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Abraham's Camels Author(s): Joseph P. Free Source: Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Jul., 1944), pp.

187-193 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 10/04/2013 08:15
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I (1899). 196. chapter 12. T. 586.6 We thus see that the opinion is common that the camel was unknown in Egypt in the time of Abraham. W. g Victor Hehn.1 and Erman dates the appearance of 6 R. writing in the nineteenth century. Abraham had camels in his possession. I. H. K. S. 11 John Skinner. 47-69." Sudan Notes and Records. pp. "Camel. who says: "With regard to Abram's camels.5 basing his statement on Erman-Ranke."9 Muiller takes the view that the camel was known in Egypt in Roman times. This apparent lack of evidence would seem to show that the reference to Abraham's having camels in Egypt is an anachronism. 187 This content downloaded from 213. Introduction Ranke. it should be pointed out that the camel was not introduced into Egypt until centuries after this period.10 Skinner places it a little earlier. und dgypti- (1941). When. while in Egypt. 249-50. Eric Peet. From the Stone Age to Christianity (1940).4 and I This is not the sole reference to camels in Egypt in the early period. 2 T. 1 (1936)."2'Robinson takes a similar view when he says: "It is therefore only logical to consider that the mention of camels in the Biblical story of Abraham's journey is merely an instance of contemporary influences similar to the Florentine pictures of Biblical life in which medieval costume is shown by the artist.240 on Wed. col. 3 A. "The Camel in Antiquity. 8 A. This is the first reference to camels in the Old Testament. Pfeiffer. p. p."3 Albright indicates the mention of camels in the Pentateuch as being anachronistic. p. to the Old Testament Agypten p.ABRAHAM'S CAMELS JOSEPH P. the seventh century A. Genesis ("International Critical Commentary" [1910]). Maspero. they are mentioned as being among those animals affected by the murrain of cattle (Exod. and Exodus. chapter 9. 9:6). was somewhat cautious in his dating of the introduction of the camel and is content merely to state that it was "still later" than the introduction of the horse. 203. ed. for. Albright. often quoted as Egyptian local colour. also writing in the nineteenth century. Pfeiffer in his recent book says that the assumption "that camels were used in Egypt in ancient times" as indicated in Genesis. (1923). sches Leben im Altertum 7 G. E. p.' It has been doubted that the camel was known as early as this in Egypt because representations of camels have not as yet been found in Egyptian tomb paintings and on reliefs. Egypt and the Old Testament (1924). and it implies their presence in Egypt at an early date. Erman and H. was one of "the most obvious errors" in the J writer. H. Black. 60. 41. (1895). 4 W. Max Mtiller. in connection with the plagues. 12:16 which records that.8 Hehn. did the camel come to be known in Egypt? Various views have been expressed concerning this. Patriarchal Wanderings Palestine of Plants ed. saying that the camel is "neither represented nor named in the monuments before the Greek Period" .181. A common viewpoint of the situation is expressed by Peet. XIX.' Sayce suggests the time of the Arab conquest as the period of domestication of the camel in Egypt -in other words." in Encyclopedia bibli10o ca. 154. 171. History of Egypt. Robinson. Sayce.D. FREE of the Old Testament have STUDENTS often questioned the accuracy of the statement in Gen. No. 634.226. 10 Apr 2013 08:15:53 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . F. p. Vol. Maspero. 6 A. and Animals. nor is it certain that a word for "camel" appears in the Egyptian language. Cheyne and J. says: "The camel was first introduced into Africa as late as the third century of the Christian era. Stallybross. then.

M.C."'5 In his recent book. M. No 1 (1940). Biblical Millar p.C. we can understand why the a thousand years too early according to mention of Abraham's having camels in the prevalent view. Bur. What Mean III." 16 Gordon. "Biblical Customs and the Nuzu Archaeologist. 13 W... Ibid.188 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES the earliest evidence in the Greek period. and The Archaeology of Palestine the Bible (3d ed."2 inquiry M. p.. into the patriarchal period and not into It should be clearly stated. and they clearly belong to Grecoand then remarks: "The circumstances Roman times.'8 is A.C. 14 Egypt. the camel in Egypt earlier than the Greek have been shown by excavations to fit or Roman period. there. 1912). H.226. p. in which Nuzi tablets reveal that the picture of there are over twenty photographs of patriarchal society has "come down to us figurines of camels from the Greco-Roauthentically. that the introduction stated to the writer that it dated from the of the camel into Egypt is placed from the Amarna period.use of his army in his campaign into ested in the question about a year before further. F... Olmstead. 142. 17 J. This content downloaded from 213. II. They are in a style which is rows reviews some of the archeological easy to recognize.Egyptian history. Life in Ancient Tirard (1894)."'" third century B. Breasted. which would be at least of Abraham. H. This would apparently seventh century strated accuracy in the biblical accounts inscription of Esarhaddon (681-668) reof the patriarchal period. Petrie (Gizeh and Rifeh (1907]. Since this is far too late for the time about 1400 B. are true to the conditions of the twentieth and perhaps the nineteenth the camel in Egypt does not stop with the centuries B. 23) refers to a memoir made by M. A and the Bible. is A. Vandier of the Louvre staff It appears." The placard gave no date "tribute" of Egypt which includes twoor provenience for this figurine. trans. In the seventh century B. to the third century exhibit a knowledge of the camel in Egypt B. Lef6bure in the Fourteenth Oriental Congress. p. 71. Vol. and after the later period of the mon. T. 9. These Stones (1941). then. W. Albright has pointed out many that the camel came into general use in such items in his Archaeology of Palestine Egypt in Greek and Roman times. on the early history of the camel. History of Assyria (1923). however.that the evidence so far would indicate archy.'3 and he concludes that the demonstration of this is seen in the Archerecord of the patriarchs is "essentially ological Corpus of the Oriental Institute historical. 129-51. Erman. the matter of lates how the kings of Arabia supplied Abraham's camels seems to stand out as him with camels to carry water for the an exception.240 on Wed.181. 1935). which is relatively late in reflected in the story of Abraham. we shall now consider Against the background of demon. 15 Cyrus Tablets. 145. however. being more or less sterediscoveries concerning the patriarchal age otyped.revealed to the writer the existence of ronism. A History of Egypt (2d ed. Burrows. pp. Since the evidence of the knowledge of fore. A part of this memoir is apparently based on the use of camels by Esarhaddon in his campaign into Egypt."7 the war. and upon humped camels. p. The writer became inter.D.other evidence showing a knowledge of cerning the patriarchal age. Many biblical indications con. p. 10 Apr 2013 08:15:53 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Albright. 493.."'4 Gordon points out that the of the University of Chicago. when he noticed a small statuette Moving back to the ninth century B. F. 555. of a camel in the Egyptian section of the we find that the reliefs on the Black ObeLouvre in a showcase labeled "Recent lisk of Shalmaneser (859-824) show thd period.C. Further search has Egypt is ordinarily considered an anach.C.C.

The "Atlas Volume" of this work (1929 [Excavations of 1921-24]) contains this camel figurine (P1. F. This would also indicate a knowledge of the camel in the period 20001500 given by Bisson de la Roque.. cit. W. Byblos et l'Egypte (1928). XLIV (1912)..20 An indication of the knowledge of the camel in Egypt in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries B. 2.22 Figurines are not the sole early evidence of the camel. in view of the fact that Petrie records the finding of rock carvings near Gebel Silsileh from the Eighteenth Dynasty which include figures of camels as well as other animals. at Benha.C. This may be the same camel which the writer noted in the Louvre and which Vandier assigned to the Amarna period. Fig. Bisson de la Roque. "Recent Geological Work in the Faiyum and in the Adjoining Portion of the Nile Val- ley." Zeitschrift fiir Ethnolo- gie.ABRAHAM'S CAMELS 189 The next item carries us back to the thirteenth century B. 26 G.240 on Wed. 21 M. from which this skull was recovered. Since the inscription and the drawing are of the same technique. About 1935 the skull of a camel. 215. dated to the period between 2000 and 1400 B. 68-69. 25 Pierre Montet.c. The excavators conclude that it shows that as early as Ramesside times the camel was sufficiently common to be used as a beast of burden.23 who states that the Pottery A stage. If it has apthe writer has not seen it. Rapport sur les FouilFranCais le8 de Mddamoud ("Fouilles de l'Institut d'Archaeologie Orientale du Caire [Annde 1929]"). Little. 75. p. VII. XXXVIII (1900). peared. there was found a glazed figure of a camel with painted water jars. was found in the Fayum. and an inscription of the Sixth Dynasty.c. These dates are indicated by the 19Petrie. It has usually been stated that the camel does not appear in the reliefs and paintings of the early Egyptian period. 179). Budge reported in 1906 that he had seen models of 23 0. is not earlier than the Twelfth Dynasty. No. and is quite possibly as late as the Eighteenth Dynasty. This must be modified somewhat. Schweinfurth. a man.21 who lists a figurine of a camel from the New Empire found at M6damoud. 179.. now usually dated 2500 B.226." Zeit8chrift fiir agyptische Sprache." Bulletin de l'Institut d'Egypte. op. One object was the figurine of a camel.C. which does not extend much later than 1400 B. 56. 91. von Bissing.24 At Byblos many objects of Egyptian origin were found dating from the first half of the second millennium. F. p. p.C. I. "Zur Geschichte des Kamels. 10 Apr 2013 08:15:53 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 627-58. lying in the position which is so characteristic of this animal. this would imply the knowledge of the camel in the period 2400- 2200 B. and the water jar is of the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Dynasty type and not of a form employed in Greek or Roman times. LII. or about 2000 B. we discover other indications concerning the camel.. The excavators report that there were no traces of a later re-use of the tomb. Ten Years Digging (1892).181. This content downloaded from 213.c. 22 In the summer of 1938 Vandier said that Keimer expected to publish the Louvre camel. 23.C. XVIII (1935-36).25 At Aswan there is a pecked rock drawing reported by Schweinfurth which shows a camel.19 In another excavation. In the excavations of the British School of Archaeology at Rifeh in Egypt a pottery figure of a camel laden with water jars was found in a tomb of the Nineteenth Dynasty. which was referred by Freiherr von Bissing to the Ramesside age.26 When we move on back to the main period of the Old Kingdom. Petrie. report of Little. "Ueber Alte Tierbilder und Felsinschriften bei Assuan. 24 W. No. 20 F.C. M. the style of the figure is of the rough-fingered pottery of the Nineteenth Dynasty and is quite unlike any of the molded Roman figures.

while another man led the animal with a rope. of the Natural History Museum. Petrie. 58.35It has also been reported that when Hekekyan Bey. This is now in the Berlin Museum. History M. trans. Mbller..190 OFNEAREASTERN JOURNAL STUDIES Also dating from the First Dynasty is a pottery camel's head which was found at Hierakonpolis. using transmitted and polarized light. (1931). at latest. Abydos. Hinton. Miss Caton-Thompson. "]Uber die Darstellung Eines Kamelreiters aus der iigyptischen Friihzeit. ass. 30G. S. found a two-strand twist of haircord over three feet in length.30 27 28 Robinson. and two other such heads were found at Abydos. there is in her opinion no possibility of error in its Old Kingdom authenticity. superficially resembling camel hair. which is dated throughout by pottery.31 Of these. horse. 189. T. they came from a low level.. 70. X. Olmstead says that "statuettes imply that already the camel was a beast of burden. 21. 10 Apr 2013 08:15:53 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .27 In discussing Egyptian influence on Phoenicia in the Old Kingdom period. XXXIV."32 One of the above-mentioned camel heads is now in the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago (No. 24 (1934). In the season of 1927-28." Man. She sent it to Martin A. 85-86. 31 W. "The Camel in Dynastic Egypt. 58. of Palestine and Syria 32 Jean camels excavated at Abydos from the Fourth Dynasty. p. A. we find that M6ller'(19056) discovered at Abusir el-Meleq a small vessel of yellow limestone in the form of a recumbent pack camel. Ibid. XXX (1906). C. P1.. 16. p. p. 27. 87-88."28 The discovery of statuettes. No. Caton-Thompson. 15 This content downloaded from 213. who made a microscopic examination. who was excavating in the gypsum quarries and workshops of the northern Fayum scarp. sheep. goat. figurines. or." Kemi. although their authenticity has been questioned. 7972). No. Fig. Primitive Art in Egypt. p. II (1903). Olmstead. Mook at a meeting of the German Anthropological Society in Kiel in 1878 reported on the discovery of bones of camels found in the neighborhood of Helwan. op. possibly to the early Fourth." MDOG. It is now in the Cairo University Museum. A. "Ausgrabung der deutschen OrientGesellschaft auf dem vorgeschichtlichen Friedhofe bei Abusir el-Meleq im Sommer 1905. 29 G. He compared it with the hair of the ox. 34L. Since it was collected from the two-foot level of consolidated gypsum powder.181.. cit.29 Going on back to the period of the First Dynasty. we find that Guy Brunton has reported a pottery camel's head found at Maadi which comes from that period. all of which were predynastic. 33 Robinson. 224. 49. op. also dating to the First Dynasty. F. pp. Among these objects was a terra cotta tablet on which was represented a camel with a man astride.34 Various reports have been made of finding bones of camels. Capart." Moving on back to the predynastic period. Miss Caton-Thompson would date it to the Third. 17. and man and concluded that it was of camel hair. Schiaparelli purchased a group of objects (1904) found in a necropolis north of Gurna.226.240 on Wed. Dynasty." Their authenticity was checked by Professor Rutemeier of Freiburg. Dr. Capart says that "the characteristic movement of the lower lip leaves no doubt as to its identity. cit. Keimer. and drawings of camels are certainly significant. Griffith (1905). which was then called "stone age. in 1851-54. but we can approach even closer to an actual flesh-and-blood camel through the discovery of a camel-hair rope from the Third or Fourth Dynasty period in the Fayum. II (1929).33 Another piece of evidence came to light when E. and the placard in the showcase reads: "The red pottery camel's head suggests the early use of that desert beast in Egypt.

noted that the biblical reference does not found at Tell Halaf. Many who have rejected this re. from the man period to predynastic times.c. Pl. early knowledge of the camel in Egypt. was sinking shafts in the Nile mud at the domesticated dromedary in the ninth Memphis for the Geological Society of century B. which is dated in The bronze gates of Shalmaneser III the First Dynasty. among other animal with painted water jars (from Benha).226.4' It does appear not only that 37 It is to be noted Robinson 39Robinson. 59. and. It is which has been cited refers only to the pointed out here because the camel with wild camel and that the biblical text rider gives indication of domestication. p. 38 It is sometimes assumed that Pharaoh gave the camels to Abraham.3" any date. from Abusir el-Meleq.) rejects the biblical reference to Abraham's having camels in Egypt (p..39 The glazed figure of a camel London. 41In connection with the domestication of the camel. cit.40 would seem to imply domesticated or at The form of the recumbent camel of least somewhat tame camels. This content downloaded from 213. It has been pointed out in this paper. It merely though there is no conclusive evidence for says that Abraham had camels.. which is assigned to the Ramesside age remains. Sayce.. lived on the frontiers of Egypt during the predynastic period and disappeared entirely from Egyptian knowledge after the third or possibly the sixth dynasty" (ibid..camel laden with water jars. In Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (1942).. cit.181. found at Rifeh.C. the bones of dromedaries. 64).c.37 thirteenth century B. The Egypt of the Hebrews and Herodotos (1896). p. 140. It should be carefully humped dromedary camel.XXIa 40 Max Freiherr von Oppenheim. Pharaoh may have obtained them from nomads who lived in outlying parts of Egypt or perhaps from persons living on the borders of Egypt who came into the land from time to time. but qualifies this by saying that "in the thirteenth cenB.240 on Wed. Der Tell Halaf (facing p. from the Greco-Ro.c.. Domestication is also indicated by cited in this paper give testimony not the vessel in the form of a pack camel only of camels but of domesticatedcamels. it should be pointed out domestication in the period 2000-1500 that many of the items which have been B. it is interesting to note that Albright dates the effective domestication in the eleventh century B. 136) and p. At the close of his article he says: "It is clear that a species of camel.). 50 n. it is safer to place it in the second It may be objected that the evidence half of the second millennium. In regard Egyptian origin found at Byblos suggests to this question. indicates domestication. p. as far as bearer. Likewise the pottery figure of a can be ascertained. since the animal is being used as a burdenwe find that it ranges in date. possibly the dromedary. no traces of domestic camels have been yet discovered in any contemporary record or excavation.reveals the same thing. 96. which comes from outside have assumed something which the text Egypt. nor does it was originally of an older source and is it evidence that the Egyptians had made dated by Herzfeld to 2900 or 3000 B. and by the terra cotta (859-824).36 In summarizing the evidence for the by von Bissing. do show tablet from Gurna reported by Schiaparelli which showed a camel with a man 36 A. H. he indicates possible domestication by the thirteenth century B. if this be so.. when the camel became quite common. astride.ABRAHAM'S CAMELS 191 that (op. just as did Abraham. though not in Egypt. op. however. p. that there is evidence for a knowledge of the camel in Egypt in every main period of Egyptian history from predynastic times down to the Greco-Roman period.c. 120). p.c. the tury domestication of the camel had not yet progressed to a point where it could have any decisive effect upon nomadism. 10 Apr 2013 08:15:53 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . is a very fine picture of a onedoes not state. but he adds that "partial and sporadic domestication may go back several centuries earlier" (From the Stone Age to Christianity. Another bit of ference to Abraham's camels seem to evidence. 22. he found. It comes from a necessarily indicate that the camel was building of the twelfth century B.c. with rider." (1931).C.. but common in Egypt at that time. any great progress in the breeding and with which von Oppenheim concurs. Aldomestication of the camel.

T. even at a very early age" and "that it was definitely used for domestic purposes in upper Mesopotamia at least as early as the latter half of the second millennium B. p. pp. While this question is not directly within the scope of this article. cit. 382. Vol. and hence would not be as likely to appear on the monuments (Sphinx. Macalister. Macalister found camel bones and also the figurine head of a camel in what he calls the "Second Semitic Stratum" (R.48 Thus 44E. century B.C. Little has been said concerning the camel outside Egypt. 45 W. Thiele. 229. Sennacherib.42 Evidence for the camel outside Egypt before 900 B. In the Proceedingsof the Society of Biblical Archaeology for 188946four different references are given in the papyri where the word for "camel" is said to appear.C. Outside of Egypt the camel seems to have come into general use in the Assyrian period (900-600 B. 175). 634). Nelson has pointed out to the writer that the word in this case should be "monkey" rather than "camel. 115. 47 Loc. John A. I. "Other Antiquities and Art. Several suggestions have been made. History of Assyria. Vol.181. 289. 10 Apr 2013 08:15:53 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and for that reason it would not have been in common use at an early period. 48 Robinson (op. have already been mentioned. Max MUiller intimates that the Egyptians did not portray this animal because of religious antipathy (loc.192 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES knowledge of the camel reaches back into ancient times in Egypt but that this includes a knowledge of the domesticated camel as well. In the period of Tiglathpileser I mention is made of the camel. p. 377. One of these references has been translated as follows: "One teaches (the) camel to dance. 363." but H. 82. I. pp.. 24-47). 375. cit. 19-20. as is shown by the monuments of Ashurnasirapal (885-860). 1889. Shalmaneser III (859-824).240 on Wed.c. it may be stated that the camel is as much an enigma outside Egypt as inside. col. XVIII. Miuller47 less" the statement that the camel is mentioned in Papyrus Anastasi. is certain."44 Thus we see that the matter of the camel is indeed an enigma when we deal with the countries outside Egypt. History of Palestine and Syria. pp. Marshall tells of the finding of skeletal remains of the dromedary camel. 634.45 A word should be said about the idea that the word for "camel" does not appear in Egyptian.. Wiedemann suggests that the little canals and ditches of Egypt would have been easily mussed up by the clumsy camel. S. but it does exist. H.226. The question still remains as to why the camel does not appear on the reliefs and' tomb paintings in ancient Egypt. Olmstead. At MohenjoDaro in India. " Mohenjo-Daro and the Indus Civilization [1931]. it also seems evident that the camel was not so widely used in the early period as it was in later times. R. Thiele states that the camel "was not unknown. cit. 65) says that "the statement of Lydekker that the camel is mentioned in an This content downloaded from 213. At Gezer.]. and so were less commonly known than at later times. B. 1937). Of course. I. "The Beginnings of Land Transportation in Mesopotamia" (unpublished thesis. 43The Tell Halaf relief of the twelfth 4 Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology. Tiglath-pileser III. but as yet we do not have the final answer.C. II.. 9). is not abundant. The Excavation of Gezer 1902-1905 and 1907-1909.C. G.43 Concerning the early use of the camel in Mesopotamia. and Esarhaddon. Hilton Price the Egyptian word for "camel" is given. but until further research throws more light upon this question. Sargon II. the early history of this very useful beast 42A. col. 211. indicating that it was known there as far back as the Intermediate Period (John Marshall [ed. and the Byblos camel vase of 2000-1500 must remain much of a mystery. 142. University of Chicago. It is interesting to find that Budge lists a word for "camel" in his dictionary and that in the Catalogue of Egyptian Antiquities in the Possession of F. 559-60. 114. A. Wilson suggested to the writer that perhaps camels were found mostly along the borders of Egypt in the early period.)." since monkeys were calls "groundtaught to dance.

i. 49 0.. four from the First Dynasty ing the knowledge of the camel in Egypt period ca. two evidence as yet concerning the appearance from the period of the fifteenth to twenof the word for "camel" in the ancient tieth centuries. it would appear someday for Egyptian history.240 on Wed. several from the twenty-fifth cenEgyptian language. one of these items comes aside as an anachronism the reference to from the seventh century.49 In summarizing the evidence concern. 10 Apr 2013 08:15:53 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . one from evidence thus provides another argument for accepting as authentic the picture of Egyptian ancient (XIVth century B. WHEATON WHEATON. K-M-R instead of K-R-I (an ape). rock camel came into general use in the Grecocarvings and drawings. two from the thirteenth. It is quite true that consists of figurines. but.the earlier periods. we find that it predynastic period. we find that.C. with the above evicamel skull. Using dence for the knowledge of the camel in the dates which are usually accepted to.. R.e. Our ninth. one from the sixteenth.tury B.) papyrus was the patriarchal period presented in the due to a misreading of the text.226. COLLEGE ILLINOIS This content downloaded from 213. and four from the before the Greek period. statuettes.. 3000 B. Professor Glanville. in what presumptuous to set completely regard to date. one from the twentythird.ABRAHAM'S CAMELS 193 there does not appear to be conclusive the fifteenth.181. plaques -the total evidence would indicate that the bearing representations of camels. Sellers pointed out to the writer that the word for "camel" does appear in Coptic. and a camel-hair rope. a Roman period. camel bones.c.c." Robinson bases this on a letter from Old Testament. one from the Abraham's having camels in Egypt.