Much of this post is inspired by the latest book I have entered under the website Bibliography tab (Bulliet, Richard W. The Camel and the Wheel. 1990 ed. New York: Columbia UP Morningside Edition, 1990. Print.) The author digs very deeply into the historical conundrum that there was a nearly total disappearance of wheeled transportation in Mesopotamia, the northern Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant, after the wheel had been invented and well developed in this region in carts, wagons, and chariots. Bulliet’s writing style is enjoyable to read, and several instances of his dry humor made me laugh aloud. This is a rare and delightful experience in reading heavy historical and technical analyses. I have now read through the origin of domestication of the camel, and its spread with the incense trade—which takes me past the setting of my book. This is one reference book that I will continue to read beyond my immediate interest and to the end—because of the pure pleasure and piqued curiosity which Bulliet’s writing style produces in me.
Bulliet traces Camel domestication through an ingenious analysis back to the southeastern Arabian peninsula about 5000 BP (Before Present). When Bulliet uses the word “domestication” in the first known instance with camels, he’s talking about taming and milking camels, with only slight load-bearing and riding usage. I introduce camels in my first novel Ausgrenor (set in 5303 BP) as carrying Bedouin and adventurous city-dwelling riders, as-well-as baggage. The camels in the novels are the latest, strongest, and fastest transportation in Mesopotamia—far more desirable and expensive than the next-best donkeys—but not yet mainstream. Later in the epic, horses arrive with riders from the steppes, and they are faster, flashier, and far more dangerous to ride (no saddle or stirrups until a couple thousand years later)—but horses don’t supplant camels for general utility.
Who were the camel tamers in the S.E. Arabian peninsula 5,000 years ago? Bulliet concludes from archaeological evidence that they had also formed an early incense and spice trade which involved the quadrilateral area bounded by Mahra in the Hadhramaut in southeast coastal Arabia (pre-Arabs), the island of Socotra east of the Gulf of Aden, Somalia north of the tsetse fly northern limit of (see red area of map in prior link called Range of the Tsetse Fly) about 4 degrees North parallel, and the Afar region of Ethiopia (no tsetse flies).
Those original camel tamers were not Semitic people. Bulliet states that the first wave of Semitic immigrants to southeast Arabia (from northwest Arabia and Mesopotamia) was about 3500 BP, when they took over the region and its camel husbandry. These Semitic immigrants had previously expanded southeast from their roots in the Levant (Lebanon and the Syrian desert) and northwest Arabia (Jordan and the Iraqi western desert) and taken over Mesopotamia from the Sumerian speakers shortly after the period of my novels, around 5000 BP. The beginnings of this Semitic takeover of Mesopotamia is woven into the Raising Up Pharaoh epic.
As the Raising Up Pharaoh epic begins, Semitic Bedouin tribes are living along the fringe of the Arabian desert bordering Mesopotamia on the west side. Some of the Bedouins are intimately involved with the PIE speaking overseers of the Mesopotamian cities, and others are involved in providing meat, wool, donkeys, and camels to all the city dwellers. Intimate friendships develop and bind the multi-ethnic core characters from the beginning.