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Camels and Cats in Ancient Times - Domestication Time Lines

Updated on November 26, 2016

In recent years there has been a great deal of discussion over when Camels were domesticated. According to the Bible Abraham owned camels in approximately 1800 B.C. This has long been debated and recent discoveries in copper mines have reignited the controversy. Researchers claim the oldest camel bones they have been able to find in the copper mines date back to around 900 B.C. They claim this is proof camels were not domesticated until this time and thus the Bible is in error. Furthermore, others use these claims in an attempt to prove the Bible was written at a much later date than traditional claims suggest. They go on to claim these types of errors greatly reduce the reliability and historical accuracy of the Bible.

Evidence which shows camels were domesticated far earlier than 900 B.C. does exist and in plentiful amounts. Despite this evidence the researchers claim they can now pinpoint when camels were first domesticated to within a few decades. This type of statement is not only non-scientific, it is highly dangerous to one's credibility. While I am certain these researchers are confident in their findings, there are very few certainties in the area of archaeology and with very few exceptions claims of pinpointing exact time lines is froth with danger. The fact they could not find camel bones at the copper mine dating to before 900 B.C. only proves, at best, that camels were not used in the mine prior to that date. There is also a possibility additional evidence, artifacts, remain undiscovered which could alter the time-line once again.

Another animal species was domesticated in ancient times in the same geographic region as the afore mentioned camels. According to experts cats were first domesticated in Egypt around 1950 B.C. (I fully recognize some people will dispute the fact that cats have ever been truly domesticated, but that is another argument entirely.) This was during the Middle Kingdom in Egypt and cats were associated with several Egyptian gods and were depicted in artwork such as paintings and sculptures. The ancient Egyptians even went as far as mummifying cats. Clearly cats were a part of the Egyptian culture which has been studied and evaluated for decades, even centuries. Why bring up the domestication of cats? It is all about time lines and not just what we know, but when we know it.

As mentioned experts felt cats were first domesticated in Egypt around 1950 B.C. This was considered a well established time line and generally accepted within the scholarly community. That is until early 2014. New discoveries in Egypt have experts changing the time line for when cats were domesticated. Excavations at Hierakonpolis, which served as the capital for Upper Egypt, have unearthed new evidence concerning the domestication of cats. Skeletons of cats were discovered buried alongside other domesticated animals. One cat skeleton even showed a broken leg had been tended to and the animal was apparently kept in captivity during its recovery and perhaps prior to the injury.

What is perhaps most interesting about the new discoveries is the impact they have had on the historical time line. The estimation for when cats were first domesticated did not change by a few years, or even a few decades. Due to this single new discovery, from a well known and previously excavated area, the time line for the domestication of cats was moved back some 1,750 years, almost two millennia. That is a significant adjustment which shows just how difficult it is to date events in ancient times with any type of certainty.

The point being made here is clear. How can researchers claim to date the domestication of camels to within a few decades when claims for the domestication of another species in the same time frame have now been shown to be wrong by nearly 2000 years? Even if you ignore the evidence of camel domestication from the time of Abraham or before, the facts as recorded in the Bible should not be easily discredited. There have been numerous instances in the past when events recorded in the Bible, lacking physical evidence, were dismissed as untrue. Only as new discoveries were revealed and experts realize, or at least admit, the Bible had the historical facts right all along.


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