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Journal of Archaeological Research

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 391–449 | Cite as

The Rise of Pastoralism in the Ancient Near East

  • Benjamin S. ArbuckleEmail author
  • Emily L. Hammer
Article

Abstract

In this paper, we present a history of pastoralism in the ancient Near East from the Neolithic through the Bronze Age. We describe the accretional development of pastoral technologies over eight millennia, including the productive breeding of domestic sheep, goats, and cattle in the early Neolithic and the subsequent domestication of animals used primarily for labor—donkeys, horses, and finally camels—as well as the first appearance of husbandry strategies such as penning, foddering, pasturing, young male culling, and dairy production. Despite frequent references in the literature to prehistoric pastoral nomads, pastoralism in Southwest Asia was strongly associated with sedentary communities that practiced intensive plant cultivation and was largely local in nature. There is very little evidence in prehistoric and early historic Southwest Asia to support the notion of a “dimorphic society” characterized by separate and specialized agriculturists and mobile pastoralists. Although mobile herders were present in the steppe regions of Syria by the early second millennium BC, mobile pastoralism was the exception rather than the rule at that time; its “identification” in the archaeological record frequently derives from the application of anachronistic ethnographic analogy. We conclude that pastoralism was a diverse, flexible, and dynamic adaptation in the ancient Near East and call for a reinvigorated and empirically based archaeology of pastoralism in Southwest Asia.

Keywords

Pastoralism Nomad Southwest Asia Mobility Zooarchaeology Paleobotany Secondary products Domestication 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors thank the following individuals and institutions for support during this project: UNC-CH, Baylor University, Harvard University, the University of Chicago; Cheryl Makarewicz, Richard Meadow, Joshua Wright, Levent Atici, Joris Peters, Nadja Pöllath, David Orton, and Jason Ur. The authors also are grateful to the seven reviewers who shared their thoughts on this manuscript. This project was supported in part by grants from the National Geographic Society, the American Research Institute in Turkey, Encyclopedia of Life, the American School for Prehistoric Research, the National Science Foundation (BCS-0530699 and BCS-1311551 [BA]; BCS-1430404, BCS-1203140 [EH]), the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus, the Franke Institute for the Humanities at the University of Chicago, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Grant #8411 [EH]).

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Near Eastern Languages and CivilizationsUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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