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Sphakia Survey: The Internet Edition

Finds of Graeco-Roman Beehives from Sphakia, SW Crete

Jane Francis

This paper presents the ceramic beehives collected and analyzed by the Sphakia Survey. These 381 fragments include beehives, extension rings, and one possible beehive lid; it is the largest assemblage of ancient beekeeping material known from Crete. Although there are no whole vessels preserved, the sherds can nonetheless be easily recognized as belonging to the typical type of beehive from ancient Greece, intended to be laid horizontally, with the extension rings added to the end to extend the capacity and yield of the hive. Three general categories of rim shapes have been identified for the beehives; two of these are in common use elsewhere in Greece, while one may be a Sphakiote form. Three types of extension ring rim are also noted, and again two are widely distributed while one is specific to the Sphakia assemblage. These unique forms may represent regional variations.

Beehive Type 1, from Skaloti Profitis Ilias (8.72):

Beehive Type 2, from same site:

Extension Ring Type 2, from same site:

Extension Ring Type 3, from same site:

These finds cannot be easily dated, since they are surface finds. The majority of beehives come from sites that are dominated by Hellenistic and Roman pottery, but some are found with material dating back to the Archaic period, and others appear at later, single-period sites, mostly Late Roman. Analysis and evidence thus far has not revealed any typological development, and comparisons with rim shapes from beehives elsewhere in Greece suggest that established forms were maintained over several periods with little change. Fabric analysis does not dispute a Hellenistic/Roman dating for most of the beehives, but cannot pinpoint chronologies more specifically. It is hoped that an examination of stratified beehives from other sites in Crete will supply the necessary chronological framework for the Sphakia material, confirm both the possibility of regional variations noted in the rims and of any typological development, at least within the island, and permit a more substantial interpretation of beekeeping in ancient Greece.

Dept. of Classics, Modern Languages and Linguistics,
Concordia University,
1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd W,
Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M8
Email: janef@vax2.concordia.ca


This is an abstract from "Bee-keeping in the Graeco-Roman World", a conference organised by Simon Price and Lucia Nixon at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, on 7 November 2000.



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