The ‘almost’ domestication of Barbary sheep at Uan Afada

A Barbary sheep.

Taming Barbary sheep: wild animal management by Early Holocene hunter-gatherers at Uan Afuda

Yet another Pdf involving the Libyan Sahara.

The main observation of this paper is the thick layers of Barbary sheep dung at the Uan Afada site. Since Barbary sheep were never actually domesticated, this seems to describe an intermediate stage seen in modern hunter gatherers where wild livestock is kept and fattened up, sometimes to provide a reliable source of meat for special occasions. It’s an intermediate and necessary step to domestication, but fully domesticated sheep and goats arriving from the near East in the neolithic probably interrupted the domestication process. As the paper says:

Management of animals does not  mean domestication, also in our view, but rational control of animal resources, which may not produce any morphologically domesticated animals. Such behaviour is not rare in the ethnographic record: we can recall activities of driving and containing animals such as bison, deer and antelope in North America (Chang and Koster 1986); the interaction between reindeer and humans in North Europe (Ingold 1980), and other operations in which wild animals are used by human groups to perform specialised activities like hunting.

Which is what I suspect was happening with the cattle in Nabta Playa too.

The Tadrart Acacus mountain range.


On a similar line;  New investigations in the Tadrart Acacus, Libyan Sahara, another pdf.

And this paper.

 Dismantling Dung: Delayed Use of Food Resources among Early Holocene Foragers of the Libyan Sahara

At Uan Afuda, and other Early Holocene sites of the Acacus mountains, in the Libyan Sahara, dung layers and plant accumulation are a major, but repeatedly neglected, feature of hunter-gatherer communities. To understand the formation and meaning of such features, a multidimensional analysis has been undertaken, combining micromorphological, palynological, botanical, archaeozoological, and archaeological data. The hypothesis here formulated is twofold: plant accumulations are evidence of anthropic activity aimed at the storage of fodder; and dung layers are related to a forced penning of a ruminant, very likely Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia). The exploration of these two features has hinted at the existence of a deep reciprocal relationship, which has been interpreted as the cultural control of wild Barbary sheep, leading to a delayed use of food resources. This behavior may be considered an opportunistic strategy adopted to minimize the effects of lean periods and implicates increasing cultural complexity within Late Acacus Saharan forager societies of the 9th millennium B.P.


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