Contact with Humans

April 8, 2014

It is likely that the movement of early humans into North America contributed to the movement of camelids across the Bering Strait out of North America and into Asia. Although it is clear that these early ancestors of the modern camel did not interact well with early humans, as evolution led to the dromedaries and bactrian species of Camelus, camels began to interact with humans (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel#Domestication). Bulliet hypothesizes that the bactrian camel began their contact with humans around present day Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan around 2,500 BC. It’s not completely clear whether or not these camels were domesticated or not, however several archeological sites in Turkmenistan have revealed clay models displaying wagons with a figure of a camel attached to it (Camel and the Wheel). This evidence points to the idea that the initial contact with humans occurred for use in labor and transportation.

The dromedary camel has been believed to have been domesticated around 3000 BC in southern Arabia (Origins). There is little evidence about the initial contact between humans and dromedary camels, however fossils have indicated that dromedary camels, like bactrians, were probably first used for labor, given lesions found on leg bones that were likely caused by the constant stress of being a pack animal. A recent study has revealed the possibility that these early domesticated dromedaries moved from the Arabian peninsula into the Aravah Valley. The study, conducted by Israeli archaeologists Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, involved using radiocarbon dating and excavated evidence placed the origin of the domesticated camel to around 930 to 900 BC in the Aravah Valley. The Aravah Valley, serving as a border between Israel and Jordan, was a center of copper production from the 14th century BC to the end of the 9th century BC. It appears that a high number of camel bones found in the Valley can be dated only from the end of the 10th century BC through the 9th century BC, thereby the camels follow copper production in the Valley. Historians have hypothesized that this high volume of camels in the area corresponds with the invasion of the Egyptian king Sheshonq I around 925 BC. It seems that this invasion may have invigorated the copper business and established the heavy use of the camel for efficiency of the copper transportation. This development of domestication had dire A photo of a camel. ” width=

PHOTOGRAPH BY SHARON PERRY, REUTERS, Source: National Geographic

economic and social impacts on the eastern Mediterranean area by giving the people the ability to travel large distances across the desert and open up possibilities for trade (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140210-domesticated-camels-israel-bible-archaeology-science/).  Camels are much more powerful and resilient than animals that were previously used in the area, such as llamas. The dromedary camel is capable of going up to two weeks without water (http://www.ecoworld.com/animals/how-long-can-camels-go-without-drinking-water.html) and can carry over 900 pounds on its back. Dromedaries can also travel about 25 miles a day (http://camelfarm.com/camels/camels_about.html). It’s obvious why these adaptations would be a huge advantage to the people living in the Eastern Mediterranean area by giving them an opportunity to connect and trade with far away empires that they never dreamed of reaching.

 

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