Does latest dating of camel bones reveal inaccuracy in the Bible?
Archaeologists from the University of Tel Aviv in Israel, have found that camels were not domesticated in Israel until around 900 BC, which is centuries later than famous Biblical figures were said to have ridden them, drawing into question the accuracy of Biblical stories involving Abraham, Joseph and Jacob. They claim that this shows that Biblical text was compiled long after the events described in it and challenges the Bible as a historical document.
Dr Erez Ben-Yosef and Dr Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures conducted radiocarbon dating on the oldest known domesticated camel bones, found in the Aravah Valley in the southern Levant, in order to pinpoint the moment when domesticated camels arrived in the southern Levant from the Arabian Peninsula. They found camels came in the 9th century BC, not the 12th as previously thought.
It is believed that camels were originally domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula for use as pack animals sometime towards the end of the second millennium BC. Dr Ben-Yosef and Dr Sapir-Hen think the Aravah Valley would have been a logical entry point for domesticated camels into the southern Levant as it bordered the Arabian Peninsula.
“By analysing archaeological evidence from the copper production sites of the Aravah Valley, we were able to estimate the date of this event in terms of decades rather than centuries,” said Dr Ben-Yosef.
There is a branch of archaeology called biblical archaeology, whose aim is to prove that all events in the Bible did actually happen and that the Bible is therefore a historically accurate document, and their research has met with some success. For example, last year archaeologists uncovered two royal public buildings in the Kingdom of Judah which they believe is the Palace of King David described in the Bible. Researchers also reported finding the lost Biblical town of Damanutha where Jesus was said to have stayed following the feeding of the 5,000 miracle.
However, this latest research suggests that camels were not domesticated in Israel until long after the Age of the Patriarchs – when Abraham, Jacob and Isaac are said to have lived - between 2,000 and 1,500 BC. The findings draw more attention to the disagreements between Biblical texts and verifiable history. Nevertheless, it cannot be discounted that there are older remains of domesticated camels that have not yet been found.