What the Camel FedEx Really Carried

Ancient Roman mosaic depicting a merchant leading a camel train. Bosra, Syria. Photo by Jadd Haidar – Own work

by Stephen Abbott

In Elijah’s time an elaborate network of roads connected the interior of Assyria to it’s nearby trading partners like Egypt. But big though the Assyrian empire was, it was bounded on the east by both geography and strong enough military kingdoms to keep the Assyrians in check.

Elijah most likely sold wine to a family of Assyrian traders who loaded their camels and donkeys with fine textiles their womenfolk wove as well as tin from farther east.

The family probably traded all over Mesopotamia and beyond. Archaeologists in Kultepe, Turkey, discovered a wealth of trade records on 20,000 detailed clay tablets. The Assyrians exported grains, olive oil, pottery, leather goods, textiles and jewelry. They imported Egyptian gold, Indian ivory and pearls, Anatolian silver, Arabian copper and Persian tin.

Our camel tender wasn’t carrying goods from the Yangtze River because there were no great trade routes to “China.” The Eastern and Western Zhou dynasties did not do business with the west. Nor did anyone under Assyrian domination trade with these nascent Chinese empires far, far to their east.

After Alexander the Great, these empires would discover each other, and their trade would create the Silk Road. But our intrepid camel puller lived too early to cart goods from the Far East.

[An early draft of Chapter One had the camel pullers bringing dried balsam and myrrh from hills near the Yangtze. Then Steve researched this topic. Dave]

Red line = The King’s Highway. Blue line = Via Maris.

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