» Home > In the News

Camels, swans, hogs and horses, and Herdwick sheep

7 February 2014

A lovely mix of stories here. At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140203131518.htm … research at Tel Aviv University shows that domesticated camels were not introduced to the Levant until the Iron Age (somewhere between 1200-900BC), which has been the orthodox position for some time (from textual evidence alone). This finding emphasizes a disagreement between archaeology and the Biblical narrative (as shown by the likes of Van Seters and Thompson 40 odd years ago). The Bible has camels in the Patriarchal period (Abraham, Jacob and Joseph) which suggests the text has been edited at a later date – when camels were accepted as a regularly seen phenomenon on the trade arteries coming out of Arabia. It doesn't mean the patriarchal narrative has no foundation in fact, only that it has been written or re-written at a later date – and lots of other evidence seems to suggest there were major edits in the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah, and even more during the Exile (or just after the Exile). Nothing revolutionary aboiut this – more like a confirmation. The research used C14 to date the appearance of camels in the copper producing areas of Jordan – on a direct route out of Arabia. It seems that camels came from archaeology contexts currently dated to the 10th century BC which may require dating downwards to the 9th or 8th centuries BC. If so a connection with the Arameans can be ruled out and it would fit snugly into the first mention of the Arabs as a specific people of Arabia.

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120507154107.htm … research suggests the domestication of horses occurred in what is now the Ukraine, SW Russsia, and western Kazakhstan, and thereafter they were continually being mixed with fresh blood from wild stocks, particularly as they spread into Europe and Asia.

At www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131104152728.htm … wild boars living in the southern Levant were apparently unrelated to other colonies of elsewhere in the Near East – why? It seems they have a distinct European origin and this probably came about as an introduction by the Sea Peoples (in particular the Philistines) – at the end of the LB Age. The researchers collected and analysed pig bones from archaeological sites over a long period of time – and this displays evidence of an early Iron Age signature (around 900BC). We might wonder why 900 when the Sea Peoples are normally dated a couple of hundred years before that – is the orthodox date for the Philistines in error?

At http://phys.org/print310364364.html … it seems that swans are not prized in parts of N America – no Swan Upping shindigs and no royal connection, and definitely no angst when they are taken by shooters, or snared in discarded fishing lines. Draft proposals to kill or resettle 2000 + swans by 2025 are actively supported by conservationists in New York State. Swans were brought to N America by Europeans but they are now regarded as a pest (much like we think of grey squirrels over here). A variety of accusations have been made in support of the cull, such as the idea their faeces contain e coli bacteria (the big naughty in the world of food preparation). Another complaint is they attack people. Actually, I was pecked by a swan only last weekend, on a canal footpath. It straddled the confined space, in a hissy fit, and had stopped a number of people in their tracks. I didn't take much notice until the swan had a mouth full of my jumper in its mouth, but he obviously didn't like the experience because he backed off. A jogger had come to a halt and looked apprehensive, if not a little sheepish, which made my wife laugh. Mind you he had bare and hairy legs and a swan pecking at the pale bits might not have been so funny – not that they have any teeth. Another given reason for culling the swans is they interfere with aircraft taking off and landing and are a potential hazard. At Windsor, right under the Heathrow flight path, there are hundreds of swans, and local shops sell food for the children of tourists to throw at them – including, I assume, the children of New York Staters.

The swan cull will follow on from geese culls and anyone that has ventured into a park in Toronto will know all about Canada Geese and their droppings. Canada Geese appear to have become common on the Thames and nearby watery spots in recent years, frightened off by the Americans perhaps. Anyway, instead of going home for the summer they appear to be hanging around year long nowadays, and goose poo can be a hazard in some of the hot spots. Slipping and sliding, and that sort of thing. So, after the geese and the swans what comes next. Ducks? A pond in a park near where I live has actually got around to culling the number of ducks there, the numbers encouraged by all those broken pieces of bread innocently fed them by children. It seems to be a problem common to both sides of the Atlantic but always seems somewhat strange when it is supported by environmentalists, who are supposed to care about wildlife. Of course, they are the people who come into daily contact with the problem, so no surprise really. It does go to show just how many ducks and geese were killed by hunting just a couple of generations ago. People in those days would have been licking their lips at all that meat on the wing.

Lastly, weh have a story at www.geneticarchaeology.com/research/Scientists_shine_spotlight_on_Herdwi… … which are the kind of sheep closely associated with the mountain landscape of the Lake District (and their survival as a species was encouraged by the likes of Beatrix Potter in the late 19th early 20th centuries). The University of York has looked at the genome of Herdwicks and has published the results at PLoS ONE online journal (Feb 2014). Herdwicks contain a primitive gene and it is thought the data implies Herdwicks originate from a common ancestor in founder flocks and breeds currrently living in Sweden, Finland, the Hebrides, Orkney and Iceland – which is interesting. Do Herdwicks go back to the Viking settlement of the Lake District?


Skip to content