Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Domestication: Definition and Overview

  • Melinda A. ZederEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_71


The domestication of plants and animals represents a key turning point in human history. This first foray into genetic engineering created new varieties of plants and animals that could be grown around the world – most often at the expense of other species that remained outside a domestic partnership with humans. The development of agricultural economies based on domesticates is arguably the central factor in the loss of global biodiversity. It transformed earth’s landscapes and its atmosphere. It fueled a population explosion of agro-pastoralists and has been a cornerstone of increasingly complex societies around the world. Understanding when, where, how, and, above all, why humans and certain plant and animal species began on their journeys into domestication remains an enduring and rewarding area of inquiry of archaeological research.

Answering these central questions requires a solid understanding of just what domestication is – and here there is a decided lack of...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program in Human Ecology and Archaeobiology, Department of AnthropologyNational Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA