Excavations conducted at the sites of Tell Abraq and Muweilah near Sharjah in the UAE have revealed some of the first clear signs of camel domestication ever discovered. According to reports, archaeologists have unearthed nearly ten times as many domesticated camel bones at Tell Abraq and Muweilah as have been found at any other single site in the Middle East. The new faunal evidence suggests that the dramatic settlement expansion witnessed at both sites around 1000 B.C.E. was likely the result of camel domestication and the emergence of intensive irrigation systems. Domesticated camels would have supplied the local population with a regular source of meat and milk, and would have also facilitated long-distance trade with other parts of Arabia and the Near East. “We’ve found evidence that [this area] traded with the rest of Arabia during this time, and that was not really possible until the camel was domesticated,” said Peter Magee, the Bryn Mawr archaeologist who directs the expeditions.
Camels play a major role in the Biblical narrative of the patriarchs; the animals are mentioned over 20 times in Genesis alone. However, a recent publication suggests that camels were not domesticated in Israel until the end of the 10th century B.C.E. Learn more about this Biblical chronology conflict.