Pigs and Power: Pig Husbandry in Northern Mesopotamia During the Emergence of Social Complexity (6500-2000 Bc)

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Pigs and Power: Pig Husbandry in Northern Mesopotamia During the Emergence of Social Complexity (6500-2000 Bc)

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Title: Pigs and Power: Pig Husbandry in Northern Mesopotamia During the Emergence of Social Complexity (6500-2000 Bc)
Author: Price, Max
Citation: Price, Max. 2016. Pigs and Power: Pig Husbandry in Northern Mesopotamia During the Emergence of Social Complexity (6500-2000 Bc). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: This dissertation examines the evolution of pig husbandry during the period in which complex societies developed in northern Mesopotamia. Pigs were unique in the ancient Middle East because they were particularly well suited for smallholder production as opposed to elite control. In tracking the evolution of pig husbandry practices over this long period of time, this dissertation asks two questions. The first question is: when did pig husbandry practices intensify? In other words, when did northern Mesopotamian communities begin penning and stall-feeding their pigs? The second question is: why? Was there a correlation between intensification and the development class conflict, a critical part of the emergence of complex societies? Did smallholders intensify pig production to resist elite control over the agricultural sector?

After developing a theoretical framework informed by previous zooarchaeological research and Marxist scholarship, this dissertation focuses on reconstructing pig husbandry at 10 archaeological sites dating to the 7th-3rd millennia BC. This research uses the assemblage of hunted wild boar at Epipaleolithic (11th millennium) Hallan Çemi as a control. The 3rd-millennium site of Tell Leilan, which included recognizable elite and non-elite areas, provides a means of testing the hypothesis that smallholders intensified pig husbandry in order to resist economic domination. This study employs a battery of standard and specialized zooarchaeological techniques to provide multiple lines of evidence for determining three aspects of pig husbandry: control over diet, mobility, and reproduction. These methods include: geometric morphometrics, survivorship analysis, biometrics, analysis of pathologies (including linear enamel hypoplasia and dental calculus), dental microwear, and analysis of starch granules and phytoliths embedded in calculus. Special attention is paid to developing appropriate statistical models to make sense of the numerous datasets.

The results indicate that pig husbandry underwent region-wide intensification before or during the Halaf (6th millennium BC), and thus intensification predated the development of complex societies by about 2000 years. The Halaf is a relatively unknown period in the long-term history of the region, and it remains unclear why pig husbandry may have changed at this time. There was no detectable correlation between the emergence of complex societies and pig husbandry change despite the fact that the development of social inequality radically changed the nature of food production and consumption in the region. Moreover, there were few differences between pig husbandry practices in the elite and non-elite areas of Tell Leilan. These results, although plagued by a high degree of statistical uncertainty, suggest that the connections between pigs and power are not reducible to the single axis of husbandry as a form of class-based resistance. The concluding chapter offers alternative methods and theoretical frameworks for archaeologists to investigate both class conflict and pig husbandry.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33493422
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