Link #55: You Could Eat 5,000-Year-Old Honey!


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Link #55: You Could Eat 5,000-Year-Old Honey!

Honey. Image credit: cc3.0

In our previous post, we explained how we depend on honeybees for our food supply. In fact, without honeybees we wouldn’t have the vast majority of the crops that we rely on for food. However, while this may be the most crucial quality of honeybees, they have other unique talents too.

For instance, did you know that the honey that honeybees create has an almost eternal shelf life and that you could in theory eat 5,000-year-old honey? How is this possible? Read on.

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Why Doesn’t Honey Ever Go Bad?

Image credit: Scott Bauer, USDA ARS

You must have heard the phrase that honey never goes bad. This is completely true as long as the stored honey remains uncontaminated. There are multiple reasons why honey doesn’t go bad.

The foremost of these reasons is the fact that honey has very low water content. This is a result of the fact that when honeybees collect nectar from a flower, they dry it by vigorously flapping their wings.

Foodstuff goes bad when microorganisms enter it and start multiplying. Since most microorganisms need moisture in their environment to survive, they can’t make honey go bad.

In addition to this, bees collect nectar by taking it in their stomachs, carrying it to their honeycomb, and vomiting that nectar there. While gross, this act of regurgitation means that the nectar now has a unique substance found in bees’ stomachs. This substance is known as glucose oxidase.

Due to chemical reactions in this mix, the acidity of honey increases to levels that are harmful for most things trying to make a home in it. The pH level of honey tends to be in the range of 3 and 4.5.

As a result of this quality of honey, it can be stored for an extremely long time without going bad. In fact, you can most probably eat the world’s oldest honey without any worries of health problems or even lack of taste!

How Old Is the World’s Oldest Honey?

Replicas of Tutankhamen’s sarcophagi. Photo taken at the exhibition from Madrid. Image credit: Nerve net cc3.0

The world’s oldest honey is 5,000 years old! Till about seven years ago, the world’s oldest honey was only 3,000 years old. But since the discovery of a stash in Georgia a couple of years ago, the number has changed.

When scientists dug up the area near Tbilisi in Georgia, they found several artefacts but the most interesting of those artefacts were ceramic vessels that contained honey. The honey found in the ceramic vessels was perfectly unspoiled. According to scientists, it was so perfect that it was still edible.

Before the discovery in Georgia, the world’s oldest honey was found in Egypt. It was found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. Tutankhamen was an Egyptian pharaoh. Similarly, in 2007, archaeologists discovered proof that ancient Israel had a thriving beekeeping industry. Remnants of ancient honeycombs were discovered in the ancient city of Rehov.

While it is a well-known fact that ancient civilisations used honey for a wide variety of purposes, the discovery of the world’s oldest beekeeping industry shows that bees were reared as far back as 3,000 years ago.

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