Caravans, camel wrestling and cowrie shells: towards a social zooarchaeology of camel hybridization in Anatolia and adjacent regions


en Anthropozoologica 49 (2) - Pages 237-252

Published on 26 December 2014

This article is a part of the thematic issue Ancient camelids in the old world - between Arabia and Europe

Hybrid camels, intentional crosses between dromedaries and bactrian camels, are prized for their robustness and endurance. They were the prime vehicles of short and long distance caravan trade in a large area between Greece and Mongolia until the whole-scale introduction of motorized transport. This paper proposes a model for the zooarchaeological study of camel hybridization as a culture-historical phenomenon based on ethnographic and ethnohistoric observations of camel wrestling. Camel wrestling spectacles involve large audiences who gather in large arenas to watch first generation male hybrid camels wrestle during the mating season. While Anatolia was chosen as a case region for testing the model, it can be applied to all regions where hybrids are expected to occur in the archaeological record.


Bactrian camel, dromedary, hybrid camels, long-distance trade, congregation

Download full article in PDF format Order a reprint