New carbon dating that determined the age of the oldest known camel bones has challenged Biblical accuracy.
Camels are described in the Old Testament stories of Abraham, Joseph and Jacob as pack animals. The latest findings, published in the journal Tel Aviv, reveal that camels were most likely domesticated around 900 BC – centuries after the biblical stories are believed to have taken place.
“The introduction of the camel to our region was a very important economic and social development,” researcher Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel-Aviv University said. “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.”
Researchers Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel-Aviv University used radiocarbon dating on camel bones unearthed in multiple excavations from the Aravah Valley, which runs along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and was an ancient center of copper production. The results dated the bones to the last third of the 10th century BC or later – hundreds of years after the Hebrew patriarchs lived. The bones most likely belonged to wild camels which may have lived during the Neolithic period (about 9500 BC) or even earlier.
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Researchers noted “all the sites active in the 9th century in the Arava Valley had camel bones, but none of the sites that were active earlier contained them.”
The Aravah Valley, which was known for the copper production, may have influenced the domestication of animals. Researchers point to how copper production changed where more sophisticated technology and centralized labor were used – a sign that the Egyptians had conquered the region and brought domesticated animals along with them.
The arrival of domesticated animals encouraged trade between Israel and farway regions previously unreachable. Since camels can travel great distances than donkeys and mules, they influenced the creation trading routes like Incense Road.