The emergence of the Incense Trade Route between Arabia and the southern Levant is an historical phenomenon still surrounded by many uncertainties. This paper will review this emergence, at the end of the Late Bronze and during the Iron Age I-II.
Two major problems need to be addressed here: the emergence of the trade route which, according to most scholars, took place between the XIIIth and the VIIIth centuries BCE; and the domestication of the dromedary camel, which was the sine qua non condition for the development of this road. Since W. F. Albright in the 1970's, it is usually admitted that these two phenomena are both thematically and chronologically linked, and this paradigm has never been questioned. We believe that these are two questions that need to be addressed separately. For a proper dating of the emergence of the incense trade, one has first to understand the economic and political context of the southern Levantine and Arabian societies at the end of the Late Bronze Age and especially in the Iron Age I and II.
Some specific problems will receive particular attention:
1. Recent results from isotopic analysis of camel bones give us data about the camel's diet and the ecological zones it went through. This will help to date its domestication in the Levant.
2. The possible historical relationship between the copper and incense trade roads – as both roads passed through the Negev.