Getting the Hump over Camels

Recently an item giving unexpected news appeared on my science feeds. It seems that camel domestication in the Middle East happened too late for the references to Camels in the Bible (http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/5900/20140205/earliest-camel-bones-contradict-bible-archaeologists.htm). PDF of the report here: http://archaeology.tau.ac.il/ben-yosef/pub/Pub_PDFs/Sapir-Hen&Ben-Yosef13_CamelAravah_TelAviv.pdf

The conclusion, according to the report, is that this is more evidence that those parts of the Bible are invented by later societies. That’s a big claim.

As is often the case with items like this, there is a frustrating lack of detail and a high volume of sensation. This is a shame because as far as I am concerned, this is a very important discovery and the impact with regards to Biblical events should be weighed against other similar evidence and conclusions should be cautious, pending more detailed analysis.

The camel domestication is dated from bones and coincides with the arrival of mining in the area. I didn’t see if there were any other dating methods used to cross check the dates found. What is found is that there is consistency across the sites measured, showing that domestication happened at a specific time, so whatever the date is, it would seem to be accurate for the arrival of domestic camels to the area.

There are older bones found and these are claimed to be from earlier wild camels. The reasoning behind this is not found which is a big shame because this evidence really is needed in order to back up the sensational claims. I really do hope that there are going to be follow-up reports with more detail on the results.

What is certainly true; is that if these dates are correct, then it is a very serious blow to the credibility of the Bible. Certainly when it comes to the stories relating to Abraham anyway, if those can’t be trusted, then what else can’t?

There are obvious Creationist objections, like the dating methods used. Creationists will always attack a dating method when it comes up with something that contradicts the Bible and this is exactly what is seen on the AiG website (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2014/02/10/carbon-dating-camels). However, what you don’t see there is a counter interpretation using that same evidence. Instead what is seen is a fall back to the Bible and the assumption that the researchers got something wrong. I wonder what they’d have said if the same testing had shown camels were domesticated at the right time, would they raise the same objections to the dating methods? I doubt it.

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3 thoughts on “Getting the Hump over Camels

  1. The method to differentiate domesticated and wild camels is analysis of the leg bones. Domesticated camel bones show obvious deformations due to a life of carrying heavy loads. It seems that would be pretty simple to distinguish in most cases, though I’ve only seen this fact alluded to in a few of the articles.

    • Hi Ben. Thanks for that. It’s seems like a fairly easy check and probably accurate too. Though I would imagine that would really apply to those camels used during the mining operations. I wonder if the same would also be seen in domesticated animals used by farmers. Would these animals carry lighter loads?

  2. I first heard about this “news” in an email I received the other day. When I Googled it I was nonplussed by what I found. I think it is a stretch that this is going to cause any serious problem for Bible believers. It has been dealt with adequately, I think, in the past. Who takes this stuff seriously other than the “village atheist” types?

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