Camels_at_GizaThe media are making much ado about the recently released “findings” proving that the discussion of camels in several biblical books represents an anachronism, demonstrating that these books were written much later than they are pretended to have been.

In other words, the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) – which tradition holds was written by Moses in the 13th or so century BCE (“before the common era”) – could not have been composed until many centuries later, because it discusses “camels” (e.g., Gen 37:25), when in fact, it is claimed, camels were not used in the Near East until the 10th century BCE at the earliest.

It’s great that this “news” is hitting the mainstream, but it is not really “news” after all, because this anachronism has been known for many decades. I included it in my Moses book many moons ago, in fact.

As but one example, in The Bible Unearthed (37) – originally published in 2001 – Israeli archaeologist Dr. Israel Finkelstein and science writer Neil Silberman write:

We now know through archaeological research that camels were not domesticated as beasts of burden earlier than the late second millennium and were not widely used in that capacity in the ancient Near East until well after 1000 BCE.

A rebuttal to this contention of anachronism includes the following:

Evidence discovered so far includes a mention of a Camel in a list of domesticated animals during the Old Babylonian period (1950-1600 BC) in a Sumerian Lexical Text from Ugarit; reference to camel’s milk in another Old Babylonian text. Pierre Montet found a 2nd millennium stone container in the form of a camel in Egypt. Parrot uncovered a picture of the hindquarters of a camel on a jar at Mari, also c.2 000 BC, and camel bones dating from the pre-Sargonid era (c.2400 BC). Wiseman asserts by the 3rd millennium BC camels were in use, together with donkeys, as slow moving beasts of burden, but were not domesticated on a large scale until c.1500-1250 BC. Harrison, Kitchen and Yamauchi cite further examples. Day et al. conclude that there is now no necessity to regard the patriarchal references to camels as anachronisms.

The claim is not being made that there were no camels on Earth previous to the first millennium BCE, as the earliest known type existed some 40 to 50 million years in North America, where it became extinct 10 to 12,000 years ago. Nor is it being denied that camels evidently were in domestic use in Arabia as early as 4,000 years ago.

It is maintained, however, by Old Testament scholar Dr. John van Seters in Abraham in History and Tradition that “only with the first millennium B.C. was the camel fully domesticated as a riding and burden-carrying animal.”

The original press release specifies that camel bones appear to have been introduced suddenly into the relevant biblical areas during the 10th century BCE:

The researchers scoured ancient copper production sites in the Aravah Valley, where camel bones were only present in sites active in the last third of the 10 century and the 9th century BCE. Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef write in their report:

“[The camel bones] demonstrate a sudden appearance of camels at the site, following a major change in the organization of production in the entire region.”

As The Times of Israel states:

Camels were first introduced to Israel around the 9th century BCE, centuries after they were depicted in the Bible as Patriarch-era pack animals, new carbon dating of the earliest known domesticated camel bones found in Israel shows.

The research, conducted by Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel-Aviv University, challenges ”the Bible’s historicity.” The discrepancy “is direct proof that the [Biblical] text was compiled well after the events it describes,” according to a statement released by the university on Monday.

The researchers examined ancient copper smelting sites in the Arava Valley, in southern Israel, and discovered that “camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BCE or later,” and that “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 more precise dating puts domesticated camels in Israel “centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the Kingdom of David,” according to the researchers.

Camels are believed to have been domesticated as pack animals around 2000 BCE in the Arabian peninsula.

However, they were likely introduced to Israel by the Egyptians, who according to ancient Egyptian and Biblical sources conquered the area at around the same time as the first camels arrived in Israel, according to the research.

Since camels evidently were domesticated in Arabia by the 20th century BCE, when most scholars place Abraham’s supposed time, and if the patriarch had packs of these beasts of burden (Gen 24), it would seem inexplicable that they were never used again after he allegedly arrived in Israel and that the camel bones discovered there would date only from a thousand years later.

In any event, there are many more instances that disprove the Bible as “history,” quite a few of which I present in my books, including my forthcoming Did Moses Exist?

Further Reading

Archaeologists: Carbon-dated camel bones contradict biblical accounts
Camel archaeology contradicts the Bible
Archaeologists Carbon-Date Camel Bones, Discover Major Discrepancy In Bible Story
Archaeology & the Patriarchs
Abraham’s Camels