Hogging Wealth : Dental analyses and an interdisciplinary study of the importance of pigs in prehistoric economies

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för arkeologi och antik historia

Abstract: Studies in zoo-archaeological Neolithic contexts is the study of early animal domestication in relation to humans transitioning into a more sedentary species. Research and documentation are vital for reconstructing the mechanisms behind the threshold event. In this thesis, teeth of Suidae have been documented, analysed and compared osteologically and interpreted cross-culturally. In addition, aDNA, isotope, coat colour and physical mammal size affecting factor studies are presented to contextualise this thesis. Primary osteological methods are Mandibular Wear Stage (MWS), Linear Enamel Hypoplasia (LEH) recordings and lower jaw third molar (M3) length measurement. These methods can detect biometric domestication markers. The analysed Suidae teeth are from the Middle Neolithic site of Ajvide, Gotland, Sweden. A collection of modern wild boar act as Control sample. These teeth are compared primarily with known domestic pig teeth sample statistics from the British Late Neolithic site of Durrington Walls, Wiltshire, United Kingdom. Results indicate that the Middle Neolithic Pitted Ware culture (PWC) on Gotland hunted during winter and kept limited numbers of captive wild boars as totemic animals (pets) possibly bound to land and ancestry. However, an exact reconstruction of the PWC pig pet keeping practices are uncertain due to human-pig relationships being highly dynamic. Intensified pig hunting, not pet keeping should be considered early domestication. Domestication carries with it detectable biometric markers, which seem to be rare in the Neolithic. The cross-cultural comparisons on traditional pig ‘low-intensity husbandry’ can attest to a human-pig relationship of hunter-gatherers keeping captive wild animals. The pig was not a staple food for the PWC and thus not intensively hunted, rather pigs were rare ritualistic commodities and likely highly praised. Perpetuating this human-pig relationship could have been maintained by PWC ‘big men’ that engaged in socio-political lavish giveaways at festivities and funerals, thus ‘hogging wealth’, but never domesticated the pig.

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