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One of Archaeology’s Weaknesses

Updated on December 20, 2018
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Dr. David Thiessen is an educator, writer, pastor, and speaker. He has authored several books on a variety of topics including Archaeology

Camels and Genesis

Archaeology & the Bible

Archaeology is a field of study that is used to investigate ancient cultures and civilizations. The techniques and research strategies are used all over the world to delve into how the ancient Mayan, the Aztecs and other ancient people lived.

One of the ancient people heavily investigated by archaeologists are the patriarchs of the Old Testament Hebrews. Because they lived almost 5,000 years ago the only record of their existence is found in the Bible.

While circumstantial evidence provides some verification of the existence of the Hebrew patriarchs, for example, the taking of Hagar as a surrogate and the names of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob being used in the right historical era. Archaeologists still find issues with the Biblical record.

One such issue is Abraham owning camels. The book of Genesis mentions this fact roughly 20 times (Wilford, 2014). The problem archaeologists have with these camel inclusions in Genesis is that they claim that camels were not domesticated until about the 12th century BC, or about 1100 years after the time of Abraham (Kennedy, 2014).

This can cause quite a problem for Bible believers

More Research Seems to Contradict the Bible

Other researchers have come to the conclusion that it was not until the 10th century BC that the nation of Israel had domesticated camels. These archaeologists used the old camel bones found at a copper mine to help them draw their conclusion about Genesis and its early mentioning of domesticated camels (Weiner, 2014).

This particular study seemed to be quite forceful in its assertions about Israel and how they got the camel. Part of their conclusion stated that this discovery was proof that the writers of Genesis did not compile the book till about the 9th century BC or even until the scholarly accepted time frame of the 7th to 5th centuries BC.

This is a large leap to a conclusion on the part of the researchers and other archaeologists who do not hold to the validity of the Bible. There are many problems that arise with this conclusion.

#1. Israel was not a nation

It may be that Israel did not get domesticated camels till the 10th century BC but that is not an indication that the author of the book of Genesis wrote a thus and years later than the actual events.

In the time of Abraham, the nation of Israel was only a promise from God to Abraham. Israel did not become a nation until the Exodus and conquest of the Promised Land. The Hebrews probably did not have domesticated camels on their journey or during their conquest

#2. Abraham was from another country

When you read the story correctly, you will see that Abraham was not a native of Canaan. He was a citizen of Ur or the Chaldees and moved from that country to his new home on the command of God.

To find out if the Genesis’ accounts of domesticated camels in Abraham’s possession are true, archaeologists would have to dig up Ur and other parts of the Chaldees to get the right evidence before drawing their conclusions.

It is quite likely that the domestication of camels arrived a lot sooner in those regions than in the Levant. Abraham also could have traded for the camels before he left on his journey.

#3. Early traders

There are a number of reasons how the domesticated camel enter the Promised Land long before the 10th Century BC. One could be that there were ancient traders who brought their domesticated camels and traded them for other goods or livestock.

Or someone tried to created a business trading camels but was unsuccessful. If future archaeology were to look at the history of the skateboard, it is highly unlikely that future archaeologists would discover the fact that the skateboard did not come into existence in the 1980s when it was quite popular.

With the amount of evidence present day archaeologists have to use, the future archaeologists would have a hard time believing that the skateboard was invented in the 1950s, and put on the market in the 1960s (Skatedeluxe, 2018).

#4. Fossilization is Not a Good Indicator for Origins

One of the weaknesses that comes with archaeology is that archaeologists tend to be selective as to the type of information they will use to come to their conclusions. To use bones as an indicator for origination is erroneous as bones do decay.

They may not have a consistent decay rate but that is due to the climate and environmental conditions (Staughten, 2015). What this means is that the camel bones used by the above researchers may not have been the original domesticated camel bones.

Archaeology cannot prove that they were. Another problem with using camel bones is that fossilization is rare. It takes the right conditions to fossilize a bone, soft tissue or complete plants and animals (Alamo, 2018).

What these means is that those researchers were lucky to find those camel bones but those bones are not an indicator of when camels were actually domesticated. It is merely the subjective opinion of the researchers that the discovered camel bones indicate when camels were domesticated in Israel.

Some Final Words

In their haste to draw their conclusions, archaeologists do fail to take all the facts into account. For whatever reason they may have, their conclusions try to prove the Bible is not true. These reasons could come from their religious beliefs or lack thereof, and their scientific biases.

Archaeology is very limited and it cannot determine when a discovery is the original artifact, bodily remains or not. At best, the camel bones discovered only tell everyone that camels were in use at that copper mine.

Their discovery does not provide evidence that the Bible was written centuries after the fact or that Abraham did not have domesticated camels. It only shows that the mine owners used camels.

Any other conclusion is reading into the discovery ideas and information that are not there.

Works cited:

Alamo, (2018), “Dead and Then Fossilized”, Alamo Impact, retrieved from http://geology.isu.edu/Alamo/fossils/process_fossilization.php

Kennedy, T.M., (2014), “The Date of Camel Domestication in the Near East”, Bible and Spade, retrieved from http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2014/02/17/The-Date-of-Camel-Domestication-in-the-Ancient-Near-East.aspx

Skatedeluxe Blog, (2018), “History of Skateboarding”, retrieved from https://www.skatedeluxe.com/blog/en/wiki/skateboarding/history-of-skateboarding/

Staughten, J., (2015), “Science Of The Skeleton: Why Don’t Bones Decay?”, Science ABC, retrieved from https://www.scienceabc.com/humans/skeleton-mystery-dont-bones-decay-decompose.html

Wilford, J.N., (2014), “Camels Had No Business in Genesis”, The New York Times, Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/science/camels-had-no-business-in-genesis.html?_r=2

© 2018 David Thiessen

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