Beekeeping in Graeco-Roman Crete, Jane  Francis

Beekeeping in Graeco-Roman Crete, Jane  Francis

Beekeeping  in Graeco ‐Roman Crete    
Jane  Francis  
Concordia University, Montreal

This project is based on the nearly 500 fragments of ceramic beekeeping equipment from the Sphakia  Survey, in west Crete. This material was collected  during fieldwork in  the 1980s  and 1990s and forms one of the largest collections of ancient apicultural data from  southern Greece. An   investigation of the formal qualities of  the hives,  extension  rings, and closures  (shapes  of rims and bodies, dimensions and capacities) has revealed  Cretan, if  not  west  Cretan,  regional preferences  in manufacture. Studies  of  the  scoring  patterns on the vessels’  interior indicate a treatment specific  to Crete; experimental reconstructions  have  identified the  probable tools and  methods for creating  these marks.  

Sphakia:    Beekeeping    Assemblage (J Francis) Sphakia: Beekeeping  Assemblage  

  Sphakia: Extension Ring    

An intensive macroscopic analysis  of  the clays  (ceramic    fabrics)  used  for  these beehives shows  the  majority  of  the  Sphakia  examples to    have  been made  on Crete, with  only  an  occasional import.  The origins  and potential for trade of these containers is an    important    aspect   of    this  project.       

   Sphakia:  Beehive Fabric - Milky Qtz Sand, Terra Rosa Clay

The  findspots  of  these  vessels  provide information about  where  apiaries  were  established  and  the  types  of  sites  deemed  appropriate for  bees, data that  can then  be  used  to make assumptions about the size of  apiculture  industry (i.e.,  single family,  hobbyist,  surplus production).

Sphakia:  Ergastiria. Beekeeping enclosure (J Francis)   Sphakia:  Ergastiria. Beekeeping enclosure

This  project  also addresses    the economic implications of  honey and  wax  production  in Graeco -­ Roman  Crete; little  concrete  data  on this is    available, but  models established for  other  ancient  agricultural  commodities, like  wine  production,  are  of  use.    
Ceramic  beehives    do    not    display    the    same    morphological    development   as    other    pottery    shapes    and    are    notoriously    difficult   to    date    on    their    own,    but    chronologies    for    the    Sphakia    hives    have    been  determined    through    examinations    of    findspot    contexts,    pottery    found    with    them,    and    the    dates    offered    through    ceramic    analysis.    Research    into    the    shapes    of    ancient    ceramic    beehives    in    this    project    is    beginning    to    indicate, at   least at some    sites, a  change    in    shape    in    the    late    Roman/early    Byzantine    era    that   will    be    crucial    for    dating    apiaries    and    associated    remains.    

Eleutherna:  Late-­‐Roman or Early  Byzantine  Beehive  Eleutherna: Late-­‐Roman / Early Byzantine  Beehive    

An  ongoing    issue  of  ancient    apiculture    is    the    date at   which    manmade    hives    were    developed.   Vessels  claimed  to  be  prehistoric  beehives,  but  which  look  very  different  from  contemporary    examples  from  Egypt and  the  Near    East,   and  do  not   resemble  later    ceramic    hives,   have  been published  but  none  of  these  have  been    confirmed    as    beekeeping    on    any    sound    evidence.  An excursus in  this project explores  the  purpose of  these containers.    

  Gournia,  Prehistoric (Late Minoan) “Beehive”  

The  broader    context   of    beekeeping    in    the    rest   of    Crete    is    also    investigated    in    this    research. It   is    important    to    understand    how    the    Sphakia   beekeeping    equipment   fits    within    the    manufacture    and    use    of    beehives    across    the    island.    While    many    more    fragments    exist    than    have    been    published    (and    are    thus    available    for    study),    assemblages    of   beekeeping    equipment    from    the    Akrotiri    peninsula,    Gortyn,    Knossos,    Eleutherna,    Phalasarna,    Moni    Odigitria,    Skoteino    Cave,    and    Gournia    have    been    formally    examined,    and    many    others    briefly    studied    from    casual    surface    observation.    Many    of    these    examples    are    made    of    their    local    clays    but    some,    like    those at   Eleutherna,    show    morphological    details    not    seen    elsewhere;    these    distinctions    may    indicate    intensive    specialisation    by    potters,    perhaps    in    conjunction    with    beekeepers.    
This  project   will    be    published    as a  monograph,    to    be    completed    in    2017.