Saturday, June 18, 2016

Small Cattle Suddenly in EFC with Halaf (Arbuckle et al, 2016)

Here's one of two recent papers that are very prescient when reading the recent Neolithic genomes.

Let me apply some filters first.  The authors here do not apply any distinctions on the race of cattle, which they may have avoided for a any number of reasons.   The distinction is solely size differences with full size animals obviously being aurochs, smaller cattle as domestics and yet smaller cattle.

The important take away is the speed to which cattle 'appear'.  In others, they were imported or more likely, Halafians imported themselves, which, 60 years ago would be like 'duh'.

Link at the bottom.

2.5" Halaf Obsidian Link, part of a collection in corner of house
 (British Museum, 1934,0210.502AN258429001, FI-000841148)

"Documenting the initial appearance of domestic cattle in the Eastern Fertile Crescent (northern Iraq and western Iran)"

Benjamin S. Arbuckle, Max D. Price, Hitomi Hongo, Banu Oksüz


In this paper we address the timing of and mechanisms for the appearance of domestic cattle in the Eastern Fertile Crescent (EFC) region of SW Asia through the analysis of new and previously published species abundance and biometric data from 86 archaeofaunal assemblages. We find that Bos exploitation was a minor component of animal economies in the EFC in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene but increased dramatically in the sixth millennium BC. Moreover, biometric data indicate that small-sized Bos, likely representing domesticates, appear suddenly in the region without any transitional forms in the early to mid sixth millennium BC. This suggests that domestic cattle were imported into the EFC, possibly associated with the spread of the Halaf archaeological culture, several millennia after they first appear in the neighboring northern Levant.


  1. BBB,
    Hey, is that obsidian wrist protections?
    I mean pretty similar to Bell beaker wrist protections, no?

    Or is that something else?

    1. No, these are small links that form a set of something found in the corner of a house. The British museum has them arranged in a necklace format.

  2. Similar paper, but referring to goats. -;jsessionid=948ECA9AD36CC15FBC853E1FFA72D1F7.f01t04

    Goats from Shulaveri-Shomu site of Goytepe...
    One more proof it was an exogenous population arriving in Shouthern caucasus by 6,000bc

    1. I'm not sure I understand. The oldest managed or domestic goats are in Ganj Dareh in the Early Neolithic, one of the subjects of the Llorente paper. ?

  3. BBB,
    Ganj Dareh would play beautifully into my narrative, because if we have a guy in northern Iran as P* (maybe r1b) and another Bronze age confirmed R1b in the region of shulaveri as per latest Laziridis paper...all well to my from Shulaveri2Bellbeaker.
    However and I still have to carefully read the paper - But what it seems to imply is that at least goats in the southern Caucasus (shulaveri- Shomu itself such as Goytepe) are of the same haplogroup as the one in eastern Anatolia and not local wild domesticates. So those goats did not come with people from the south shores of the Caspian (like from ganj dareh) but goats from eastern Anatolia. Dont know what to make of it. this paper in this post also seems to indicate cattle from sort of west/south into caucasus, right?

  4. added note: Pretty annoying that with inhumations in the same place in Goytepe they manage to get DNA of goats and not people?! - What the hell!

  5. Do they advance any plausible reasons why it took so long for domesticated cattle to spread to the Eastern Fertile Crescent from the Western Fertile Crescent?

    Thousands of years is an awfully long time for technology transfer between neighboring cultures not that far apart geographically that have had trade relationships with each other since the earliest days of the Neolithic Revolution if not before.

    Do you suppose that there might have been some sort of cattle killing infectious disease in the Tigris-Eurphates Valley that some strain of cattle finally developed immunity to (paralleling the Congo basin barrier to agriculture spread from West Africa to Southern African prior to Bantu expansion)? Was there a patch of desert between the two that couldn't be bridged until the climate shifted a bit?

    1. Sorry, just saw your comment. Could be something environmental like water availability. I'm not sure why some technologies spread so slow, vitrified pottery as one example. There's almost a ten thousand year delta between East Asia and the West.