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The archaeology of pig domestication and husbandry: approaches and case studies

Albarella, Umberto (2004) The archaeology of pig domestication and husbandry: approaches and case studies. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The main aim of this thesis is to present the potential of an integrated analysis for the study of past relations between humans and pigs. In particular, the advent of pig domestication and patterns of early husbandry in southern Europe will be discussed on the basis of a multidisciplinary approach. The core method is represented by abiometrical analysis of pig teeth and bones from archaeological as well as modem collections. The study of recent material provides the opportunity to detect variation in wild boar size and shape across the whole range of distribution of the species. An archaeological baseline for domestic pigs is obtained through the study of a large Neolithic assemblage from England. With the adoption of a size index scaling technique this is then used as a 'standard' reference for the analysis of southern European material. In addition to this biometrical analysis, a historical approach to the study of pig husbandry in medieval England and ethnoarchaeological work in Sardinia and Corsica provide further opportunities to build up an interpretative framework for the archaeological evidence. A number of case studies from rehistoric and historic Portugal and prehistoric Italy are then resented. In Portugal abundant data collected from late prehistoric and historic assemblages are compared with Mesolithic and Neolithic evidence and provide the opportunity to study variations in patterns of pig hunting and husbandry through a long chronologicalsequence. The evidence for this country indicates that wild boars increased in size after the Mesolithic whereas no improvement in domestic pigs can be detected until the Middle Ages, which means that practices of free-range husbandry were probably adopted for the whole of the prehistoric and early historic periods. In Italy an even larger number of sites is used to illuminate the evolution of pig exploitation in that particular country. Like in Portugal a pattern of size increase in wild boars emerges after the Mesolithic, but in Italy it is also possible to detect size decrease in domestic pigs, with intensification in pig husbandry occurring probably sometime in the late Neolithic. The similarity in size between Mesolithic and Neolithic pigs confirms the suggestion brought about by genetic analysis that pigs were domesticated locally. The use of a diversity of approaches and the large chronological and geographic scale of this analysis provides us with a unique insight into the great variety of interactions that occurred between humans and pigs and the general importance of these animals in human history.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2004
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 10:03

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