Northants Bee Keepers Association

Northamptonshire Beekeepers' Association (NBKA) Registered Charity No. 295593


Northants Bee Keepers Association

Copyright © NBKA 2007-2018

Northants Bee Keepers Association

A member organisation representing beekeepers in the County of Northamptonshire

Bee-Lines (A selection from our quarterly magazine)

November 2016


How long does Honey last?


It is common knowledge amongst beekeepers that honey lasts a very long time. Edible honey has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Has it?


Many, apparently reliable, sources repeat that fact. There is a wealth of references in supposedly reliable places that it must be true. You might expect it to be relatively easy to find the primary source that these reliable sources rely on. I thought I should try to find some primary source because I could find no “reliable” reference which quotes the primary source of its information.


I would regard a contemporary primary source to be a report by an archeologist in a learned journal in which he or she would state the tomb in which the honey was found, its location, what container it was in, its state, when it was found and the museum where said sample is now held.


An historical primary source would be a report which would be in the writings of an archaeologist or antiquarian saying where and when he found the sample and a description of its state and what he did with it.


I have found no reference to a primary source on the internet.


I have found a report by Theodore Davis an American lawyer who made excavations in the Valley of the Kings between 1902 and 1914. Excavating the tomb of Yuya and his wife Tjuya, parents of the wife of the pharaoh Amenhotep III (who ruled from about the 1380s BC to the 1350s) and grandparents of Nefertiti, in 1905 he found a jar which contained a liquid which “we first thought to be be honey but on further examination proved to be natron” Natron is a mineral used in mummification.


I have seen it quoted “reliably” that Howard Carter found honey in the tomb of Tutankhamen. It would seem that what he actually found was a jar on which was written that it contained honey – there was none left.


A further proof of the preservative (antibiotic) properties of honey is the report of the finding of a jar of honey in a pyramid. The discoverers tasting the honey found it to be as good as fresh honey but later discovered hairs in it and on further examination discovered the body of a child perfectly preserved by the honey within the jar. This story has been around a long time! The earliest recording of it is by the physician Abd el-Latif in the thirteenth century but even then it was an old tale.


If anyone can find a primary source for ancient honey being found then please let me know where it is. Till then I won't be repeating such tales.


Ray Goodman