Twenty-first century European husbandry results from thousand-year-old experiences. This project aims at giving a historical dimension to the growing questioning on present day herding practices among European consumers. Sheep, goat, cattle and pig were domesticated ca. 8500 cal. BC in the eastern Taurus. From there they spread to most of the Near East and entered Europe at the turn of the 7th millennium BC. They reached the North-western Europe coasts by the beginning of the 5th millennium and colonised the British islands during the 4th and 3rd millennia BC. Whereas domestication of European wild boar could have occurred, European aurochs did not contribute significantly to cattle populations. Sheep and goat do not have wild ancestors in Europe. Most of these animals actually stem from populations transferred from the Near East. The spread of domestic species outside the natural range of occurrence of their wild counterparts, their keeping in environmental settings different from their natural ecological niches, and the will to stimulate milk production in bovines and ovicaprines, imply some modifications in dietary and reproduction behaviours of domestic animals. Neolithic herders developed zootechnical skills to insure survival of their stock and the adaptation of their production strategies to new environments. The objective of this project is to evaluate the environmental and physiological constraints on the adaptation of stock keeping in Europe, and to determine to what extant Neolithic herders could modulate the biological system with technical choices. Landscape use, seasonal foddering, seasonality of birth and duration of lactation will be addressed using stable isotope analysis on animal bone and teeth. The animals stress condition will be assessed through analysis of enamel hypoplasia. The project includes Neolithic sites from Caucasia, Eastern, Central and Western Europe. It will necessitate methodological developments on modern reference skeletons.
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