Like the nose of a camel under the tent, archaeological research has raised new questions about the Bible's version of ancient history.
Two researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) studied the bones of camels found in an area of ancient copper mines in the Aravah Valley, south of the Dead Sea. Using radiocarbon dating and other techniques, they determined that camels were first used in the mining operations near the end of the 10th century BC.
They state that this is the first evidence of domesticated camels in ancient Israel.
This would be almost 1,000 years later than the time of the patriarchs, when camels first appear in the Bible. The most memorable account is the story of Abraham's servant, Eliezer, in Genesis 24, who is sent by Abraham to find a wife for his son Isaac. He finds Rebecca, who not only draws water from a well to quench Eliezer's thirst, but also waters his 10 camels.
Their study was quickly used to claim that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it describes. Headlines included:
The Mystery of the Bible's Phantom Camels
Camels Had No Business in Genesis
Will camel discovery break the Bible's back?
Study of camel bones suggests Bible may be wrong
Camel archaeology contradicts the Bible
But evangelical scholars say the claims are overblown.
The use of camels for copper mining is an important discovery. "But to extrapolate from that and say they never had domesticated camels anywhere else in Israel in the 1,000 years before that is an overreach," said Todd Bolen, professor of Biblical Studies at The Master's College in Santa Clarita, California. "The conclusions are overstated."
While it has been difficult for archaeologists ...