Thursday, September 06, 2012

Camels were widespread in the Roman Empire, even northern provinces, study finds

The camel would have been a common sight to see in the Roman Empire, even in far-off corners in what is now northern France and Belgium. Mew research by Fabienne Pigière, archaeozoologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, indicates that camel remains were always found in the vicinity of major Roman roads, and that they were used by both the military and civilians.

That camels were widely used in the Roman Empire is well known: they appear here and there in writings and images from the Roman period. They were used as saddle animals, as pack animals for the military and commerce and the Roman diet was also supplemented with milk and meat from camels.

In the northern provinces of the empire – including 'Belgica' – camels and dromedaries were also introduced; eight bones found in a Roman archaeological site (known as' Orolauno vicus') in Arlon by the Archaeology Management of the 'Service Public de Wallonie' is a witness thereof.

Until now little was known about which species – camels or dromedaries – were introduced in the northern Roman provinces, nor when and for what they were used. This stimulated archaeozoologist Fabienne Pigière to examine the bones that were found thoroughly and to make an inventory of all reported camel finds. The results of the research were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.