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Les vaisseaux du désert et des steppes

Damien Agut-Labordère
Bérangère Redon

Camel exploitation in the oasis of Taymāʾ– caravan or consumption?

Anja Prust et Arnulf Hausleiter

Texte intégral


  • 1 Dinies, personal communication; Dinies et al. 2016.
  • 2 Hausleiter 2017; see Schneider 2010.

1The oasis of Taymāʾ, once located on a branch of the Arabian trading network known as “Incense Road”, was a major hub of the caravan trade, which by the early 1st millennium BCE used the dromedary as a pack animal. However, there is evidence for long‑distance contacts in much earlier periods, probably already during the Chalcolithic, i.e. at around 4000 BCE. Slightly earlier, at about 4600 BCE oasis cultivation had developed at Taymāʾ, attested by indicators of horticulture, such as Vitis vinifera and probable figs.1 During the 3rd millennium BCE the pottery producing oasis developed to a large walled settlement which seems to have been occupied ever since without interruption and may have reached its maximum extension of 9.2 km2 during the Early Iron Age.2

  • 3 Engel et al. 2012; Dinies et al. 2016.
  • 4 Wellbrock et al. 2017.
  • 5 Bawden et al. 1980.

2The site is located south of a former 20 km2 large palaeolake, now a sabkha, serving as a geoarchive for the reconstruction of Holocene climate and palaeoenvironment. Lake sediments, covering a period between approx. 6300 and 4800 cal BP, were crucial for the reconstruction of palaeoclimate and environment.3 Water supply of the oasis was provided by groundwater aquifers, which was exploited by wells. An Early Iron Age (11th‑9th century BCE) agricultural irrigation system of 8 ha size is preserved in the southern part of the walled settlement,4 where it may have been in use until the late 1st millennium BCE; fields of probable premodern date have been identified in the northwestern part of the modern oasis,5 the latter covering now most of the area between the ancient settlement and the sabkha.

  • 6 Haibt 2013; Hausleiter 2017.
  • 7 Lora 2017; Tourtet et al. forthcoming.

3Whereas ancient occupation may have been limited to the eastern fringes of the sabkha at about 4000 BCE,6 settlement apparently shifted to the area which, from the 3rd millennium BCE onwards served as centre of the ancient oasis (fig. 1). The core of this 74 ha large area is located on an elevated sandstone outcrop and provided a pertaining stratigraphic sequence for the 3rd to the mid‑2nd millennium BCE and, disturbed by substantial removal of materials, of subsequent periods.7 Whereas the entire 2nd millennium BCE is mainly represented by occupation layers without major building remains, this changes from the Early Iron Age (11th‑9th centuries BCE) onwards. Generally, the chrono‑stratigraphy is characterised by clusters of stratigraphic time slices preserved at various locations of the site.

Fig. 1 – Taymāʾ. Map of Qraya with excavation areas (DAI Orient‑Abteilung 2014).

Fig. 1 – Taymāʾ. Map of Qraya with excavation areas (DAI Orient‑Abteilung 2014).
  • 8 Hausleiter and Eichmann 2018. The project is jointly carried out by the Saudi Commission for Touri (...)

4Based on the investigations of a Saudi‑German collaborative project since 2004, twelve major occupation periods have been defined for the oasis of Taymāʾ, reaching from the Late Neolithic (late 7th‑early 6th millennium BCE) to modern times (tab. 1).8

Tab. 1 – Taymāʾ Occupation Periods (Hausleiter and Eichmann 2017).

Tab. 1 – Taymāʾ Occupation Periods (Hausleiter and Eichmann 2017).

5The present contribution discusses the use of the dromedary at the oasis of Taymāʾ as essential element of livestock economy in light of recent discoveries of faunal remains recovered by archaeological excavations and pertaining to archaeozoological analysis. For this diachronic study, faunal remains from securely dated contexts have been systematically investigated. At a trading post like Taymāʾ, it is of eminent interest to understand to which extent the faunal records reflect the use of the camel either as a pack animal of the caravan trade or as a provider of meat for the diet of the local population, if not even both.

Excavation areas at Taymāʾ with stratified contexts containing camel bones

Area A

  • 9 Eichmann et al. 2006a.

6In Area A (Taymāʾ Occupation Period 7) remains of a small building are preserved which was attached to the external façade of the outer wall in the western part of the core area of ancient occupation. It was built after some substantial repair work had been carried out at the old mud brick wall, characterised by a new wall crown of sandstone built on top of the former.9 The use of the building was apparently connected to fire, and in fact in both major occupation levels (henceforth: OL), i.e. OL A:1 and OL A:2, remains of fire places have been identified.

  • 10 Hausleiter 2017.
  • 11 Hausleiter 2014; Tourtet et al. forthcoming.

7A major fireplace belongs to the older OL A:2, located within a narrow room of the building. This fire installation produced large amounts of refuse deposited north of the building, containing amongst other substantial quantities of faunal remains. A reorganisation of the entire complex saw the installation of a row of five small fireplaces near surface level (OL A:1). Chronologically, the occupation covers the Early Iron Age (11th‑9th century BCE, dating by 14C)10 offering the yet only context for the transition from Early Iron Age pottery (Taymāʾ Early Iron Age Painted Ware) to that of the Middle Iron Age (9th‑5th century BCE; Sana’iye Painted Ware).11

Area C

  • 12 Intilia 2010; see Hausleiter 2017.
  • 13 Stein forthcoming.

8Excavations in Area C revealed on the one hand the foundation of the outer mud brick wall of the oasis (Taymāʾ Occupation Period 10);12 on the other hand, a sequence of constructions of the inner wall, probably built as early as the 5th century BCE and modified during the late Nabataean period, have been uncovered (Taymāʾ Occupation Periods 4 and 5). The earliest remains of the inner wall, a construction of rubble masonry, are characterised by a probable passageway at the level of the bedrock. Whether this coincides with the mention of a breach into an (existing) wall in an Imperial Aramaic inscription (approx. of 5th‑4th century BCE) of Naṭir‑Ēl, governor of the Liḥyānite king Lawdhan,13 remains unclear. The inscribed stone block was at least found next to it in secondary deposition.

  • 14 Wellbrock et al2018.

9A substantial modification of this section of the wall seems to have been a reaction to a fatal flash flood, characterised by massive silty deposits covering the area inside of the wall and partly detected by excavation.14 Possibly a preventive measure, a 500 m long and 12 m wide ditch was dug along the outer side of this wall reaching a depth of at least 6 m (starting from the foundation level of the wall). The dump was used to fill the two shells of the upgoing wall.

  • 15 Intilia 2010.

10In the same area but not connected to any of the previous structures, a large building with few rooms and a courtyard, probably a caravanserai, as well as a small farmstead, both of the Early Islamic period, have been excavated (Taymāʾ Occupation Period 2).15

Areas E and F

3rd‑2nd millennium BCE (Taymāʾ Occupation Periods 10‑8)

11Located in the northern part of the ancient settlement zone, excavations in Areas E and F revealed deposits of the 3rd to early 2nd millennium BCE occupation as well as of the later history of the site, starting with the Nabataean period. Although material remains of the periods in between have been attested mainly by pottery, clearly defined layers covering the mid‑2nd to mid‑1st millennium BCE are basically absent.

  • 16 Lora 2017.
  • 17 Tourtet et al. forthcoming.
  • 18 Dinies et al. 2016.

1214C‑dated 3rd millennium BCE remains are attested in Squares E11 and E2, the former with remains of a room of a building of unknown extension.16 Associated with it is a pottery sequence of Reddish Coarse and Gritty Wares (RCW, GW) covered by deposits containing early‑to‑mid‑2nd millennium BCE Red Burnished Ware (RBW).17 E2 is characterised by cultural layers containing archaeobotanical macro‑remains, e.g. of grapevine (Vitis vinifera) in an accumulation of ashy layers.18

13Deposits with the two 3rd millennium BCE ceramic wares (RCW, GW) have also been discovered in and around Building E‑b5, a small building of approx. 65 m2 extension located farther east. Its plan is characterised by a row of five narrow rooms connected with each other by a central passageway creating altogether ten spatial units. Finally, the stratigraphic trench in Area E‑East revealed accumulation of ashes, botanical and faunal remains which seem to be identical to those discovered in Square E2 at the same level, i.e. shortly above bedrock. Early to mid‑2nd millennium BCE remains are represented by both, deposits covering those in Square E11 and a number of more or less isolated spots with 14C‑dated deposits of RBW reaching down to the mid‑2nd millennium BCE. The later parts of the 2nd millennium BCE as well as the early 1st millennium BCE are represented by pottery in secondary contexts of subsequent periods.

Mid‑1st millennium BCE‑6th century CE (Taymāʾ Occupation Periods 5‑3)

  • 19 Stein forthcoming.
  • 20 Lora 2017.

14Maybe as early as the dynasty of Liḥyān (5th century BCE),19 a large public building most probably used as a temple for most of the time, was built west of above‑mentioned Building E‑b5 at a considerably higher level.20 The construction of this large edifice substantially affected preceding deposits, and it may have been massive movements of material leading to the removal of any late 2nd to mid‑1st millennium BCE remains except for pottery remains in this area (see above). The building (E‑b1) has five major building stages (E:3a‑e) reaching down to the Late Roman period (3rd‑4th century CE), which saw a substantial change of the internal layout. The former column hall was replaced by numerous small spatial units subdividing the formerly large and open space. Attached to the building were several installations, mainly large monolithic basins in the entrance area, and a platform at the eastern façade. Access was granted by a ramp and monumental stairs reaching a platform in front of the entrance. During the second building stage, to be dated to the Nabataean period, the building was connected to a well east of it by a 15 m long tunnel. Its original construction led to static failure of the eastern wall of E‑b1, resulting in a reduced building operation for the tunnel. A central basin of the building may have been connected with the latter.

15The area of the building was surrounded by an enclosure wall, separating the northern, western and southern adjacent zones from it. In the southern part of E‑b1, substantial portions of a residential quarter were excavated, remains of which seem to predate the construction of the monumental entrance of E‑b1, if not the entire building. Best preserved are three occupation levels (OL E‑South/F:2‑4), reaching from the Nabataean to Late Antique periods. Filling materials of OL F:4 contained however, materials from the mid‑1st millennium BCE onwards, thus indicating the (former) presence of contemporaneous occupation in this area. Deposits of the lowest occupation level (OL F:5) containing Reddish Coarse Ware may give a hint of the earliest occupation in this area which appears to have been completely removed by subsequent building operations. Whereas architecture of OL F:4 concentrates largely on the northern part of the excavation area, remains of OL F:3 and OL F:2 extend over most parts of it.

Area D

  • 21 OL D:2 and D:3, Hanisch‑Gräfe 2012; for the yet oldest remains in the area, OL D:4, Hanisch‑Gräfe  (...)

16Located south of Area F, excavations revealed a sequence characterised by two major occupation levels.21 The earlier occupation is characterised by a large square room whose floor has partly been cut into the bedrock. The room was completely filled by a deposit containing pottery from the early 2nd to mid‑1st millennium BCE (RBW, Qurayyah Painted and Sana’iye Painted Wares). This indicates the possibility of contemporaneous occupation in this area and provides a terminus ante quem for the date of subsequent OL D:3 (see above; Taymāʾ Occupation Period 5 or 4). Separated from these deposits, the younger occupation in this area (OL D:2) displays buildings characterised by small rooms. Based on pottery analysis and the comparison with the architecture of Area F in the context of the general stratigraphic sequence, the younger occupation in Area D has been dated to the Late Roman period (Taymāʾ Occupation Period 3).

Area O

  • 22 Hausleiter and Eichmann 2018; Intilia forthcoming.

17A public building complex was fully excavated in Area O,22 located in the southwestern realm of the central part of the settlement. A 1,000 m2 large area, enclosed by a massive 2 m thick wall of almost square shape, displayed a rectangular building surrounded by a row of rectangular pillars of at least 2.8 m height, covering a surface of 270 m2. At the inner side of the northern part of the enclosure, a number of rooms was identified, one of them containing a horse‑shoe shaped two‑chamber furnace. East of the large building there was the entrance to the complex characterised by a gate and a large paved courtyard. Northwest of the building there was a cistern that was fed by a narrow canal carefully covered by sandstone slabs probably using water originating from a spring lake located some 50 m northeast of it.

  • 23 Hausleiter 2014; Tourtet et al. forthcoming.
  • 24 Sperveslage 2014.

18The occupation of the building has been 14C‑dated to the Early Iron Age (11th‑9th century BCE, Taymāʾ Occupation Period 7) and is characterised by a distinct type of pottery (Taymāʾ Early Iron Age Ware) with a painted decoration mostly depicting birds and a number of geometric patterns.23 Most of the painted vessels are bowls. The majority of the plain vessels of this ware are small beakers probably used for consumption related to the use of the building. The building contained numerous objects of prestigious character, such as wooden inlays, combs of bone and ivory, a snake made of ivory, cowry‑shells, as well as several faience objects such as an Udjat Eye and figurines representing the Egyptian deities Isis and Bastet/Sekhmet, a bull and magic figures.24 The latter not only attest once more far reaching contacts of the oasis before the large‑scale overland long‑distance trade but also suggests the use of this building as a temple.

Taymāʾ and the camel


  • 25 Monchot 2014, p. 195.
  • 26 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 235.

19What else is instinctively in our mind while imagining an oasis in the harsh desert environment than the camel? “[…] The camel is certainly the animal that best characterizes the Arabian Peninsula”,25 “[…] a fascinating creature [that] maintained a central role in the indigenous socio‑economic system […]” and “[…] was an indispensable resource for basic necessities of human life in the desert”.26 The enormous importance of the Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius), or dromedary as mentioned in the following, is evident. In fact, many researchers dealing with this topic stress, in the first place, the indisputable advantages of this animal. Best adaptation to hot climate and sandy soil, persistence and strength are perfect characteristics for the exploitation of dromedary in long‑distance trade. Furthermore, the utilization of camel meat, milk, skin, fat, bones and also dung justify the denotation as a multipurpose animal.

  • 27 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 251; cf. Wilson 1984, p. 5.
  • 28 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2000; Uerpmann H.‑P., Uerpmann M. and Jasim 2000; Uerpmann H.‑P. an (...)
  • 29 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 249.
  • 30 Magee 2015, p. 272.

20Nevertheless, the history of the most prominent economic desert animal, especially its wild ancestor, is still unknown; location and time of domestication can only be assumed. Magee (2015) summarizes the current state of evidence for dromedary domestication based on a variety of sources and points out the limitations and missing data. The strongest evidence might provide archaeozoological remains from the Arabian Peninsula – very likely the centre of domestication – that unfortunately are still rare. H.‑P. Uerpmann and M. Uerpmann draw attention to the small differences between wild and domestic camels27 and also Curci, Carletti and Tosi (2014) critically outline the previous data for the Arabian Peninsula. Camel bone finds from Neolithic and Bronze Age sites in south‑east Arabia were attested to wild dromedary,28 while for Iron Age sites an increasing exploitation of domestic dromedaries is supposed – based on first of all size differences. Arguments that indicate domestication “around the turn from the 2nd to the 1st millennium BC”29 in SE Arabia respectively “only after 1000 BC in the ancient Near East”30 are most widely accepted.

  • 31 German Archaeological Institute, Scientific division at the Head Office, Berlin.

21Faunal remains from the oasis of Taymāʾ – covering a time span from Bronze Age to Islamic Period –will supplement current research on the first appearance and exploitation of domestic dromedaries especially for the north‑western part of the Arabian Peninsula. First archaeozoological research was realised by Norbert Benecke and Michael Hochmuth31 in 2006. It is the unique character of the oasis that led to investigations referring developments in local livestock economy: the geographic setting in an arid environment, the importance of Taymāʾ as a hub of the long‑distance trade throughout the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and the Levant, the continuous occupation over several millennia and the presence of sedentary and nomadic societies with particular subsistence strategies.

  • 32 Cavigneaux and Khalil Ismail 1990.
  • 33 Macdonald 1997.

22The history and important role of the camel in the Arabian Peninsula must have been recognized within the oasis of Taymāʾ, too. All the more if textual evidence inform about caravan trade and the people of Taymāʾ. One of the testimonies used as a key evidence for the early 1st millennium BCE caravan trade between Mesopotamia and Arabia is a text by the governor of the land Suḫu and Mari, Ninurta‑kudurrī‑uṣur which was found by Iraqi excavations at the site of Sur Jureh in the late 1970s.32 Dated to the 2nd quarter of the 8th century BCE this local ruler reports the attack on a caravan which appears to have tried to escape from him imposing tax duties. After a three days ambush in one of the villages of Suḫu and Mari, the caravan is finally seized by the governor and his troops, and next to a number of goods, such as wool, iron (?), and precious stones he obtains “everything [he] could wish for”. This text is one of the few contemporaneous accounts providing information on the composition of a caravan: reportedly 200 camels were accompanied by at least 100 men. The caravan was composed of “people of Tema and Saba”, probably relating to the oasis of Taymāʾ and areas south of it, if not directly South Arabia.33 It has been noted that incense was not among the traded goods.

  • 34 Schaudig forthcoming; Eichmann et al. 2006b; Hausleiter 2012; for Arabian gold in Babylonia, Klebe (...)

23Evidence from various parts of the Levant and Mesopotamia illustrate a continuous flow of goods as part of long‑lasting commercial relations. These relations survived various attempts e.g. by Assyria to gain control over North Arabia and its often‑female rulers. In the Neo‑Babylonian period, numerous Arabs reportedly settled in Southern Mesopotamian cities, before the last Babylonian king, Nabonidus (556‑539 BCE) started his “Arabian sojourn” which led him to occupy the oasis of Taymāʾ and the other major oases of the Hijaz for economic reasons.34

24It was, therefore, to be expected to encounter plenty of evidence for the exploitation of the most important economic livestock in desert regions at the oasis of Taymāʾ, and it was also very probable, in view of the long‑lasting history of occupation of the site, to be able to trace this – and the increasing importance through several occupation periods of the oasis. To that end archaeozoological research was continued during spring campaigns in 2013‑2015 and 2017. Currently more than 81,000 specimens were analysed, representing remains of wild and domestic mammals, birds, fish, molluscs and cnidarians.

25The following data (NSP 52,610) is based on stratified faunal assemblages from seven excavation areas and was reliably assigned to six occupation periods covering a time span from the 3rd millennium BCE to the 6th century CE. To emphasize the role of the dromedary within the local livestock economy, artificially modified specimens (molluscs, cnidarians, ostrich egg shells, worked bones) were excluded. Due to ongoing analyses, the following outcomes represent preliminary results.


  • 35 Reference Collections of the Scientific division at the Head Office of the German Archaeological I (...)

26The faunal remains were mainly gathered by hand‑collection; sieving and wet‑sifting were performed in exceptional cases. Analyses were predominantly conducted on site and problematic specimens were exported and analysed with reference collections in Berlin and Munich.35 If identification to species level was not feasible, the higher taxonomic range is given or specimens were documented referring to size‑categories as large‑sized, medium‑sized and small‑sized mammals.

  • 36 For taphonomic processes impacting a camel skeleton in desert environment see Andrews and Whybrow  (...)
  • 37 Possible hybrids were reported from camel graves in Mleiha, U.A.E. (Uerpmann 1999) and Dhafar, Yem (...)

27The majority of camel remains are poorly preserved: complete long bones, mandibles and teeth are exceptions, complete epiphyses are rare, spongy bone fragments are commonly occurring and intensively fragmented long bones are most frequent.36 Many specimens from later Occupation Periods that were documented as unidentified large‑sized mammal may belong to camels. All remains with preserved diagnostic zones for morphological distinction between dromedary and Bactrian camel were analysed following the criteria of Steiger (1990). Solely complete tarsal and carpal bones as well as phalanges and few complete epiphyseal fragments of long bones allowed such evaluation and were identified as dromedary. We presume that all the camel remains represent remains of dromedary, but due to intensive trading activities the presence of Bactrian camel or even hybrids cannot be excluded.37 Age distribution of camel was elaborated solely by state of epiphyseal fusion and bases on data for slowly maturing cattle breeds given by von den Driesch and Obermaier (2007, tab. 69). The quantification of the given faunal remains is based on the number of specimens (NSP), the number of identified specimens (NISP) and the minimum number of individuals (MNI). Due to disparate character of deposits (e.g. near‑surface or impacted by rainwater) the bone weight of similar preserved fragments varies enormously. Hence, bone weight as quantification unit is not used. All measurements follow the standards given by von den Driesch (1976).

28Tab. 2 lists the faunal remains (NSP) for each Occupation Period related with the excavation areas. The distribution of animal taxa in tab. 3 lists all specimens according to Occupation Period, but independent from contexts to show the amount of camel remains comparing to other species. The distribution of camel remains within different excavation areas/contexts is given in tab. 4.

Tab. 2 – Faunal assemblages by excavation area and Occupation Periods.

Tayma Occupation Period Chronology Area (NSP) NSP total
Tayma 3 2nd-6th century CE D (4,015)
E (525)
E-East (926)
E-South/F (6,534)
O (1,267)
Tayma 4 2nd century BCE-
early 2nd century CE
C (92)
E (2,018)
E-East (2,493)
E-South/F (5,693)
Tayma 5 5th century BCE-
3rd century BCE
E-South/F (1,258) 1,258
Tayma 7 12th-9th century BCE A (2,762)
O (11,607)
Tayma 9 early 2nd millennium BCE E (141)
E-East (3,125)
Tayma 10 3rd millennium BCE E (3,375)
E-East (5,818)


Tab. 3 – List of animal taxa by Occupation Periods (% of NISP).

Taxon Tayma 3 Tayma 4 Tayma 5
I. Domestic mammals
Camel (Camelus dromedaries/Camelus sp.) 1,528 29.6 952 18.2 65 17.6
Equid (Equus sp.) 25 0.5 15 0.3 8 2.2
Horse (Equus caballus) 2 *
Donkey (Equus asinus?) 9 0.2 12 0.2 7 1.9
Asiatic wild ass? (Equus hemionus?)**
Cattle (Bos primigenius taurus) 381 7.4 252 4.8 44 11.9
Sheep/Goat (Ovis aries/Capra hircus) 2,863 55.4 3,649 69.9 218 58.9
Sheep (Ovis aries) 169 3.3 103 2.0 11 3.0
Goat (Capra hircus) 46 0.9 47 0.9 6 1.6
Domestic pig (Sus scrofa dom.) 4 0.1
Domestic dog (Canis familiaris) 21 0.4 13 0.2 1 0.3
II. Wild mammals
Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) 14 0.3 97 1.9 8 2.1
Gazelle (Gazella gazella/Gazella sp.) 1 * 3 0.1
Canidae (Canis sp./Vulpes sp.?) 1 *
Boar? Domestic pig? (Sus scrofa/Sus scrofa dom.) 12 0.2
Hare (Lepus capensis?) 1 *
III. Birds
Domestic fowl (Gallus gallus dom.) 19 0.4 6 0.1
Chicken (Gallus sp.) 6 0.1 1 *
Goose (Anserinae) 1 *
Duck (Anas sp.) 1 *
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) 2 *
Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) 1 *
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) 2 *
Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) 3 0.1
Eagle (Aquila sp.) 1 * 2 *
Red Kite (Milvus milvus) 1 *
Black Kite? (Milvus migrans?) 1 *
Harrier (Circus sp.) 2 *
Eurasian buzzard (Buteo buteo) 18 0.3 21 0.4
Long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus) 3 0.1
Buzzard (Buteo sp.) 49 0.9 14 0.3 2 0.5
Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) 3 0.1
Falcon (Falco sp.) 1 *
Hume’s Owl (Strix butleri)
Pigeon (Columbidae) 2 *
Corvid (Corvus sp.) 3 0.1
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 1 *
IV. Fish
Parrotfish (Scarus cf. ghobban) 1 *
NISP 5,165 5,220 370
V. Indet. Specimens
Bird indet. 12 12
Small-sized mammal 1 2
Medium-sized mammal 391 397 20
Large-sized mammal 1,985 2,139 131
Indet. 5,813 3,526 737
NSP 13,367 11,296 1,258


Taxon Tayma 7 Tayma 9 Tayma 10
I. Domestic mammals
Camel (Camelus dromedaries/Camelus sp.) 17 0.3
Equid (Equus sp.) 8 0.1 4 0.2 11 0.2
Horse (Equus caballus)
Donkey (Equus asinus?) 3 * 1 *
Asiatic wild ass? (Equus hemionus?)** 1 * 1 0.1
Cattle (Bos primigenius taurus) 361 5.6 78 4.2 269 5.3
Sheep/Goat (Ovis aries/Capra hircus) 5,796 89.3 1,734 92.8 4,512 89.0
Sheep (Ovis aries) 142 2.2 41 2.2 195 3.8
Goat (Capra hircus) 79 1.2 10 0.5 58 1.1
Domestic pig (Sus scrofa dom.)
Domestic dog (Canis familiaris)
II. Wild mammals
Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) 12 0.2 16 0.3
Gazelle (Gazella gazella/Gazella sp.) 3 * 4 0.1
Canidae (Canis sp./Vulpes sp.?) 3 *
Boar? Domestic pig? (Sus scrofa/Sus scrofa dom.)
Hare (Lepus capensis?)
III. Birds
Domestic fowl (Gallus gallus dom.)
Chicken (Gallus sp.) 1 *
Goose (Anserinae) 1 *
Duck (Anas sp.) 1 *
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) 1 *
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) 3 *
Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
Black Stork (Ciconia nigra)
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)
Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax)
Eagle (Aquila sp.)
Red Kite (Milvus milvus)
Black Kite? (Milvus migrans?)
Harrier (Circus sp.)
Eurasian buzzard (Buteo buteo) 7 0.1
Long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus)
Buzzard (Buteo sp.) 42 0.6 1 *
Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) 2 *
Falcon (Falco sp.)
Accipitriformes/Falconiformes? 2 *
Hume’s Owl (Strix butleri) 1 *
Pigeon (Columbidae) 2 *
Corvid (Corvus sp.) 2 *
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
IV. Fish
Parrotfish (Scarus cf. ghobban)
NISP 6,490 1,868 5,067
V. Indet. Specimens
Bird indet. 55 2
Small-sized mammal 12 11
Medium-sized mammal 1,573 389 843
Large-sized mammal 286 210 312
Indet. 5,953 799 2,958
NSP 14,369 3,266 9,193

*less than 0.1%, **need to be verified, hence listed among domestic mammals

Tab. 4 – List of camel remains (NISP) by excavation area and Occupation Period with proportion (%) concerning faunal remains.

OP E-South/F D E-East E C A O Total
Tayma 3 773 661 89 5 1,528
Tayma 4 779 49 120 4 952
Tayma 5 65 65
Tayma 7 1 16 17
Tayma 9
Tayma 10
63.1% 25.8% 5.4% 4.9% 0.2% 0.04% 0.6% 2,562


29At this point, the different features of the respective excavation areas and contexts need to be stressed. Not all excavation areas provide comparable faunal remains referring context and date. Most of the camel bones were gathered in the residential area E‑South/F and can be attested to Occupation Periods 3, 4 and 5 (tab. 4). The highest number of camel remains within few stratigraphic units was documented for Occupation Period 3 in Area D; this means that most of these remains were probably deposited within a narrow time frame and allow more specific comments on exploitation strategies. The earliest camel remains were found within the public representative building in Area O, that dates back to 11th‑9th century BCE, and were accompanied by many artefacts which indicate the prominent function of this building. Hence, general comments on local developments in camel exploitation need to be formulated carefully due to problematic comparability.

  • 38 Hausleiter and Zur 2016.
  • 39 Uerpmann M. and Uerpmann H.‑P. 2012; Fedele 2014.

30It is a fact that at Taymāʾ there are no camel remains from layers dating before the Early Iron Age (11th‑9th century BCE). The faunal assemblages from the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE (OP 10 & 9) are composed of mainly small ruminants (tab. 3) The ratio of sheep to goat shows, like for all occupation periods in Taymāʾ, a preference for sheep, which is initially not expected in an arid environment and might be the result of local preferences in meat consumption. Already during the Bronze Age, a progressive supra‑regional exchange is well attested for the oasis.38 To this end donkeys and cattle must have been used as pack and draught animals in transportation.39 However, remains of equids are quite sparse, like in all assemblages and likewise for cattle, that were certainly used as draught animals in agriculture and less frequent as a major source of meat. Considering the special use as working animals, of course their remains cannot be found in huge number within public buildings and household contexts in the centre of the settlement.

31The number of bones of Arabian oryx and gazelle is quite low, too. Hunting for wild mammals was either not of importance in meat supply for the certainly sedentary people living intra muros or was not viable due to small population of wild mammals living in the surrounding countryside. Finally, the species distribution in all as well as the skeletal element distribution of sheep and goat remains lead to an interpretation of the Bronze Age assemblages as consumption remains. Nevertheless, the concept of a prospering oasis in the Arabian Peninsula without dromedaries seems curious.

  • 40 Curci et al. 2014, Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 255; Uerpmann M. and Uerpmann H.‑P. 201 (...)

32The appearance of dromedary remains in layers dated back to the Early Iron Age (Occupation Period 7, 11th ‑9th century BCE) corresponds to finds of domestic dromedary in the Arabian Peninsula. Altogether 17 specimens were documented for Taymāʾ, 16 of these (4 mandibles, 1 tooth, 2 carpal bones, 1 thoracic vertebra, 2 tali, 1 calcaneus, 1 phalanx1, 3 phalanx2 and 1 phalanx3) gathered inside the representative building in Area O, one specimen was found in Area A (phalanx2). None of these bones show marks of butchery, dissection or food processing. Solely, traces of fire can be observed that result rather from taphonomic processes. At least five individuals are calculated for Area O, one of these with a slaughter age older than 36 months. The few bone measurements (tab. 5) fit into the range for domestic dromedary, but the reliability of size differences between wild and domestic camels is problematic.40 Besides bone measurements, further aspects may imply the presence of domestic dromedary, so one right talus with an exostosis might indicate exploitation as a beast of burden.

Tab. 5 – Measurements of camel bones.

Trench–SU–no. OP SLC GLP LG
D1-SU2467–TA3963 3 79.1 116.4 66.0
E16–SU2685–TA4252 3 53.3


Trench–SU–no. OP Bp Bd BT
F5–SU3965–TA8303 4 75.4
F5–SU3968–TA8342 4 79.3
D1-SU2467–TA3954 3 98.8 86.8
D1-SU2467–TA3963 3 77.6
D1-SU2467–TA3977 3 92.5 78.4
D1-SU2467–TA3977 3 80.7
D1-SU2467–TA3977 3 77.5
D1-SU2467–TA3977 3 119.1
E16–SU2686–TA4276 3 78.8
F5–SU3951–TA8206 3 (79.3)
F5–SU3960–TA8313 3 88.7 76.4
E7–SU6815–TA11080 3 (117.2)


Trench–SU–no. OP Bd BFd Bp
F4–SU2390–TA4147 5 (71.9)
E4–7752–TA12724 4 (77.3)
F5–SU3968–TA8369 4 87.9
F5–SU8681–TA17992 4 98.5 86.9
F5–SU8684–TA14889 4 98.0 83.8
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 98.2 83.1
E16–SU2423–TA3417 3 79.1
E16–SU2423–TA3417 3 84.6
D1-SU2467–TA3624 3 89.1
D1-SU2467–TA3977 3 91.9
D1-SU2467–TA3963 3 94.2
D1-SU2467–TA3977 3 95.0
D1-SU2467–TA3985 3 98.3
E7–SU6815–TA11080 3 95.4
F19–SU2636–TA11505 3 83.7 72.7 86.6


Trench–SU–no. OP Bp Bd
E6–SU8865–TA14959 4 68.8
F1–SU2982–TA8324 4 68.6
F5–SU8684–TA14889 4 68.9
F5–SU8684–TA14889 4 77.5
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 69.2
E16–SU2685–TA4252 3 71.6
E7–SU6811–TA17142 3 74.3


Trench–SU–no. OP GL Bp SD Bd
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 41.3
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 41.0
F16–SU9465–TA17405 4 108.1 43.4 22.6 41.6
F5–SU8681–TA17992 4 43.3
F5–SU8681–TA17992 4 40.6
F5–SU8681–TA17992 4 43.0
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 94.9 37.6 18.2
F5–SU8684–TA14889 4 38.7
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 40.1
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 44.0
F5–SU8684–TA14889 4 40.6
E7–SU6811–TA17147 3 45.2


Trench–SU–no. OP DC
E6–SU9649–TA17444 4 51.1
F5–SU8681–TA17992 4 54.5
F5–SU8684–TA14889 4 54.1
E6/E7–SU1203–TA8855 3 48.0


Trench–SU–no. OP Bd Dd
F5–SU3962–TA8009 3 73.8
F5–SU951–TA8206 3 86.4 49.6


Trench–SU–no. OP GL GB
E21/E22–SU6393–TA10559 4 (82.4)
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 (81.4) 40.6
E6/E7–SU6258–TA10094 3 83.1 40.5


Os malleolare
Trench–SU–no. OP GD
E21/E22–SU6393–TA10559 4 39.3
E7–SU6815–TA11080 3 38.5
E3–SU2304–TA17770 3 37.4


Trench–SU–no. OP Bp Bd
E21/E22–SU6396–TA10559 4 67.8
E6–SU9709–TA17960 4 61.4
F16–SU9465–TA17405 4 63.4
F5–SU8684–TA14889 4 65.9
F4–SU2377–TA3276 3 60.6
D1-SU2467–TA3643 3 59.3
D1-SU2467–TA3954 3 61.3
D1-SU2467–TA3977 3 55.6


Trench–SU–no. OP GLl GLm Dl Bd
O–SU7233–TA12512 7 (75) (64.2) (48)
O–SU10158–TA19120 7 (72.2) (64) 41.2 (50)
F3–SU2361–TA3060 5 73.6 65.8 42.4 49.2
E21/E22–SU6396–TA10559 4 (74.4) (45)
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 77.6 44.5
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 73.3 64.9 44.9
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 75.2 69.1 46.3
E6–SU8831–TA14252 4 72.0 67.2 36.9
E6–SU9709–TA17960 4 74.7 65.8 41.4
F16–SU9465–TA17405 4 (81.4) 73.3 (44.5)
F5–SU8677–TA14852 4 50.9
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 69.7 43.4 48.0
F5–SU8684–TA14889 4 78.3 (75.5) 49.9 56.4
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 80.8
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 82.9
F5–SU8684–TA14889 4 67.0
F5–SU8687–TA15164 4 64.4 39.5
F8–SU5331–TA8214 4 (74.2) 68.9 (45.0)
E6–SU1234–TA1765 3 82.4 74.2 47.0 57.0
D1–SU2467–TA3643 3 78.2 70.4
D1–SU2467–TA3954 3 73.8 67.1
D1–SU2467–TA3954 3 74.1
D1–SU2467–TA3954 3 76.5 65.9
D1–SU2467–TA3954 3 78.4 71.6 45.1 54.9
D1–SU2467–TA3963 3 73.2
D1–SU2467–TA3963 3 74.7 68.0 50.0
D1–SU2467–TA3963 3 57.9 66.7 43.3 48.2
D1–SU2467–TA3963 3 76.9 68.7 42.9 52.7
D1–SU2467–TA3963 3 82.9 72.9 47.2 54.6
D1–SU2467–TA3977 3 81.8 71.2 46.9 54.2
D1–SU2467–TA4150 3 78.4 70.1
E3–SU2304–TA4256 3 72.6 66.0
F5–SU2439–TA8700 3 (76.9) 46.7
E6/E7–SU6258–TA10094 3 70.1 62.4 37.8 47.4
D1–SU2467–TA3635 3 70.1
D1–SU2467–TA3954 3 66.7
D1–SU2467–TA3954 3 68.2 52.6
D1–SU2467–TA3954 3 72.6
D1–SU2467–TA3963 3 67.7
D1–SU2467–TA3977 3 70.4 64.7 40.9 49.2
D1–SU2467–TA3977 3 66.2
D1–SU2467–TA3977 3 66.7
D1–SU2467–TA3977 3 68.4
D1–SU2467–TA3985 3 65.5 59.5 37.8
D1–SU2467–TA3985 3 67.8
D3–SU2834–TA4167 3 67.5
F8–SU3666–TA8019 3 77.6 70.8 (43.0)
F5–SU2439–TA8700 3 55.3
E6/E7–SU1203–TA8855 3 62.6 (40.4) (45.6)
E6/E7–SU6258–TA10094 3 66.6 (39.0)
E7–SU6815–TA11080 3 (60.7) 64.7 47.7
E3–SU6558–TA17416 3 40.1


Trench–SU–no. OP GL GB
F5–SU8681–TA17992 4 (138.1)
F8–SU5331–TA8214 4 146.5 (61.5)
D1–SU2467–TA3643 3 146.0
D1–SU2467–TA4182 3 130.0
F7–SU3638–TA5472 3 138.6 61.1


Trench–SU–no. OP GL Bp SD Bd
O–SU10164–TA19126 7 38.7
E21/E22–SU6396–TA10559 4 37.9
E21/E22–SU6396–TA10559 4 37.6
E19–SU8645–TA15230 4 35.0
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 (38.4)
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 38.1 20.9
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 33.2
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 35.9
F4–SU2387–TA4059 4 101.7 20.5 42.6
F5–SU3968–TA8342 4 39.6
F5–SU3968–TA8342 4 41.7
F5–SU8681–TA17992 4 40.2
F5–SU8681–TA17992 4 (37.0)
F5–SU8681–TA17992 4 45.3
F5–SU8681–TA17992 4 (94.5) 37.3 20.1
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 94.6 35.7 18.5 33.6
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 96.0 39.6 21.1
F5–SU8687–TA15164 4 115.6 44.1 22.4
F5–SU8684–TA14889 4 45.1
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 (36.3)
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 41.7
E16–SU2685–TA4252 3 93.0
F5–SU3951–TA8206 3 (32.2)
F2–SU1970–TA8231 3 40.0
F9–SU5283–TA8608 3 (36.6)
F19–SU2636–TA11505 3 97.4 35.2 19.9 39.2
F9–SU5281–TA8380 3 38.7


Trench–SU–no. OP GL Bp SD Bd
O–SU4101–TA5635 7 33.5
O–SU10162–TA19123 7 64.1 30.8 26.5 31.6
O–SU10201–TA19149 7 30.6
F4–SU2390–TA4135 5 33.3
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 31.2
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 66.7 37.3 32.8 37.7
E6–SU8829–TA14249 4 (64.6)
F16–SU9465–TA17405 4 74.3 32.3 38.8
F5–SU3968–TA8342 4 (33.7)
F5–SU3968–TA8342 4 65.6 31.7 30.5 33.6
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 32.0 23.9 34.6
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 62.1 32.7 30.8 35.8
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 64.9 33.0 29.8 36.6
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 33.2
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 61.4 34.4 30.2 35.2
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 36.3
F5–SU8696–TA15339 4 69.1 30.5 36.7
E6–SU1235–TA1491 3 62.1 31.5 28.8
E16–SU2426–TA3417 3 32.9
E16–SU2426–TA3417 3 66.3 29.0 26.5 38.8
E16–SU2426–TA3417 3 66.3 31.3 28.6 37.7
F4­–SU2035­–TA3744 3 61.9 31.0 26.2 36.8
F5–SU3961–TA8046 3 31.1
F12–SU4578–TA6657 3 65.9 32.7 28.8 35.2
F5–SU3962–TA8009 3 62.7 (29.0) 26.1 36.8
E4–SU6386–TA9874 3 (35.3)
D1–SU2467–TA3985 3 57.0 29.2 27.5 33.1
E16–SU2685–TA4252 3 62.8 30.8 27.1 34.3
F7–SU3637–TA8013 3 61.5 26.3 28.8

Numbers in brackets are estimated measurements due to state of preservation.

  • 41 Camel figurines from Early Iron Age layers were found inside Building O‑b1. Information was given (...)
  • 42 Magee 2015, p. 266.

33The earliest dromedary figurines attested for Taymāʾ date back to Early Iron Age.41 Referring to Magee, who draws attention on the depiction of saddles or harnesses that must have been in close connection with the exploitation of domestic animals, “[…] no dromedary figurines are known from any Bronze Age settlement”.42

34Regarding the species distribution of domestic mammals, the assemblages of Occupation Period 7 resemble those of the previous periods (tab. 3): sheep and goat are the most frequent taxa and remains of cattle and equids are found in small number. The proportion of wild mammals is low as well, but the presence of several bones of wild birds, prominently buzzards, is exceptional since the number of bones is too large for randomly deposition. Similar assemblages were found in Area A. The faunal remains found within this building represent chiefly consumption remains and settlement refuse that reveal a special utilization of wild birds that needs to be investigated more in detail.

35Faunal assemblages dating to Occupation Period 5 (5th‑3rd century BCE) originate from the residential quarter (Area F) only. Dromedary remains (NISP 65) represent – expressed as a percentage – the second most common species (17.6%), but the number of all faunal remains (NSP 1,258) is too low for detailed evaluation. Here, too, the skeletal element distribution for dromedary is problematic since several fragments of diaphysis might be part of one long bone. Only at least three individuals were documented for Occupation Period 5; age at death was determined for two individuals: one was younger than 48 months, one older than 48 months. Chop marks that are typical for the dissection of the animal’s body can be found on 3 specimens (ulna proximal, femur proximal, os carpale). Comments on animal exploitation during this occupation period are unfeasible; the increasing importance of domestic dromedaries cannot be proved.

36Stronger evidences are given by the archaeozoological finds dating back to the Nabataean period (Occupation Period 4). Sheep and goats still represent the most important economic livestock, but the number of camel bones indicates an intensive utilization. The majority of assemblages were gathered in the residential area (E‑South/F) as well as in the Nabataean temple E‑b1. Skeletal element distribution for two selected stratigraphic units (SU 8684 in Trench F5 and SU 6393 in Trench E21/22) that were rich in finds is given in tab. 6. Smaller, more robust bones of the feet as well as bones of the head are distinctly underrepresented, whereas long bone fragments are more frequent. The problems of interpreting such data were already pointed out.

Tab. 6 – Skeletal element distribution for camel bone finds of selective stratigraphic units (SU) and trenches.

OP Tayma 3 OP Tayma 3 OP Tayma 3 OP Tayma 4
SU 2467
SU 2685
F5 F5
SU 8684
Neurocranium 10 22 10 6
Viscerocranium 4 4
Maxilla 22 6 2 4
Mandibula 34 16 4 10
Tooth 3 3 1 3
Total head 69 47 21 27
Atlas 8 1 1
Epistropheus 5 1 1
Vertebra indet. 5 4 12
Vertebra cervicalis 14 4 2 9
Vertebra thoracalis 26 4
Vertebra lumbalis 58 8 4 7
Vertebra sacralis 3 2
Vertebra caudalis 3
Costa 23 6 17 29
Sternum 1
Total trunk 142 22 27 67
Scapula 42 4 9 8
Humerus 52 4 9 4
Radius 29 10 5
Ulna 12 2 5 1
Radius & ulna 3 5 2 1
Carpalia 38 15 2 2
Metacarpus 2 2 4 8
Total forelimb 178 32 41 29
Pelvis 22 3 17 11
Femur 37 2 12 11
Patella 10 1 2
Tibia 24 1 7 9
Os malleolare 3 2
Talus 39 10 5
Calcaneus 17 3 4
Tarsalia 4 1 5
Metatarsus 22 1 2 4
Total hindlimb 178 9 53 51
Long bone
Metapodium 38 10 10 8
Sesamoid bone 3
Phalanx 1 7 5 2 8
Phalanx 2 11 3 2
Phalanx 3
Total unident. Limb 56 21 14 16
Total 623 131 156 190
MNI 25 MNI 3 MNI 6 MNI 4


OP Tayma 4 OP Tayma 5 OP Tayma 7
SU 6393
F3 O
Neurocranium 1
Viscerocranium 1
Maxilla 4 2
Mandibula 2 4 4
Tooth 2 3 1
Total head 9 10 5
Atlas 3
Vertebra indet. 6 1
Vertebra cervicalis 4
Vertebra thoracalis 2 1
Vertebra lumbalis 7
Vertebra sacralis
Vertebra caudalis
Costa 6 4
Total trunk 28 5 1
Scapula 4 1
Humerus 11 3
Radius 2 1
Ulna 2 1
Radius & ulna 1
Carpalia 4 4 2
Total forelimb 24 10 2
Pelvis 4
Femur 13 4
Patella 3 1
Tibia 3 1
Os malleolare 1 1
Talus 6 3 2
Calcaneus 3 1
Tarsalia 1
Metatarsus 2
Total hindlimb 35 11 3
Long bone 1
Metapodium 9 1
Sesamoid bone
Phalanx 1 5 6 1
Phalanx 2 1 3
Phalanx 3 1 1
Total unident. Limb 16 8 5
Total 112 44 16

3727 specimens show butchery marks, resp. marks of dissection: 16 specimens (femur, pelvis, calcaneus, radius, ulna, phalanges, ribs) wear cut marks on chiefly epiphyseal part, most probably as a result from dismemberment and from skinning and defleshing; 10 specimens (ribs and vertebrae) have chop marks resulting from cutting the carcass into half or quarters.

38Age profiles were compiled only for significant assemblages (tab. 7). Two of four individuals found in SU 8684 were older than 48 months, two individuals younger than 42 months. Two of three individuals from SU 3693 died with an age between 18 and 42 months, one individual was older than 48 months.

Tab. 7 – Epiphyseal fusion state for camel bones (NISP) of selective stratigraphic units (SU).

OP 3
SU 2467
OP 3
SU 2685
OP 4
SU 8684
OP 4
SU 6393
Element Age (months) fused unfused Fused unfused fused unfused fused unfused
Femur prox. 42 3 5 1 1 3 3
Femur dist. 48 11 13 1 5 1 1 5
Humerus prox. 48 5 10 1 1 1 1
Humerus dist. 18 31 1 1 5
Radius prox. 18 18 2 3 2
Radius dist. 48 9 3 1 2 1 2
Tibia prox. 42 5 10 1 1
Tibia dist. 24 8 1 1 4 1
Calcaneus 36 4 6 1 3 1 1
Ph1 prox. 18 4 4 3 2
Ph2 prox. 12 5 2
MNI 25 3 3 3
  • 43 Horwitz‑Rosen 2005, p. 129, tab. 3.

39The slaughter of dromedaries with an age younger than 4 years for consumption is a matter of conjecture since the number of individuals and remains that are suitable for generating age profiles is too low. Animals that were no longer productive as working animals, for meat and milk supply or that were unsuitable for selective breeding, were surely consumed, but specific strategies concerning herding and keeping of dromedaries for special purposes43 are currently not attested for Taymāʾ.

  • 44 Peters 2001, p. 337; Studer and Schneider 2008.
  • 45 Studer and Schneider 2008, p. 585, 586.

40During Occupation Period 4 the amount of cattle decreased apparently. If the dromedary already assumed the function of cattle (milk, meat, agriculture) or if this is an individual character of the respective faunal assemblage and context remains an unresolved issue. The Nabataeans eminently appreciated the economic importance of the dromedary and benefited from this multipurpose animal.44 Archaeozoological research of faunal assemblages from az‑Zantûr in Jordan, for example, document the dromedary as second most common species in the 1st century BCE, only dominated by sheep and goats.45 Besides animal husbandry, hunting was an additional source of meat for the Nabataean nomads or semi‑nomads of az‑Zantûr, too. Considering the quantity of dromedary remains as well as the presence of bones of Arabian oryx, similar tendencies can be stated for the assemblages from Nabataean Taymāʾ (tab. 3). And again, a huge amount of wild birds, especially vultures (family Accipitridae), let assume a specific utilization like also mentioned for Occupation Period 7.

41The majority of camel bone finds from Taymāʾ dating to Occupation Period 3 were found within the residential area E‑South/F. The data is supplemented by few equally dated assemblages from Area D, whose building structure shows similarities in architecture and probably can be ranged in this domestic context, too. The amount of camel bones from Area D is remarkably high (NISP 661) considering the number of layers from which they originate. Especially from SU 2467, 623 remains of at least 25 individuals were gathered. The skeletal element distribution is similar to assemblages from Occupation Period 4 with an underrepresentation of phalanges, vertebrae, ribs and fragments of the skull, while long bones are well represented.

42The data for this period in general reveal the consistent dominance of sheep and goat as well as the distribution of dromedary as second most common species. Undoubtedly dromedaries are a permanent feature of local livestock economy in the Roman to Late Antique/Pre‑Islamic Periods. The percentage of cattle is still quite low, so the foremost exploitation as a working animal in agriculture is presumed. Milk and meat supply was realized by sheep, goat and most probably by camel, too. Equid remains are further on underrepresented, certainly due to the context of a residential quarter. Noteworthy is the presence of pig remains. Solely four specimens of domestic pigs were gathered in Area F and confirm an interpretation as consumption refuses.

  • 46 Monchot 2014, p. 198, tab. 2.
  • 47 See tab. 6 in this article and Monchot 2014, p. 200, fig. 2, tab. 3.
  • 48 Monchot 2014, p. 196; Monchot 2016.

43Considering the high number of camel bone finds, the number of fragments with chop and cut marks is sparse. Six specimens (each one radius with ulna, carpal bone, metacarpus and 3 tali) wear cut marks; five specimens show chop marks (each one carpal bone, femur, tibia and 2 scapulae). The latter most probably resulted in butchering and food processing. Evaluation referring age at death resulted in similar tendencies like for the previous periods (tab. 7). Hence, only very few individuals are younger than 24 months, and older than 48 months. An average slaughter age between 2 and 4 years is highly probable. Pathologies that indicate any intensive exploitation as working animal were not observed on specimens from Occupation Period 3. Thus, an interpretation of these finds as consumption debris is conclusive. Similar features can be seen in archaeozoological research in Dûmat al‑Jandal, in northern Saudi Arabia. Assemblages found in the domestic district and dating to the “pre‑Islamic (late‑Nabataean)” and Islamic periods are dominated by dromedary remains as most frequent taxa.46 Although the camel bones from Taymāʾ rank proportionally behind sheep and goat, the skeletal element distribution in the respective periods is quite similar in both sites.47 The age distribution varies slightly towards little younger individuals calculated for Dûmat al‑Jandal. Bone assemblages from al‑Yamâma, an archaeological site in the al‑Kharj oasis in central Saudi Arabia, represent pre‑Islamic/Islamic waste deposits in open‑air area.48 Here too, dromedary remains dominate the species list. And preliminary results of recent archaeozoological research in Madâ’in Sâlih reveal likewise an intensive exploitation of dromedary for meat consumption in Nabataean and Roman periods (Studer 2016).


  • 49 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 242, tab. 1.

44Camel bone finds from Taymāʾ correspond within the general accepted thesis concerning the first appearance and exploitation of domestic dromedary not before 1000 BCE. The earliest camel remains were gathered in contexts dating back to Early Iron Age; the majority of these finds comes from the public building in Area O (11th‑9th century BCE). The bone measurements of few specimens cannot give clear evidence about the existence of domesticated camels. The standard reference data49 used for calculating Logarithmic Size Indices (LSI) is critically reviewed by Curci et al. (2014) and not yet applied for the Taymāʾ remains. At current state, the early camel bone finds should be interpreted as remains of consumed dromedaries – without assessment concerning wild or domestic.

45The lack of larger amounts of camel remains, and therefore missing representative data for Occupation Periods 6 and 5 (9th‑3rd centuries BCE, ironically the time of the caravan text from the Middle Euphrates [see above], and of the records of raids by the Assyrians aimed at seizing tens of thousands of camels from Arabia) let not discern the timeframe of an increasing importance in local livestock economy.

  • 50 In spring 2017, especially in Taymāʾ, the price for 1 kg camel meat was remarkably lower than for (...)
  • 51 Horwitz and Rosen 2005, p. 129, tab. 3.

46Definitely in the Nabataean and Roman periods the dromedary was a regular feature in local diet and probably nearly equivalent to sheep and goat referring to meat supply, which it is still today.50 Even the low amount of equid remains supports an interpretation of the discussed assemblages as chiefly consumption debris. The huge caravans with hundreds of pack animals, regardless of whether ass, mule or camel, were not yet detected in Taymāʾ. Horwitz and Rosen list the different characteristics of camel management strategies and site forms and mention for a caravan herd i.e. the predominance of adult individuals over 5 years and the occurrence of typical pathologies.51 Corresponding features cannot be attested for Taymāʾ.

  • 52 Heiss 2012, p. 128‑139.
  • 53 Horwitz and Rosen 2005, p. 129.
  • 54 Fedele 2014.

47Besides this, the amount of camel bones should be much higher as in the case with the Taymāʾ finds. Caravan sites cannot be expected in the center of urban settlements. If considering the maintenance (loading and unloading or the watering of animals) of such a great number of dromedaries as reported by Arabian authors for the 10th century CE,52 the more suitable space can be assumed extra muros. And if we take the dromedaries as “mobile elements”,53 we need to discover possible campsites of semi‑nomadic and nomadic people. The difficulty to recognize such sites is not to be underestimated, but some potential indicators from archaeological and archaeozoological perspective might help to identify camp, tent or caravan sites.54

48Where and how can we imagine a caravan site in Taymāʾ? Functional spaces like the so‑called Compounds A and B in the southern part of the oasis or Compound W in the northwestern part would have been convenient: large‑scaled, walled and with sufficient supply of water. But considering the demand for agricultural products in a prospering oasis and the archaeological record (i.e. water channels, wells, building structures), these areas are rather ineligible. More likely is the urban fringe, where even today camel herders keep a section of their stock for breeding, selling and slaughter. The impact of nomads on domestication, spread and exploitation of dromedaries need to be taken into account all the more and future research might focus on these questions.


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1 Dinies, personal communication; Dinies et al. 2016.

2 Hausleiter 2017; see Schneider 2010.

3 Engel et al. 2012; Dinies et al. 2016.

4 Wellbrock et al. 2017.

5 Bawden et al. 1980.

6 Haibt 2013; Hausleiter 2017.

7 Lora 2017; Tourtet et al. forthcoming.

8 Hausleiter and Eichmann 2018. The project is jointly carried out by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and the Orient Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI). Main funding has been provided by the German Research Foundation (DFG), Bonn. Fieldwork is co‑directed by Arnulf Hausleiter; overall head of the German component is Ricardo Eichmann.

9 Eichmann et al. 2006a.

10 Hausleiter 2017.

11 Hausleiter 2014; Tourtet et al. forthcoming.

12 Intilia 2010; see Hausleiter 2017.

13 Stein forthcoming.

14 Wellbrock et al2018.

15 Intilia 2010.

16 Lora 2017.

17 Tourtet et al. forthcoming.

18 Dinies et al. 2016.

19 Stein forthcoming.

20 Lora 2017.

21 OL D:2 and D:3, Hanisch‑Gräfe 2012; for the yet oldest remains in the area, OL D:4, Hanisch‑Gräfe 2012.

22 Hausleiter and Eichmann 2018; Intilia forthcoming.

23 Hausleiter 2014; Tourtet et al. forthcoming.

24 Sperveslage 2014.

25 Monchot 2014, p. 195.

26 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 235.

27 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 251; cf. Wilson 1984, p. 5.

28 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2000; Uerpmann H.‑P., Uerpmann M. and Jasim 2000; Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002; Driesch and Obermaier 2007; Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2008a; Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2008b; Beech et al. 2009; Driesch et al. 2008.

29 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 249.

30 Magee 2015, p. 272.

31 German Archaeological Institute, Scientific division at the Head Office, Berlin.

32 Cavigneaux and Khalil Ismail 1990.

33 Macdonald 1997.

34 Schaudig forthcoming; Eichmann et al. 2006b; Hausleiter 2012; for Arabian gold in Babylonia, Kleber 2016. See also L. Cousin in this volume.

35 Reference Collections of the Scientific division at the Head Office of the German Archaeological Institute Berlin and Staatssammlung für Anthropologie und Paläoanatomie München. Thanks go to Professor Norbert Benecke (Berlin) and Dr Henriette Obermaier (Munich) for their helpful support.

36 For taphonomic processes impacting a camel skeleton in desert environment see Andrews and Whybrow 2005. The bad state of tooth preservation is a general phenomenon in Taymāʾ and concerns both faunal remains and human remains.

37 Possible hybrids were reported from camel graves in Mleiha, U.A.E. (Uerpmann 1999) and Dhafar, Yemen (Uerpmann M. and Uerpmann H.‑P. 2012, p. 118) as well as from Tell Sheikh Hamad, Syria (Becker 2008). See also the article of R. Berthon et al. in this volume.

38 Hausleiter and Zur 2016.

39 Uerpmann M. and Uerpmann H.‑P. 2012; Fedele 2014.

40 Curci et al. 2014, Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 255; Uerpmann M. and Uerpmann H.‑P. 2012, p. 113.

41 Camel figurines from Early Iron Age layers were found inside Building O‑b1. Information was given by Dr Andrea Intilia (DAI, Orient Department, Project Tayma).

42 Magee 2015, p. 266.

43 Horwitz‑Rosen 2005, p. 129, tab. 3.

44 Peters 2001, p. 337; Studer and Schneider 2008.

45 Studer and Schneider 2008, p. 585, 586.

46 Monchot 2014, p. 198, tab. 2.

47 See tab. 6 in this article and Monchot 2014, p. 200, fig. 2, tab. 3.

48 Monchot 2014, p. 196; Monchot 2016.

49 Uerpmann H.‑P. and Uerpmann M. 2002, p. 242, tab. 1.

50 In spring 2017, especially in Taymāʾ, the price for 1 kg camel meat was remarkably lower than for sheep. As a possible reason, the permanent availability due to intensive herding in the surrounding countryside, as well as the local preferences in daily meat consumption, was mentioned.

51 Horwitz and Rosen 2005, p. 129, tab. 3.

52 Heiss 2012, p. 128‑139.

53 Horwitz and Rosen 2005, p. 129.

54 Fedele 2014.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Taymāʾ. Map of Qraya with excavation areas (DAI Orient‑Abteilung 2014).
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,3M
Titre Tab. 1 – Taymāʾ Occupation Periods (Hausleiter and Eichmann 2017).
Fichier image/jpeg, 479k


German Archaeological Institute, Orient Department, Berlin

German Archaeological Institute, Orient Department, Berlin


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