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The scale and significance of early animal husbandry in SW Europe: development of an interdisciplinary high-resolution approach to the investigation of livestock diets and herding practices.


In the history of early farming, the absolute scale and relative importance of livestock and crop husbandry, their degree of
integration, and their landscape impact are largely obscure. To address this issue, GeoFodder will develop for the first time
an interdisciplinary methodology that integrates geoarchaeological and archaeobotanical techniques for archaeological
recognition of leafy browse and leafy fodder (currently not directly detectable) and for assessing the preservation of different
plant resource types, with the ultimate aim of reconstructing early livestock diet and herding practices. To achieve these
objectives, an innovative ethnoarchaeological and experimental programme will study present-day livestock penning
deposits (for which herding practices, animal diets and depositional processes are known) to determine how dietary and
other plant components are altered and partly preserved through ingestion, organic decay and (to sterilize pens) burning.
This will generate a suite of geoarchaeological and archaeobotanical proxies, for different plant types (taxa, anatomical
parts, seasons) with different preservation histories (ingested, decayed, burnt), that will then be applied to analysis of
prehistoric penning deposits in Iberian caves and rock-shelters. The resulting semi-quantitative data on livestock diet in
particular contexts will underpin modelling of the qualitative and temporal dimensions of early livestock grazing/
browsing and foddering at intra- and inter-site levels to enable assessment of the potential scale of herding and thus of the
likely mobility of livestock and relative importance of crops and livestock in early farming. Geofodder will thus advance our
understanding of early livestock husbandry in the SW Mediterranean, contribute to assessment of the long-term landscape
impact and sustainability of herding, and establish methodological standards for investigating such questions in other regions
and periods.

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Firth Court Western Bank
S10 2TN Sheffield
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 183 454,80