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Old November 26th, 2017, 03:12 AM   #1
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Viking Age/early Medieval Beekeeping?


Hello, I am just doing some personal research - I know this is a very weird topic

Does anyone know of any historical sources relating to the keeping of bees in Northern Europe 6-11th century?

Any archaeological evidence for honey trade?

Any mentions of this in sagas, religious texts?

Thanks
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Old November 26th, 2017, 03:45 AM   #2

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The Slavs along the Baltic Sea were known for bee keeping. They traded freely with the Danes (see Wolin) and the Germans:
Early Trade Relations between the Germans and the Slavs on JSTOR

In fact, the Germans secured honey and wax, the latter used for church candles and sealing documents:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltic_Slavic_piracy

The Slavs used honey to make mead:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mead
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Old November 26th, 2017, 05:26 AM   #3

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Google is your friend--sometimes.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...20book&f=false


https://www.evacranetrust.org/upload...9f949f6757.pdf

From the Bayeux Tapestry

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old November 26th, 2017, 05:50 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ancientgeezer View Post
Good finds. From the first link, page 127 and page 498:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...=Slavs&f=false
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Old November 26th, 2017, 12:06 PM   #5

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lots of smoke, stings, and possible deaths from allergies.....

maybe they had some netting to stop stings, i guess some kind of weak chainmail even.
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Old November 26th, 2017, 04:49 PM   #6

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Christian Monasteries were big on beekeeping but in pagan/newly colonized Christian areas of northern Europe I have no idea- how active would bees have been? I saw a few bees in Sweden and there are pollinating species in Scandinavia but just on my own observation, it seemed much fewer bees than some other places in Europe with more favourable climate.
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Old November 27th, 2017, 12:28 AM   #7

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I have looked around, since I'm curious about how in Northern Europe they protected the bees from cold weather.

In Sweden beekeepers used natural materials [straw, bark ...] to insulate the hives. Anyway they tent to harvest honey in the fall, killing many of the bees which would have needed the honey during the winter months.

[Take a look at "All Things Medieval: An Encyclopedia of the Medieval World, Volume 1" by Ruth A. Johnston]
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Old November 27th, 2017, 01:32 PM   #8

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The bees would have died no matter what. When they gathered honey back then the hive was destroyed and the bees were chased off with fire.
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Old November 28th, 2017, 09:25 PM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Howard View Post
The bees would have died no matter what. When they gathered honey back then the hive was destroyed and the bees were chased off with fire.
There is lots of evidence of beekeeping back to ancient Egypt with Greek and Romans making ceramic hives in large numbers and mentions of several books on beekeeping. Similarly, there are mentions in Irish lays of the 500s and letters between monks of Christian Ireland of the 700s talking about beekeeping.

In northern Europe though I am not sure... looked through as much of the book linked earlier on Google but the relevant portions for northern Europe aren't included. I might try my local university libraries as it seems rather interesting book and I've long been curious about honey and mead trade since I know sugar and wine travelled surprisingly long distances.
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Old November 28th, 2017, 10:42 PM   #10

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Sweden "rich in honey" in 829CE


According to Ethal Eva Crane, Ansgar, the first Christian missionary to Sweden, in 829CE, arriving in Birka saw a lot of honey [in Vita Ansgarii he describes Sweden as "rich in honey"]. The author mentions also West Gotland laws from 1220 making reference to wild bees colonies.
But the paragraph is quite short.

Source: “The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting” by Ethal Eva Crane



https://www.amazon.com/World-History.../dp/0415924677
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