Archaeologists from a leading university in Israel have used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the moment when domesticated camels arrived in the southern Levant. They say their results directly contradict events described in the Bible.
"In addition to challenging the Bible's historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes," reads the press release announcing the findings.
Camels are mentioned as pack animals in the biblical stories of Abraham, Joseph and Jacob, stories from the Old Testament that date to between 2000 and 1500 BC. Now, Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures report that the arrival of the domesticated camel didn't occur until much later, probably between 1200 and 900 BC.
Dating the oldest known domesticated camel bones took Ben-Yosef and Sapir-Hen to an ancient center of copper production in the Aravah Valley, which runs along the Israeli-Jordanian border from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. Camels domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula would have crossed into Israel through this valley.
In all the digs, the archaeologists unearthed camel bones in layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BC or later - centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the Kingdom of David. The few camel bones found in earlier archaeological layers probably belonged to wild camels, which archaeologists think date to the Neolithic period or earlier.
"Notably, all the sites active in the 9th century in the Aravah Valley had camel bones, but none of the sites that were active earlier contained them," according to the press release.
The arrival of domesticated camels from the Arabian Peninsula promoted trade between Israel and exotic locations unreachable before, according to the researchers. Camels can travel over much longer distances than previously used donkeys and mules.
By the 7th century BC, Israel was profoundly altered by trade routes like the Incense Road, which stretched all the way from Africa through Israel to India, according to researchers.
The photo caption of this article was edited on Feb. 6 to correct an editorial error.
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