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The Tears of Re: Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt

  • Richly illustrated, containing over a hundred images
  • The first full-length discussion of the role of bees in ancient Egypt
  • Shows how honey and wax were important to the ancient Egyptian economy, religion, food production, and medicine

By: Gene Kritsky(Author)

144 pages, 8 plates with 16 colour photos; 103 b/w photos and b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press USA

Hardback | Dec 2015 | #224724 | ISBN-13: 9780199361380
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $26/€22 approx

About this book

According to Egyptian mythology, when the god Re cried, his tears turned into bees upon touching the ground. Beyond the realm of myth, the honey bee is a surprisingly common and significant motif in Egyptian history, playing a role in the mythology, medicine, art, and food of the ancient culture.

In The Tears of ReBeekeeping in Ancient Egypt, entomologist Gene Kritsky presents the first full-length discussion of the ways in which bees were a part of life in ancient Egypt, shedding light on one of the many mysteries of the ancient world. Kritsky delves into ancient Egypt's complex society, revealing that bees had a significant presence in everything from death rituals to trade. In fact, beekeeping was a state-controlled industry, and in certain instances honey could even be used to pay taxes! Honey was used both to sweeten foods and treat cuts, and was sometimes used as a tribute or offering. From the presence of bees in paintings and hieroglyphs in tombs to the use of beeswax in a variety of products, bees had a significant presence in ancient Egyptian culture.

Richly illustrated and engagingly written, The Tears of Re will appeal to anyone with a passion for beekeeping, Egypt, or the ancient world.


1. Beekeeping Begins
2. The Delight of Re: Beekeeping During the Old Kingdom
3. Instability and Reunification: Beekeeping During the Middle Kingdom
4. The Age of Empire: Beekeeping During the New Kingdom
5. The Saite Period
6. The Greco-Roman Period
7. The Honey Bee Hieroglyph
8. The Administration and Economics of Egyptian Beekeeping
9. Bees and Food
10. Honey and Healing
11. Bees, Gods, and Feasts
12. The Magic of Beeswax
13. The Afterlife of Ancient Egyptian Beekeeping

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Gene Kritsky holds a PhD in Entomology and specialized in the history of biology. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Egypt in 1981-2, where he began his research in Egyptology. He has published several papers on Egyptian beekeeping, mythology, Egyptological history, and archaeology. Kritsky is now the Chair of Biology at Mount St. Joseph University.

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