What Were Camels Doing in Ancient Britain?

WORLD

Evidence suggests that camels came with Roman legions to sites throughout Southern Europe. (Dr. Caitlin R. Green)

What else was going on in Londinium? Use our great resource to learn more about Roman London.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

The red area indicates the extent of the Roman Empire in the early second century CE, while pink areas indicate Roman client states. Dots are where remains of dromedary or Bactrian camels have been identified.
Map by C.R. Green (based on a map of the Roman Empire by Tataryn, courtesy Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-SA-3.0)

This sweet second-century mosaic from Bosra, Syria, depicts a camel train, or caravan. Bosra was the capital of the Roman province of Arabia.
Photograph by Jadd Haidar, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-4.0

 

Discussion Ideas

 

  • Why is the discovery of camels unusual in these areas?
    • Camels were nowhere near indigenous in these regions. They had to be deliberately imported.
      • Dromedary camels, also called Arabian camels, have a wide species range, extending throughout Northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Central Asia. Dromedaries have a single hump and are not endangered.
      • Bactrian camels have a narrow species range, in the Gobi desert of China and Mongolia. Bactrians have two humps, and are critically endangered.

 

  • How did ancient Romans get their hands (and their goods) on these exotic animals?

 

 

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Dr. Caitlyn R. Green: Were there camels in Roman Britain? A brief note on the nature and context of the London camel remains

Nat Geo: Ancient Roman Tablets Reveal Voices of the Earliest Londoners

Ancient History Encyclopedia: Trade in the Roman World

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