Animal Power- It’s Older than We Think

It’s Older than We Think

Series 2 Post 1

Animal Power

Used with the kind permission of Cambridge University Press and taken from their book Sumer and the Sumerians by Harriet Crawford pg. 45.

I’ve mentioned that I got caught in this debate, over the chronology of the Bible because as child.  I wanted to know who the Pharaoh was that freed Joseph, the son of Jacob.  Back then and before, one of the reasons for discounting an early date for either person was because Joseph got to use Pharaoh’s chariot.  That is fine reasoning for the great thinkers of biblical chronology dating to the 17th century, but not modern scholarship.  We know so much more than those once great thinkers, but we are not incorporating this knowledge into much of anything, let alone our understanding of Bible Chronology. This in part explains why so many still don’t understand the early use of animal power in the development of our early civilizations of the Middle East.

In the past years, excavations in Abydos royal burial grounds of the Pre-dynastic and 1st dynasty uncovered a grave of 10 royal donkeys (O’Connor, 2009: 166).  Knowing that one of these earliest Pharaohs buried donkeys should rewrite our modern

Public Domain picture.

understanding of how transportation was arranged at such early dates.  This agrees with archaeological evidence that donkeys were domesticated in the 4th millennium and were being used, as pack animals not long afterwards (Rothman, 2001: 127).

What is the earliest documentation of working animals in the ancient world?  The top picture is one example from Mesopotamia.  In some elite tombs from the late Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, (2465—2150) we see cattle drawn ploughs (Wengrow, 2006:142). The early Eighteenth Dynasty saw cattle drafted and hauling stones from the quarry.

From Ancient Egypt by Oakes and Gahlin, page 51, published 2007. Used with deep gratitude and thanks

Cattle in Egypt were actually domesticated by the 5th millennium with false starts dating as early as the 9th millennium (Wengrow, 2006: 18, 46—48).  In the southern Levant cattle, domestication is clearly seen in the remains of the Ghassulian culture that disappears about 3300, with cattle ploughs in use by the EB II period ca. 2400 BCE (Mazar, 1992: 86—88, 118).

Horse domestication also dates back further than we are taught to believe.  Not to the usual 3,000BCE but by newer findings back to 4,800 at least for milk and meat purposes.  While metal bits, date horse riding to the Iron Age new studies found rawhide bits also deform horses teeth (Anthony, 2007: 193—224).  This means riding the noble horse possibly dates back before 4,000 in the areas rich in horse herds.  This does not include non-bit horse riding; that possibly occured in our long prehistory of domesticating big powerful and smaller animals.

Traditional chronology and its supporters do not include animal power in its calculations therefore eliminating the knowledge of animals in the use of Biblical stories.  According to archaeology, Abraham very possibly could have received his Pharaonic donkeys (Genesis 12:16) early as the 1st Dynasty if not earlier.  Balaam’s talking donkey (Numbers 22:28) in the same era, and definitely later.  As the picture below shows, Joseph could have been riding in a wheeled cart drawn as early as 2,700BCE, a sledge pulled by donkeys or cattle, or even in a litter bore around by donkeys.

From Princeton University Press, The Horse, the Wheel, and the Language, by David Anthony, page 404 published 2007. With deep gratitude and many thanks.

The power of animals was a great benefit to early human civilizations, and their use is greatly misunderstood in the history of our civilizations.

©Abram Back in Time 2000-2107.  All Rights Reserved.

Works cited

Anthony, David W.  The Horse the Wheel and Language; How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2007. 193—224 Print.

Mazar, Amihai.  Archaeology of the Land of the Bible; 10,000—586 B.C.E.  1st Pb ed. New York: Doubleday—Bantam, 1992.  86—88,118 Print.

O’Conner, David.  Abydos; Egypt’s First Pharaohs and the Cult of Osiris.  London: Thames, 2009.  Print.

Rothman, Mitchell S. ed.  Uruk Mesopotamia & Its Neighbors; Cross-Cultural Interactions in the Era of State Formation.  Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research P, 2001.  127 Print.  School of American research advanced seminar ser.

Wengrow, David.  The Archaeology of Early Egypt; Social Transformations in North-East Africa, 10,000 to 2650 BC.  Cambridge, Gt. Brit: 2006.  46—48, 142 Print.  Cambridge World Archaeology ser.


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