Beeswax Found in Ancient African Pots

Beeswax Found in Ancient African Pots

Archaeologists at a dig site in central Nigeria have uncovered ancient pots with trace amounts of beeswax still clinging to the inside. This is irrefutable evidence that the people from this ancient Nok culture were consuming beeswax as early as 3,500 years ago. Which would also suggest that beeswax was also used as a sweetener, much like the sugar of today.

Finding The Ancient Beeswax

The full details of the find were officially published in the nature communications journal.

Chemists from the University of Bristol in England and archaeologists from Goethe University in Frankfurt were lucky enough to make this fascinating discovery. Whilst digging up remnants of the ancient Nok culture in central Nigeria they uncovered pottery fragments that showed trace amount of beeswax. These remnants provide direct evidence of the earliest use of beeswax as a sweetener, much like it is used today. The pots fragments were uncovered during the excavation of several Nok terracotta figurines.

ancient nok figurines
 Photo by Peter Breunig, courtesy of Goethe University, Frankfurt.

The Nok people were active for an extended period of time, from around 1,500 B.C. to the beginning of the common era. As is the case with many ancient civilizations, pottery provides a brilliant insight into many aspect of their lives. This includes how they stored their supplies, and their diet. Pottery tends to be the most reliable source of information owing to the fact that the soil is too acidic to preserve bone or organic matter that may tell us more.

What Does Ancient Pottery Tell Us?

Julie Dunne is the lead author on the paper discussing these findings. Dunne has said in a statement that this find is a perfect example of how extracting biomolecular information from prehistoric pottery and providing it with ethnographic data can provide a perfect insight into ancient honey hunting.

ancient dig site
Image credit: Canva

This find also begs the question of what else could be revealed amongst the thousands of shards of pottery currently in storage. Pottery shards that span over thousands of years. Could this dig cause a knock-on effect in which pottery is taken from storage and tested for remnants of edible substances? Substances that may give us a further look into the diets of the past?

The Importance of Bees in Modern Day Culture

Bees have become a integral part of modern day society. The are a key part of the agricultural world as well as the ecosystem as a whole. Here are just a few of the reasons bees are so important:

  • Pollination: Bees provide pollination and cross pollination which allows us to easily grow food such as nuts, roots, berries, fruits, and seeds. This pollination also feeds local wildlife as a result.
  • Financial Stability: Though many have tried and failed to accurately quantify the value of bees in the food industry. It is a well known fact that they are key contributors to keeping many companies in business. Thus providing financial stability throughout various areas of the economy.
  • Biodiversity: Thanks to the wide variety of flowers bees visit in a single day, the environment also benefits. The spreading of pollen between wildflowers contributes strongly to the biodiversity of wild environments. Not only does this help our eco system, but it looks beautiful.
Image credit: Canva

Bees are immensely important, and must be taken care of. There are several ways in which you can create a bee haven in your back garden to provide them with a safe space to work. Fortunately several large cities have already begun to take steps to make their public spaces more bee-friendly. This is something we all need to consider in order to protect our honey-toting friends.



Eloise is a lifelong gamer, a studier of Ancient History and Archaeology, a pet care journalist, a new mother of one, and film studies graduate with a desire to pass on her own knowledge so that others may benefit from it.

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