The Neolithic Agricultural Revolution: Animal Domestication

agricultural revolution
Figure 1.-- This Egytian wall painting comes from the tomb of Nebamun, a ranking official scribe. We see a herdsman with his herd of cattle. It comes from the 18th dynasty and is dated to about 1350 BC.

About the same time people began domesticating plants, they began to domesticate animals (10,000 BP). There was one exception--the dog. The dog is the oldest domesticated animal. It was domesticated before the neolithic agricultural revolution by hunter gathering people. This is because it had value in hunting as well as security. All the other domesticated animals, including cats were domesticated as part of the agricultural revolution. This process began in Mesopotamia (and connected cvilizations Egypt and the Indus Valley), but occurred independently in China a few milennia later. Ancient people began to tame animals for meat, milk, hides and subsequently for labor and transport. Hides, or the skins of animals, were used for clothing, storage, and to build tent shelters. The utility was understood by hunter-gathering people, but it is only with agriculture and settled civiization that domstication began. Goats are believed to be the first animal to be domesticated by settled or people in the process of settling (9,000 BC). This was followed closely by sheep. Cows somewhat later (about 8,000 BC). Agriculture and civilization developed, people began domesticating larger animals, such as oxen for plowing and transportation and cattle for meat, milk and hides. The donkey was the first animal used for transport and thus played a key role intrade and economic development. They became known as beasts of burden. Domesticating animals can be difficult. Some animals are not amenable to domestication such as the African zebra and wilderbest. The easiest animals to domesticate were herbivores that graze on vegetation. This is because agriculture gave people the ability to feed them. Carnovoires require people to provide other animals to feed them. The exception here was cats. But cats were usedul as mousers to protect crops and as a result could feed themselves. Cows, for instance, were easily domesticated. Herbivores that eat grains are more difficult to domesticate than herbivores that graze because grains are valuable and thus donestication required domesticated plants and the neolithic revolution. Chickens and other poultry species are herbivores that eat seeds and grain. Horses were one of the last last animals to be domesticated probably because of their speed. This occurred by pastoral people on the Eurasian Steppe (anout 3,500 BC). It was a very important development, largely because of the military potential. The available animals significantly impacted the development of society. The same animals were used throughout Eurasia. Africa was different. Species there proved difficult to domesticate. And the teeze-fly impeeded the developmnt of civilization. There were no large aminals to domesticate in the Americas which affected both trade and military potential. One impact of anifmal domestication was the cross over of many comuicable diseases that would ravage himan society and continue to this day.


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Created: 1:17 AM 4/10/2017
Last updated: 1:18 AM 4/10/2017