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Wool they, won’t they: Zooarchaeological perspectives on the political and subsistence economies of wool in northern Mesopotamia

Price, Max D.; Wolfhagen, Jesse

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Dr Max Price max.d.price@durham.ac.uk
Assistant Professor in Zooarchaeology

Jesse Wolfhagen



Abstract

An important facet in the study of complex societies involves documenting how the extraction of resources to support political structures (the political economy) impacted the subsistence economy of everyday life. Caprine production was a central feature of ancient Mesopotamian subsistence, while ancient texts reveal that wool was centrally important to the region’s political economies. It has long been thought that at some point in the Chalcolithic or Bronze Age (c. 4500–1500 BC) caprine husbandry was reorganized at the regional level to support the wool industry that was so dear to state finance and elite wealth. Here, we use kill-off patterns and biometrics to test whether caprine husbandry patterns across northern Mesopotamia underwent a regionwide transformation. We synthesize existing data and use Bayesian modeling to estimate average sheep size, male–female ratio, and harvesting patterns targeting older sheep. We confirm previous assessments that document an increase in sheep size in the 4th millennium BC. We find no pattern in male–female ratios. Diachronic kill-off data from across the region show subtle and local shifts in the slaughter of older caprines. While ambiguities in the data persist, there is no evidence of a dramatic shift toward intensive wool production at the regional level.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 30, 2024
Online Publication Date Apr 30, 2024
Publication Date 2024-06
Deposit Date Jun 25, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jun 25, 2024
Journal Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
Print ISSN 0278-4165
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 74
Article Number 101590
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaa.2024.101590
Public URL https://durham-repository.worktribe.com/output/2501074

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