Archaeologists Pinpoint Date When Domesticated Camels Arrived In Israel
February 4, 2014

Domestic Camels In Israel Dated After Biblical Account

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

According to Tel Aviv University researchers, camels were not domesticated in Israel until between 2000 and 1500 BCE.

The latest study challenges biblical stories of Abraham, Joseph, and Jacob, which tell how camels were used as pack animals. The researchers say that this discovery proves this text was written well after the events described.

The team from the university’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures used radiocarbon dating to determine the moment when domesticated camels arrived in the southern Levant.

"The introduction of the camel to our region was a very important economic and social development," Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef said in a statement. "By analyzing archaeological evidence from the copper production sites of the Aravah Valley, we were able to estimate the date of this event in terms of decades rather than centuries."

The oldest known domesticated camel bones have been found in the Aravah Valley, which sits along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. These bones were first discovered during a 2009 excavation led by Dr. Ben-Yosef.

Researchers found that camel bones were dug up almost exclusively in the archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century or later, which is decades after the Kingdom of David in the bible. Archaeologists have found camel bones that are earlier than the 10th century, but these scientists claim these bones belonged to wild camels, not domesticated.

All the sites active during the 9th century in the Aravah Valley had camel bones, but none of these sites that were active earlier than this contained them, according to the researchers.

Camel bones showing up in the Aravah Valley coincides with a shift in the local copper mining operation during this time. The researchers say that ancient Egyptians imposed many changes to the sites after conquering the area in military campaigns, including bringing in domesticated camels.

The arrival of camels in this area helped promote trade between Israel and exotic locations, according to the scientists. The camels were able to travel much further than donkeys and mules that were used before them, helping to pave trade routes like the Incense Road. The researchers said that camels opened up Israel to the world beyond the deserts, which helped to alter its economic and social history.

The findings were published recently in the journal Tel Aviv.