Dromedary Camel: War Machine

My First Post

My very first post and it’s on the domesticated Dromedary camel… I probably should have started with something that falls into the category of either being cute or a killing machine, these are the animals people tend to find the most interesting. But look at it, look at that smile, it’s adorable. And although not a Saber-toothed cat, it’s a an animal that has seen more than its fair share of military action.

Don’t let the smile fool you.

Why Domesticate Them?

Humans appear to have tried to domesticate the most weird and wonderful of animals, the domestication of the dromedary being one of the most useful. Its many uses leaving us with many reasons as to why they were domesticated. There is the possibility that it was for military purposes, transport purposes, or perhaps, as is so often the case, for food.

Food?

Figure 1, shown below, is an image of rock art dated to around 3000BC. This is one of the earliest images of a dromedary camel and it appears to clearly show humans hunting the animal. From this we can gather that it is likely humans first interaction with this animal was to kill it, that it  to say it was initially needed as food. This suggests then that they probably domesticated for this reason, this being the most common reason for domestication of an animal.

(Also if anyone has any idea what the figure beneath the camel is please leave a comment because I have no idea)


exhibit cAlthough, some of you probably looked at the camel and thought, well that’s surely an animal of magical properties. You are not alone. There are theories that have even looked at ritual explanations for domestication, more specifically, the perceived magical and medicinal properties. Camel sacrifices were common in pre-Islamic Arabia and dromedaries were typically in arid areas, places often difficult for sedentary people to reach and as such a difficult to reach source of food.

Trade?

The camel has found itself to be most influential in trade and travel, being integral to the development of the famous Silk Road trade route. Perhaps it was domesticated for its ability to cross vast stretches of desert? Maybe. Though this seems unlikely, this is a time period before major trading and people who domesticate animals are usually sedentary. Whatever their primary reason for domestication, it became an animal that connected the eastern and western worlds through trade, built empires from its military uses and supplied early settlers with a source of food.

For the Army?

One of the first images of domesticated dromedaries that we know of shows them being used for military purposes in 645BC, this artwork is from the Palace of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh in Iraq.

FIGURE 2

We also have the story of as well as the story of the Assyrian king Tiglat-Pileser III taking 30,000 camels as booty following the victory of Samsi, Queen of the Arabs and the story of Gindibu, who in 833BC used 1000 camels when supporting the Aramean king of Damascus. They have since been used countless times in a military capacity, their success seen in the stories of the rise and fall of many great Empires. Even if they are not particularly the most threatening looking creatures. 

Though I did find this image from the game series Total War that made them look absolutely terrifying.

camel.jpg

Conclusion:

It is because of historical references such as these and the abundance of remains in southern Arabia that many archaeologists believe the dromedary was domesticated in the southern region of Arabia. It seems likely most humans would have first interacted dromedaries by killing and eating them (which appears to be how we introduced ourselves to most animals), though the reason for domestication is still debated.

Pigs are tasty, so we ate them, but dromedaries are capable of so many things it’s actually hard to see what quality it was that drew us into domesticating them, though knowing us, we were probably hungry.

Dromedaries and the Bible:

Archaeologists Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef from Tel-Aviv University proposed that camels were not introduced into the Levant area until hundreds of years after the Genesis period and though debated, meaning this animal has now stepped into the debate of the Bible’s authenticity (see here).