Evidence of Honey-collecting in prehistoric West Africa from 3500 years ago: New Study

Honey is an essential part of the human kitchen from ancient times. Honey is used as food, medicine and used to make various products in different civilizations and tribal communities at different points in time. A lot of archaeological evidence of honey has been found in ancient ceramic potteries of North Africa, the Mediterranean, Europe and, the Near East.

Nok Pottery, Credits: Nature

Recently, researchers have found evidence of honey in the potteries of Central Nigeria’s Nok culture of West Africa. They have conducted lipid residue analysis on pottery vessels retrieved from the archaeological sites of Nok culture. Around 458 vessels were selected for the Scientific investigations.
The scientific analysis shows the presence of complex lipid distributions, encompassing n-alkanes, n-alkanoic acids, and fatty acyl wax esters. The occurrence of these compounds points towards the direct chemical evidence of bee product exploitation and processing. Around 30% of Nok ceramics consist of lipids.
Nok culture is a prominent culture of prehistoric west Africa, that existed for 1500 years. It is known for the simultaneous coexistence of early farmers and foragers. Nok culture was an ancient Iron Age culture located on the Benue Plateau of Nigeria.
It is known for its notable terracotta collectibles and early presence for iron production in West Africa in the 1st millennium BCE. People of Nok culture seem to be farmers existing on a diet that comprised millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and cowpea (Vigna unguiculata). These findings of the presence of honey show the possible significance of honey collecting in an early farming setting in West Africa around 500 BCE.
The archaeological artifacts of Nok culture were first discovered in 1928 in a tin-mining village of Nok. The most typical Nok artefacts are clay sculptures of faunae and conventional anthropological beings. Artefacts of this typical culture comprise of Stone, iron tools and, ornaments.

The research was conducted by Julie Dunne, Toby Gillard, Caitlin Walton-Doyle, and Richard P. Evershed of Organic Geochemistry Unit, School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK, Alexa Höhn, Katharina Neumann, Peter Breunig, and Gabriele Franke of Goethe University, Institute for Archaeological Sciences, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

For Original research article, click on Nature.

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