Camels and their rations in the Persepolis Fortification Archive

Potts, Daniel T. 2021. Camels and their rations in the Persepolis Fortification Archive: An enigma and its variations. Egitto e Vicino Oriente 44, 231-247.

The feeding habits of camels entail exceedingly long periods (6-9 hours) of daily grazing and browsing unless fodder and/or rations are given to them as dietary supplements. Historical sources from the 17th to the 20th century attest to the use of such rations, particularly when camels were working, whether in commercial caravans or on military campaigns, and time constraints or a shortage of grazing would not provide the caloric intake necessary to keep the animals healthy and able to sustain their workload. These sources provide the key to understanding a small number of Persepolis Fortification Archive texts recording the disbursement of flour rations for camels. They also explain how ‘flour,’ normally a coarsely ground meal made of barley or another grain, was prepared with the addition of water, oil and/or other additives (fish, legumes), and formed into balls that were fed to camels as supplemental foodstuff. The study also presents some thoughts on long-distance travel involving camels. Based on several historical itineraries from the 17th and 18th century, it is possible to calculate likely rates of travel per day and time out for rest days, suggesting how long it may have taken to cover some of the distances mentioned in the Persepolis texts.