing brood secrete a special food called "royal jelly" after feeding themselves on honey and pollen. The amount of royal jelly fed to a larva determines whether it develops into a worker bee or a queen.

              Apart from the honey stored within the central brood frames, the bees store surplus honey in combs above the brood nest. In modern hives the beekeeper places separate boxes, called "supers", above the brood box, in which a series of shallower combs is provided for storage of honey. This enables the beekeeper to remove some of the supers in the late summer, and to extract the surplus honey harvest, without damaging the colony of bees and its brood nest below. If all the honey is taken, including the amount of honey needed to survive winter, the beekeeper must replace these stores by feeding the bees sugar or corn syrup in autumn.

              Annual cycle of a bee colony Edit

              The development of a bee colony follows an annual cycle of growth that begins in spring with a rapid expansion of the brood nest, as soon as pollen is available for feeding larvae. Some production of brood may begin as early as January, even in a cold winter, but breeding accelerates towards a peak in May (in the northern hemisphere), producing an abundance of harvesting bees synchronized to the main nectar flow in that region. Each race of bees times this build-up slightly differently, depending on how the flora of its original region blooms. Some regions of Europe have two nectar flows: one in late spring and another in late August. Other regions have only a single nectar flow. The skill of the beekeeper lies in predicting when the nectar flow will occur in his area and in trying to ensure that his colonies achieve a maximum population of harvesters at exactly the right time.

              The key factor in this is the prevention or skillful management of the swarming impulse. If a colony swarms unexpectedly and the beekeeper does not manage to capture the resulting swarm, he is likely to harvest significantly less honey from that hive, since he has lost half his worker bees at a single stroke. If, however, he can use the swarming impulse to breed a new queen but keep all the bees in the colony together, he maximizes his chances of a good harvest. It takes many years of learning and experience to be able to manage all these aspects successfully, though owing to variable circumstances many beginners often achieve a good honey harvest.

              Colony reproduction: swarming and supersedure Edit

              All colonies are totally dependent on their queen, who is the only egg-layer. However, even the best queens live only a few years and one or two years longevity is the norm. She can choose whether or not to fertilize an egg as she lays it if she does so, it develops into a female worker bee if she lays an unfertilized egg it becomes a male drone. She decides which type of egg to lay depending on the size of the open brood cell she encounters on the comb. In a small worker cell, she lays a fertilized egg if she finds a larger drone cell, she lays an unfertilized drone egg.

              All the time that the queen is fertile and laying eggs she produces a variety of pheromones, which control the behavior of the bees in the hive. These are commonly called queen substance, but there are various pheromones with different functions. As the queen ages, she begins to run out of stored sperm, and her pheromones begin to fail. [53]

              Inevitably, the queen begins to falter, and the bees decide to replace her by creating a new queen from one of her worker eggs. They may do this because she has been damaged (lost a leg or an antenna), because she has run out of sperm and cannot lay fertilized eggs (has become a "drone laying queen"), or because her pheromones have dwindled to where they cannot control all the bees in the hive. At this juncture, the bees produce one or more queen cells by modifying existing worker cells that contain a normal female egg. They then pursue one of two ways to replace the queen: supersedure, replacing or superseding the queen without swarming, or swarm cell production, dividing the hive into two colonies through swarming.

              Supersedure is highly valued as a behavioral trait by beekeepers. A hive that supersedes its old queen does not lose any stock. Instead it creates a new queen and the old one fades away or is killed when the new queen emerges. In these hives, the bees produce just one or two queen cells, characteristically in the center of the face of a broodcomb.

              Swarm cell production involves creating many queen cells, typically a dozen or more. These are located around the edges of a broodcomb, often at the sides and the bottom.

              Once either process has begun, the old queen leaves the hive with the hatching of the first queen cells. She leaves accompanied by a large number of bees, predominantly young bees (wax-secretors), who form the basis of the new hive. Scouts are sent out from the swarm to find suitable hollow trees or rock crevices. As soon as one is found, the entire swarm moves in. Within a matter of hours, they build new wax brood combs, using honey stores that the young bees have filled themselves with before leaving the old hive. Only young bees can secrete wax from special abdominal segments, and this is why swarms tend to contain more young bees. Often a number of virgin queens accompany the first swarm (the "prime swarm"), and the old queen is replaced as soon as a daughter queen mates and begins laying. Otherwise, she is quickly superseded in the new home.

              Different sub-species of Apis mellifera exhibit differing swarming characteristics. In general the more northerly black races are said to swarm less and supersede more, whereas the more southerly yellow and grey varieties are said to swarm more frequently. The truth is complicated because of the prevalence of cross-breeding and hybridization of the sub species.

              Factors that trigger swarming Edit

              Some beekeepers may monitor their colonies carefully in spring and watch for the appearance of queen cells, which are a dramatic signal that the colony is determined to swarm.

              This swarm looks for shelter. A beekeeper may capture it and introduce it into a new hive, helping meet this need. Otherwise, it returns to a feral state, in which case it finds shelter in a hollow tree, excavation, abandoned chimney, or even behind shutters.

              A small after-swarm has less chance of survival and may threaten the original hive's survival if the number of individuals left is unsustainable. When a hive swarms despite the beekeeper's preventative efforts, a good management practice is to give the reduced hive a couple frames of open brood with eggs. This helps replenish the hive more quickly and gives a second opportunity to raise a queen if there is a mating failure.

              Each race or sub-species of honey bee has its own swarming characteristics. Italian bees are very prolific and inclined to swarm Northern European black bees have a strong tendency to supersede their old queen without swarming. These differences are the result of differing evolutionary pressures in the regions where each sub-species evolved.

              Artificial swarming Edit

              When a colony accidentally loses its queen, it is said to be "queenless". The workers realize that the queen is absent after as little as an hour, as her pheromones fade in the hive. Instinctively, the workers select cells containing eggs aged less than three days and enlarge these cells dramatically to form "emergency queen cells". These appear similar to large peanut-like structures about an inch long that hang from the center or side of the brood combs. The developing larva in a queen cell is fed differently from an ordinary worker-bee in addition to the normal honey and pollen, she receives a great deal of royal jelly, a special food secreted by young "nurse bees" from the hypopharyngeal gland. This special food dramatically alters the growth and development of the larva so that, after metamorphosis and pupation, it emerges from the cell as a queen bee. The queen is the only bee in a colony which has fully developed ovaries, and she secretes a pheromone which suppresses the normal development of ovaries in all her workers.

              Beekeepers use the ability of the bees to produce new queens to increase their colonies in a procedure called splitting a colony. To do this, they remove several brood combs from a healthy hive, taking care to leave the old queen behind. These combs must contain eggs or larvae less than three days old and be covered by young nurse bees, which care for the brood and keep it warm. These brood combs and attendant nurse bees are then placed into a small "nucleus hive" with other combs containing honey and pollen. As soon as the nurse bees find themselves in this new hive and realize they have no queen, they set about constructing emergency queen cells using the eggs or larvae they have in the combs with them.

              Diseases Edit

              The common agents of disease that affect adult honey bees include fungi, bacteria, protozoa, viruses, parasites, and poisons. The gross symptoms displayed by affected adult bees are very similar, whatever the cause, making it difficult for the apiarist to ascertain the causes of problems without microscopic identification of microorganisms or chemical analysis of poisons. [54] Since 2006, colony losses from colony collapse disorder have been increasing across the world although the causes of the syndrome are, as yet, unknown. [55] [56] In the US, commercial beekeepers have been increasing the number of hives to deal with higher rates of attrition. [57]

              Parasites Edit

              Nosema apis is a microsporidian which causes the most common and widespread disease of the adult honey bee, nosemosis, also called nosema. [58]

              Galleria mellonella and Achroia grisella “wax moth” larvae that hatch, tunnel through, and destroy comb that contains bee larvae and their honey stores. The tunnels they create are lined with silk, which entangles and starves emerging bees. Destruction of honeycombs also results in honey leaking and being wasted. A healthy hive can manage wax moths, but weak colonies, unoccupied hives, and stored frames can be decimated. [59]

              Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) is native to Africa but has now spread to most continents. It is a serious pest among honey bees unadapted to it. [60]

              Varroa destructor, the Varroa mite, is an established pest of two species of honey bee through many parts of the world, and is blamed by many researchers as a leading cause of CCD. [61]

              Acarapis woodi, the tracheal mite, infests the trachea of honey bees.

              Predators Edit

              Most predators prefer not to eat honeybees due to their unpleasant sting, but they still have some predators. These include large animals such as skunks or bears, which are after the honey and brood in the nest as well as the adult bees themselves. [62] Some birds will also eat bees (for example, bee-eaters, which are named for their bee-centric diet), as do some robber flies, such as Mallophora ruficauda, which is a pest of apiculture in South America due to its habit of eating workers while they are foraging in meadows. [63]

              Oman’s Beehive Tombs

              The so-called beehive tombs of Oman are a collection of circular Bronze Age monuments built 4,000-5,000 years ago in a northwestern region of the country once known as Magan. It was a significant population center, based largely on copper mining for trade with Mesopotamia . Despite a lack of human remains, the structures are most commonly referred to as tombs.

              The tombs are found in three locations, which were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The best known of the three sites is Bat, located about a 30-minute drive from the town of Ibri. Over 100 tombs, plus houses and other structures, all in varying degrees of ruin, are scattered over a large area. The quantity of remains is impressive, but it takes some imagination to visualize the thriving settlement that stood here 4,000 years ago. The natural setting more than makes up for the low visual appeal of the ruins.

              About 2km from Bat, the site of al-Khutum contains more tombs and a tower.

              Another 30 minutes or so from Bat is the striking site of al-Ayn, where twenty-one, well-preserved beehive tombs line the crest of a ridge, backed by the soaring wall of Jebel Misht.

              We recommend visiting these sites with a licensed guide, as they are tricky to find and come with no signage.

              Watch the video: Exploring The Mystery Of Al Hoota Cave In Oman (July 2022).


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