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Journal Article

Sorting the sheep from the goats in the Pastoral Neolithic: morphological and biomolecular approaches at Luxmanda, Tanzania


Janzen,  Anneke
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Prendergast, M. E., Janzen, A., Buckley, M., & Grillo, K. M. (2019). Sorting the sheep from the goats in the Pastoral Neolithic: morphological and biomolecular approaches at Luxmanda, Tanzania. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 11(6), 3047-3062. doi:10.1007/s12520-018-0737-0.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-7072-F
Large-scale reconstructions of the spread of food production systems require fine-scale analyses of dietary evidence. One current impediment to understanding early African pastoralism is a lack of high-resolution portraits of herd management, specifically with respect to sheep (Ovis aries) and goat (Capra hircus), osteologically similar but behaviorally distinct caprines. In this study, we argue for the anthropological relevance of distinguishing sheep and goat remains in African pastoralist contexts, commenting upon implications for ecological settings and pastoralists’ strategies for production and risk management. We explain why sheep/goat distinction is rare in African zooarchaeological studies, particularly in comparison to Southwest Asia. We then apply three methods to distinguish caprines in an archaeofaunal sample from the Pastoral Neolithic site of Luxmanda, Tanzania, dated to c. 3000 BP: morphological identifications by two independent analysts, collagen-peptide mass fingerprinting (Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry, ZooMS), and carbon stable isotope analyses. A comparative assessment of the results demonstrates the ability of biomolecular methods to improve resolution of faunal records, particularly where preservation is poor. We call for wider application of these methods to legacy collections, in order to refine existing regional models for the spread of herding in Africa, and to better understand ancient pastoralists’ herd-management decisions.