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