Dromedaries, Overland Trade and the Political and Economic Landscape of the Ancient Near East
Professor Peter Magee, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and Director of Middle Eastern Studies at Bryn Mawr College
'Turning the world upside down: the emergence of camel caravans and overland trade in the Ancient Near East'
The MBI Al Jaber Lecture at the 49th Seminar for Arabian Studies was held at the British Museum on Saturday 25th July and presented by Professor Peter Magee, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology and Director of Middle Eastern Studies at Bryn Mawr College. He is also currently Director of the excavations at Muweilah and Tell Abraq in the United Arab Emirates.
In his very interesting and somewhat controversial lecture, Professor Magee explored how the use of dromedaries for overland trade fundamentally reconfigured the political and economic landscape of the ancient Near East. He discussed why the dromedary was domesticated and how it was used, suggesting food as a motivating factor – female camels for the provision of milk and young males for their meat. Peter Magee also explained that evidence at Tell Abraq suggests it was not until c1000BC that dromedary camels were used for transport. During this period, settlement intensification throughout Arabia led to increased productivity and trade in goods, and the need for those goods to be transported. He believes that with the increased activity, camel caravans became a destabilising factor in that they were able to bypass control of the state and taxation, and giving rise to a situation which may perhaps have contributed to the fall of Babylon itself
The public lecture is part of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, a three-day event organised by the British Foundation for the Study of Arabia (BFSA) and supported by both the British Museum and the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, a British registered charity which aims to promote cultural dialogue and exchange between the Middle East and wider world.