Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A New Ocean Forming in the Afar Region


A 35-mile-long rift opened up in the Ethiopian desert in 2005, the result of tectonic plates slowly spreading the continent apart. (Photo credit: University of Rochester)

The Afar region of East Africa is experiencing dramatic changes due to rifting. Over time, these rifting events will reshape the African continent.

Each of the three plates in the Afar region is spreading at different speeds. The Arabian plate is moving away from Africa at a rate of about 1 inch per year, while the two African plates are separating between half an inch to 0.2 inches per year. The separation of these plates is creating a mid-ocean ridge system, where a new ocean will form.

Eventually, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea will flood in over the Afar region and into the East African Rift Valley and become a new ocean in a bout 5 million years. When that happens that part of East Africa will become a separate continent. 

Read more here: African Continent Slowly Peeling Apart 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Bees and Honey in Antiquity


Among the Nilotic peoples honeybees were kept as early as 3500 BC. Egyptians made hives out of pipes of clay and stacked one on top of another (as shown in the image above). The hives were moved up and down the Nile on rafts, allowing the bees to pollinate flowers that were in season. A marriage contract has been found which states, "I take thee to wife... and promise to deliver to thee yearly twelve jars of honey."

The bee became the symbol of royalty in Lower Egypt where a temple known as “the House of the Bee” was visited by women seeking counsel. King Tut was buried with a jar of honey. When his tomb was opened, the jar of honey was discovered, and the honey was unspoiled.

Many examples of bee and honey hieroglyphs have been found in ancient Egyptian records.

Indo-European languages have words for honey which are based on the two phonetically very similar proposed Proto-Indo European (PIE) roots: medu and melid. The name Melissa is related to the word for honey. The root is found in the Anglo-Saxon word "mead," an alcoholic beverage made with honey, water, and a fermenting agent. In Spanish, the word for honey is miel.

The biblical name Deborah is a reference to bees. Rebecca's nurse, Deborah, was buried near Bethel beneath the “tree of weeping” or the “Oak of Weeping" (Gen. 35:8). The Hebrew word allon can refer to a large tree species, but here probably refers to either an oak, a terebinth, or sycamore fig. There is evidence that graves were sometimes placed beneath fig trees which attracted bees. The wasp lays its eggs inside the ripening figs. The ancients would have observed this as an example of new life. 

Surgical procedures are described in the Edwin Smith papyrus, the world's oldest known surgical document (c. 1600 BC). It describes closing wounds with sutures, application of raw meat to stop bleeding, treatment of head and spinal cord injuries, and preventing and curing infection with honey. Honey draws the moisture out of wounds. It has antimicrobial and antibiotic properties and can kill Staphylococcus and E. coli.

It was not easy to acquire honey because the bees often built their hives in the crevices of high rocks. This late prehistoric drawing from Spain shows a woman on a rope ladder collecting honey while the bees swarm around her.

Related reading: Assessing the Health of Bee ColoniesOldest Bee Hives Discovered in Israel; The Buzz About Bees; Bees in Religion; Asian Hornets Kill Honeybees; Ancient Mythology About Bees; Deborah's Tree of Weeping; The Sacred Bee in Ancient Egypt; The Fig Tree in Biblical Symbolism