Animal Domestication

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Animal Domestication


For most of human existence, people lived as seasonally mobile gatherers, hunters, and fishers. A profound change in the human relationship with nature occurred when people established control over the reproduction and evolution of owned populations of other species, which became domesticated plants and animals. The early integration of agriculture and animal husbandry has been called the “Neolithic Revolution” because of its epochal transformation of the nature-society relationship. The domestication of animals is a major part of this transformation, and geographers have investigated it from their discipline's earliest formalization, in the 19th century.


Archaeologists, ecologists, and zoologists share this interest, but the geographers' approach differs from those of others in three distinctive ways. First, the geographic tradition in animal domestication studies uniquely stresses the role of ritual and religion in motivating people to take on the work and risk of animal husbandry.

Second, many geographers assert a three-stage scheme of cultural ecological change, from migratory gathering-hunting-fishing societies, through settling down in villages securely supported by fishing and successful experiments with plant propagation, to the domestication of animals, all in stable environments not strongly affected by postglacial changes. They argue that economic necessity could not have motivated such well-fed folk to domesticate animals, and so these sometimes dangerous endeavors were driven by the desire to get along with the supernatural (Mazoye, Pp: 23-69).

A third focus of the work of many geographers is diffusion(ism). This attempts to pin down the original “hearth” of domestication and then trace out the paths along which the animals themselves or the idea of their active management might have diffused.

The evolution of animals under human control eventually led to significant genetic and phenotypic divergences from wild populations. Some phenotypic changes allow advanced animal domestication to be recognized in faunal remains. Earlier stages can be detected in changing age-sex ...
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