June 27, 2009

4th Millennium Camel Cart From Turkmenistan

Back in the day, one could get up a lively debate on camel nomads vs. ass nomads in the Levant and various supposed implications for patriarchal history. Happily, I think this kind of discussion has mostly gone away in these more cynical critical days. In his history of Israel, Bright said this about the origins of camel domestication.

Although the camel was of course known from very early times, and isolated instances of its taming may, therefore, have occurred at any period (it is probable that nomads had kept herds of camels in half-wild state in order to secure their milk, hair and skins), it appears that the effective domestication of that animal as a beast of transport took place between the fifteenth and thirteenth centuries deep in Arabia.

I'm not sure how this view has held up over the years. But now we have an abnormally interesting find from Altyndepe in Western Central Asia near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: a stylized clay model of a cart pulled by a camel. The dating seems a little imprecise. The DiscoverNews report describes Altyndepe as a Chalcolithic and Bronze Age settlement and dates the find between 4,000-3,000 BCE. And Lyubov Kircho, the researcher, refers to the 4th millennium. Other cart models from the same location have bulls as their means of locomotion. Take a look at the DiscoverNews article and accompanying picture. But if you really have an abnormal interest in this, you'd better start polishing up your Russian.

Posted by Duane Smith at June 27, 2009 10:44 AM | Read more on Archaeology |

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Today's blog is great. I have never worried too much about the camel debate, because I see the patriarchs as late, but some people still need the old debate. N. P. Lemche never tires of putting the domesticated camel at 1000 BCE as an anachronistic element in the Patriarchal Narratives (See Prelude to Israel's Past, pp 32, 62, and 89). On the new evidence in your blog Gordon would smile.

Posted by: Loren Fisher at June 28, 2009 4:37 PM

I remember something not too long ago about the find of a particular a roughly 2000BC set of male human bones (maybe Bahraini?) that show a very particular kind of wear associated with long-time camel-riding. This wear is distinctive, from the traditional mode of riding a camel, with one leg crossed under the other. I think this was found a couple years ago or so. If I find anything more specific, I'll be back!

Posted by: Kevin P. Edgecomb at June 29, 2009 8:41 PM

I was a thousand years off, and across the water: Remains of a 5000-Y-Old Camel Rider Identified in Burnt City. I'm sure there'll be other reports, but this is the one I recalled.

Posted by: Kevin P. Edgecomb at June 29, 2009 9:02 PM

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