Impact on Humans

April 8, 2014

​​B. Impact on humans

Camels have had a significant impact on numerous cultures for thousands of years. As previously mentioned, camels were instrumental in the Eastern Mediterranean area, especially around 900 BC when they became an instrumental part of the copper production of the Aravah Valley. Around the same time period, the dromedary camel began to have impacts beyond trade. During the 9th century BC, they began to be used for warfare by carrying soldiers and transporting heavy loads. The concept of camels being used for transportation in warfare is known as camel cavalry, or camelry ( Shalmaneser III, the Assyrian king, had an army of 1,000 camel riders that successfully fought a Syrian and Jewish army in 853 BC, which was the first known use of camels for warfare. After this point, camels were used for warfare in North Africa and also by the Romans, who had a unit of camel warriors for patrol. Even Julius Caesar valued camels, who considered the greatest treasure from war to be camels (Softpedia).

But camels didn’t just transport soldiers into battle. Dromedary camels were the basis of the logistics for the Persian King Cyrus the Great’s conquests from 559 BC to 530 BC (Softpedia). The camels were used to frighten the horses used by Cyrus’ opponents. Furthermore, the camels had greater stamina to travel long distances into the fight than the horses ( Given the role camels played in many vital battles, its impossible to say how the course of history would have been changed if humans did not have the camel.

It cannot be forgotten that camels played an essential role in trade. One of the most important trade routes in history was the Silk Road. The Silk Road was an exchange of not only goods and products, but also culture between the East and the West. The Silk Road offered a vital connection between China and the Middle East, and bactrian camels were the main labor animal for trade along the road (softpedia). Camels were often used on the Silk Road for their ability to carry very heavy loads an extremely long distance. Although they traveled very slowly, they carried about three hundred pounds per load ( Three hundred pounds is an incredible amount of merchandise moving between empires, that likely would not have reached and influenced so many cultures without camels.

Another significant impact of the camel is its wool. Camel wool was often used to make luxurious rugs that were traded on the Silk Road (Gallery). The wool used to create fabric is taken from the thick, long coat of the bactrian camel, found primarily from middle to eastern Asia. The soft and fine underlayer of bactrian hair is used for the production of fabric ( Although the bactrian was historically used for creating soft and artful pieces, the dromedary was historically used for its hair as well in the making of tents and clothing. Their hair provided a thick, protective fabric for protection in the freezing desert temperatures. Beyond their hair, dromedary camels were also used for their milk. Camel milk was essential to early nomadic tribes moving through the Arabian peninsula, given that camel milk contains more nutrients than cow’s milk, and it can be more easily preserved at higher temperatures. The average female dromedary camel can produce around twenty pounds of milk a day, providing plenty of essential nutrients to humans living in harsh desert conditions. Camel meat is also a good protein source for humans (red orbit). In fact, camel milk is a basic essential food of modern day Somali people (softpedia). Between their use for clothing, shelter, nutrition and basic food, camels likely progressed the survival of early humans in the desert climate of central Asia. Without the aid of a resilient and useful animal, it is not likely that civilization could have flourished in the middle of a dry, dead desert.

Camels may have aided civilization thousands of years ago, but in modern times they are equally as essential. Throughout their evolutionary history, camels have slowly been spreading from the Arabian peninsula to covering a wider territory. Today, the camel can be found in 18 African countries, as well as other parts of the middle east region, and eastern Asia, including India and China. Modern camels are used for a variety of purposes from riding, pack carrying, water and camp equipment transport, and even as farm animals (origins). At this point in their extensive history, they have become an essential part of life in the desert of Africa and the Middle East, so much so that the culture and way of life would likely be completely different in those areas had the camel’s ancestors never travelled from North America across the Bering Strait and into Asia and Africa.


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