The Point

The Point: Getting Over the Hump


John Stonestreet

The ships of the desert sailed further than anyone thought. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

It’s apparently easier for a camel to cross the English Channel than it is for modern scholars to trust ancient sources. Historian Caitlin Green discussed the growing evidence that camels—both one-humped and two-humped—were used as beasts of burden across the Roman Empire. Their remains stretch into Western Europe, even Britain.

This runs contrary to our conception of camels as isolated to the Middle-East, but it’s consistent with ancient writers, who said the Roman postal service used these animals.

This reminds me of another camel story from 2014. Researchers from Tel Aviv University argued from carbon-dated remains that camels weren’t in the Middle East during Abraham’s time, as the Bible says. Yet ancient records outside of the Bible, including texts, statues, and petroglyphs indicate that they were.

Maybe a little humility is in order. Camel bones keep showing up in these unexpected places. But they’re right where the ancient writers said they would be.


Image: iStock and Pavliha




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