Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About
Eight thousand years ago, a Mesolithic artist painted a scene that imparts drama to an inveterate human greed. The painting is still there, on the wall of a cave in northern Spain. It portrays a human figure in a tree, enveloped in a cloud of insects. The insects are bees. This ancient evidence of our species-wide love of intense sweetness probably attests to what must have been a practice or custom among those people who depicted their experience on a cave wall. Such quests for sweetness are characteristic of members of our species. Chimpanzees and bonobos, primate relatives with whom we share nearly 98 percent of our DNA, also rob beehives. So far as can be told, wherever humans coexisted with bees, they went to great lengths to obtain the sweet gooey syrup. Many, including this writer, are persuaded that this lust has been part of primate nature for countless millennia.