Jump to content
Join the Unexplained Mysteries community today! It's free and setting up an account only takes a moment.
- Sign In or Create Account -
Lord Harry

Camel Domestication in Old Kingdom Egypt

63 posts in this topic

Recommended Posts

Lord Harry

Many Egyptologists assume that domestic camels were unknown in Egypt until the First Millennium BC.  However, recent archaeological discoveries suggest that while uncommon, domesticated dromedaries did occur in Egypt in limited numbers since the late Predynastic era (ca. 3150 BC).  Such evidence includes a terracotta tablet depicting men riding and leading camels (late Predynastic), a limestone vessel in the image of a camel carrying an ointment pot (First Dynasty), and several models of camels from the Fourth Dynasty.

https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jals/26/4/26_205/_pdf/-char/en

http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2014/02/17/The-Date-of-Camel-Domestication-in-the-Ancient-Near-East.aspx

http://www.nmnhs.com/historia-naturalis-bulgarica/pdfs/000275000162004.pdf

While Egyptologists are certainly correct in stating that domesticated camels were not in common usage in Egypt until the First Millennium BC, the archaeological evidence suggests that dromedaries were used in limited numbers in Egypt for long distance trade and desert mining operations.  Camels were likely introduced into Egypt at the turn of the Fourth Millennium BC through trade with the tribes of southeastern Arabia, with their importation occurring sporadically throughout the Old Kingdom.  

Evidence in the form of camel bones discovered during an archaeological excavation of the Red Pyramid (believed by the original excavators to have been included in Sneferu's royal burial) in 1948 suggests that camels may have been considered a status symbol in Egypt during the Old Kingdom.  

I will admit however that the evidence at this point is convincing, it is still inconclusive.  The purpose of this thread will be to discuss the evidence for camel domestication in Egypt before they occurred in common use during the First Millennium BC.

 

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John Bastien

There is also evidence they were present in the NW area of the delta. There is also notation of camel milk usage in the time of neolithic to copper age transition. 

In the time of Sneferu there was established Egyptian maritime trade and support for the copper mines in the Sinai. There in also strong evidence that the tribes of southern Arabia used camels to support the incense trade. Khufu had a very extensive port facility on the Red Sea at Wadi al-Jarf. As Egyptians are creatures of habit this venture was most likely a continuation of others in the past. There may have even been Neolithic trade. As time passes more discoveries may be made. Camels would have been encountered and even traded very early in this time period.

As most of the Valley Temples of this period are in ruins finding documentation will be a matter of pure luck. However the evidence of logic and common sense seem to prevail for camels being around during this early time period.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Windowpane
Posted (edited)
Quote

The one-humped camel or dromedary (camelus dromedarius) is already sporadically attested in the Early Dynastic Period, but it was not regularly used until much later. 

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/foodproduction/camel.html

https://www.jstor.org/stable/25165032?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Edited by Windowpane
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord Harry

Donkeys were by far the most common beast of burden in Egypt during the Old Kingdom. They would have been used for overland transport and commerce along the Nile Valley and as far north as southern Palestine. 

Any further however and using donkeys alone could result in serious problems. They are not as strong as camels, and they required a daily supply of water and forage, whereas dromedaries could live off their fat reserves stored in their hump for up to 100 hours. 

Granted the Egyptians often relied on intermediaries for long distance trade. Though if at all possible the Egyptians would have sent out their own caravans which at this stage likely would have included camels. For desert mining operations camels would have been indispensable. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord Harry
Posted (edited)

There is however no word for "camel" attested in the Egyptian language. This is a conundrum that requires an explanation, and I have not found the explanation offered to be particularly convincing. It has been suggested that the Egyptians had no word for camel because they were considered taboo or ritually unclean. 

I find this explanation to be inadequate because the only real  evidence for unclean animals comes much later during the New Kingdom and later, and these were associated with the Osirian myth. And furthermore, the names of these animals, including pigs (associated with Seth) are all attested in the Egyptian language.

Furthermore, if camels were unclean or otherwise taboo, the Egyptians likely would not have employed them as beasts of burden, and their remains certainly would not have been included in a royal burial.

Edited by Lord Harry
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord Harry
Posted (edited)

I have been unable to find a word for camel in Old, Middle, or Late Egyptian. The Demonic stage of the Egyptian language used the Semitic loan word gm(w)l. But this phase of the language didn't exist until around 750 BC.

Perhaps the earlier stages of the Egyptian language also used a Semitic loan word since camels were likely introduced into the Nile Valley through trade with the Arabs. Does anyone have any suggestions, and or knowledge on this matter?

Edited by Lord Harry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord Harry
Posted (edited)

I am sure the Egyptians of the Old Kingdom used an as yet unattested Semitic loan word to designate "camel."

Edited by Lord Harry
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John Bastien
5 hours ago, Lord Harry said:

I have been unable to find a word for camel in Old, Middle, or Late Egyptian. The Demonic stage of the Egyptian language used the Semitic loan word gm(w)l. But this phase of the language didn't exist until around 750 BC.

Perhaps the earlier stages of the Egyptian language also used a Semitic loan word since camels were likely introduced into the Nile Valley through trade with the Arabs. Does anyone have any suggestions, and or knowledge on this matter?

However we do not have much in Old Kingdom writings. They also could have applied a name in the form of an existing word in written form. However in real terms the spoken word may have defined the meaning. There are many multiple meanings to some Egyptian words. Uber donker? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord Harry
6 minutes ago, John Bastien said:

However we do not have much in Old Kingdom writings. They also could have applied a name in the form of an existing word in written form. However in real terms the spoken word may have defined the meaning. There are many multiple meanings to some Egyptian words. Uber donker? 

Perhaps "3aw Wr" great donkey.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John Bastien
6 minutes ago, Lord Harry said:

Perhaps "3aw Wr" great donkey.

Something like that. If they were not common throughout Egypt and showed up here and there, even as a work animal it may explain it.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John Bastien

As a practice today they may have eaten them for special occasions.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord Harry
13 minutes ago, John Bastien said:

As a practice today they may have eaten them for special occasions.

That is a possibility.  The Egyptians of the Old Kingdom even experimented with fattened hyenas, so I am sure the royal courts of Sneferu and Khufu had all manner of exotic delicacies on their tables.  Though the experiment never progressed beyond the trial and error stage because hyenas are impossible to domesticate.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John Bastien

That would explain the presence of camel remains in the north pyramid of Dahshur.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord Harry
Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, John Bastien said:

That would explain the presence of camel remains in the north pyramid of Dahshur.

Indeed.  One of us should search the late 19th and early 20th century excavation reports for the Old Kingdom pyramid sites of the Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Dynasties in order to determine if the practice depositing of camel remains in royal burials of this period was consistent. 

Edited by Lord Harry
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord Harry

Possible camel hair ropes have also been found near gypsum mines dating to the Fifth Dynasty. I will post the link when I get to my computer.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord Harry

@Piney you are not going to win this one. I can post all day. This is my vacation time. 

  • Haha 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Piney
6 minutes ago, Lord Harry said:

@Piney you are not going to win this one. I can post all day. This is my vacation time. 

:whistle:

  • Haha 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lord Harry

An investigation needs to be conducted into whether the camel remains deposited inside the Red Pyramid were part of the royal burial.

And if they were, what significance, ritualistic or otherwise did they contain.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John Bastien
3 minutes ago, Lord Harry said:

An investigation needs to be conducted into whether the camel remains deposited inside the Red Pyramid were part of the royal burial.

And if they were, what significance, ritualistic or otherwise did they contain.

C14

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Piney
48 minutes ago, John Bastien said:

Whar was the purpose of this post?

Being a dick with @Lord Harry

Is this a questionnaire and/or will there be a inquest? 

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Essan

So, given that most camels live in Australia.   Does this prove the Ancient Egyptians sailed to and traded with Australians?   :huh:

  • Haha 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Piney
Just now, Essan said:

So, given that most camels live in Australia.   Does this prove the Ancient Egyptians sailed to and traded with Australians?   :huh:

Damn, they come here and mine our copper and didn't give us any camels.......cheap b*******.....

  • Haha 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John Bastien

What I am looking for is is any other finds of camel bones in AE tombs. In context of the burial.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John Bastien

It must be noted that in the early days of tomb clearance animal bones were treated as garbage and not recorded to any extent.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.