Meta-analysis of zooarchaeological data from SW Asia and SE Europe provides insight into the origins and spread of animal husbandry

Conolly, J. and Colledge, S. and Dobney, K. and Vigne, J. -D. and Peters, J. and Stopp, B. and Manning, K. and Shennan, S.. (2011) Meta-analysis of zooarchaeological data from SW Asia and SE Europe provides insight into the origins and spread of animal husbandry. Journal of Archaeological Science, 38 (3). pp. 538-545.

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Identifying spatial and temporal variation in animal exploitation patterns is essential for building our understanding of the transition from hunting to stock-keeping. Quantitative analysis of the published records of over 400,000 animal bones recovered from 114 archaeological sites from SW Asia and SE Europe from c12 ka to c7.5 ka cal BP (thousands of calibrated radiocarbon years before present) demonstrates significant spatiotemporal variability in faunal exploitation patterns. Sites in the Euphrates region show adoption of domestic taxa by c10.5 ka cal BP, although on average these taxa contribute less than 10% to total assemblage size. This rises to a median of about 40% by c9.5 ka cal BP, and then to about 45% of total NISP by c8.5 ka cal BP. By c10.5 ka in the Tigris and Zagros region domesticates contribute less than 5% to faunal assemblages, but then rise to a median of about 20% by c9.5 ka and 40% by c8.4 ka cal BP. In contrast, Levantine sites have low numbers of domestic taxa (<1%) until c8.8 ka cal BP, when the proportion dramatically increases to a median of about 35%. This apparent delayed-adoption pattern also holds true for the southern Levant, which shows, on average, low levels (<1%) of domestic taxa until 8.8 ka cal BP, at which point domesticates contribute a median of about 10% to assemblages. In the northern parts of SW Asia, the mid- to late-10th millennium cal BP is pivotal, as proportions of domestic taxa show a dramatic increase in frequency during this time, and the ‘package’ of domestic sheep, goat, cattle and pig becomes more firmly established. This sets the trend for sites of the 9th millennium and the appearance of Neolithic communities in SE Europe from the 8th millennium cal BP onwards, from which point domestic animals are ubiquitous in faunal assemblages.
Research highlights
► The problem we are addressing is how, when and where animals were domesticated in Southwest Asia during the Early Holocene. More specifically, we question the widely held view of a single trajectory towards domestication and show that there was great regional variation in faunal exploitation patterns before, during, and after the period in which animal domesticates were first brought under human control; variations which have not previously been properly recognized or defined and which have major implications for our understanding of the domestication process. ► The evidence we provide to support our conclusion is based on a meta-analysis of published zooarchaeological reports describing over 400,000 animal remains from 114 sites in SW Asia and SE Europe from the 12th to the 8th millennium cal BP. This is the most comprehensive account of published zooarchaeological data from the area of interest ever attempted. The data drawn from the exercise is subject to quantitative assessment to document regional variation in exploitation patterns. These analyses are fully documented and include a complete list of the sources used to compile the data. ► We believe the subject matter and our results are of wide enough interest for publication in JAS.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie (IPNA) > Archäozoologie (Schibler)
UniBasel Contributors:Stopp, Barbara
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:16 Jan 2018 09:31
Deposited On:16 Jan 2018 09:31

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