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Archaeologists say 'Camels Don't Belong In The Old Testament'

Feb 12 2014, 3:35pm CST | by

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Archaeologists say 'Camels Don't Belong In The Old Testament'
 
 

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Archaeologists say 'Camels Don't Belong In The Old Testament'

Early tales of domesticated camels in the Old Testament don’t belong there, say archaeologists in a new blow to Biblical literalists. Tame Camelus dromedarius were not brought to the Levant until centuries after Abraham, Joseph and Jacob, who lived between 2000BC and 1500BC, and decades after the fall of the Kingdom of David.

Dr Lidar Sapir-Hen and Dr Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University used radiocarbon dating and other techniques to place the arrival of domestic camels at around 900BC. Their article was published in Tel Aviv , Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University.

Camels are mentioned at least 20 times in the Old Testament. Genesis 24:10, for example, tells how Abraham’s senior servant set off to find a wife for his master’s son, Isaac: “Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master.”

And Genesis 31:17 tells of Jacob’s flight from his uncle and father-in-law, Laban: “Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels.”

“In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes,” the university said.

A team led by Drs Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef have found the oldest known signs of domesticated camels in an ancient, copper-mining area on the border between Israel and Jordan, from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea.

“By analysing 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,” said Dr Ben-Yosef.

Older camel bones were found in the valley, but the scientists believe they were from wild camels. None of them were associated with copper-mining sites.

Scientists think the animals were first domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula, close to the Aravah valley, over the previous century.

While the discovery is unlikely to trouble those who believe in the literal truth of the Bible, others will find it changes their view of what life was like in the Holy land three thousand years ago.

The appearance of camels as beasts of burden was as dramatic in its way as the first railways were in the industrial era.

“The introduction of the camel to our region was a very important economic and social development,” Dr Ben-Yosef said. Used as pack animals, they opened up trade routes – such as the incense road from Africa to India, named after the frankincense and myrrh that were among its major cargos – that were beyond the range of mules and donkeys.

Pharaoh Shoshenq I (Shishak in the Hebrew bible), who invaded the Kingdom of Israel between 926 and 917 BC, is thought to have brought the camels. The Egyptians are also thought to have introduced more sophisticated technology and centralised labour.

Source: Forbes

 

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