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Wild Meets Domestic in the Near Eastern Neolithic

By N. Russell

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Abstract

The categories of wild and domestic are one of the classic ways the nature/culture dichotomy manifests itself in human interactions with the environment. Some argue that this distinction is not helpful and a projection of modern thought, and certainly the boundaries are complicated. However, we should try to determine in each case whether it was meaningful to particular people in the past. Here I explore whether wild and domestic were relevant concepts to the inhabitants of the Neolithic Near East in their relations with animals around the time when livestock herding began. Drawing on depictions of animals and the treatment of living animals and their remains, I examine three case studies (Cyprus, Upper Mesopotamia, and Çatalhöyük in central Anatolia) to evaluate whether emic distinctions between wild and domestic existed. I conclude that this was in fact a crucial distinction that shaped economic choices as well as ritual activities. Differential treatment of wild and domestic animals indicates that they were accorded different forms of personhood. The particular nature of human relations with wild animals helped shape the spread of both wild and domestic animals.

Publication Title Animals (Basel)
Volume 12
Issue 18
ISBN/ISSN 2076-2615 (Print)2076-2615
DOI 10.3390/ani12182335
Author Address Department of Anthropology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Domestication
  2. Human-animal relationships
  3. open access
  4. Zooarchaeology
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  1. open access