Working at Relationships: Another Look at Animal Domestication

By O'Connor, T. P. | Antiquity, March 1997 | Go to article overview

Working at Relationships: Another Look at Animal Domestication


O'Connor, T. P., Antiquity


'Animals were wild, and then some of them were tamed and so became domestic.' The archaeological definition of 'domestic' is a fundamental, alongside the means by which the domestic is to be recognized in the archaeological record. Setting that relationship with human beings which we call 'domestication' alongside other relations between species clarifies the issues.

'Domestication' is one of those terms, like 'culture', that archaeology has long used as an important signifier, whilst struggling to find a satisfactory definition of it. As a fundamental event (or process) in the development of food production, domestication has assumed a prominence in the literature, and this paper does not set out yet another definition. The aim is to review terminology applied to functional relationships between people and other animals, and to compare our archaeological study of such relationships with respect to the zoological analysis of inter-species associations. This exercise is intended not to overthrow and replace existing models of animal domestication, but to see what may become visible from a different point of view.

'Domestication': concept and definition

Classical authors, notably Dicaearchus and Lucretius, speculated about the origins of animal domestication (Harris 1996a), and the topic was revisited by 19th-century scientists such as Francis Galton (1865). Charles Darwin's empirical observation of domestic animals contributed to his formulating the principles of natural selection (Darwin 1868). In archaeology, Gordon Childe (1928; 1936; 1942) returned to the subject repeatedly, seeking to understand both how and when the taking of crops and livestock into domestication arose. Childe's 'oasis propinquity' model held sway for a while, then fell into disfavour as overly deterministic and at odds with the palaeoclimatic evidence (Braidwood 1958); more recent analyses of the likely climatic parameters of the Younger Dryas stage in southwest Asia may be moving the argument back towards Childe's oases (Hecker 1984; Moore & Hillman 1992; Blumler 1996: 39-41; Hole 1996). Whether or not Childe is ultimately vindicated, his concern lay more with determining why a series of domestication events occurred and with the social consequences, than with detailed analysis of the nature of the relationships which resulted.

The present uneasy consensus on animal domestication can be largely traced back to papers in one conference publication: The domestication and exploitation of plants and animals (Ucko & Dimbleby 1969). In it, the late Sandor Bokonyi offered a definition of animal domestication, subsequently modified (1985) and then reiterated (1989: 22):

The essence of domestication is the capture and taming by man of animals of a species with particular behavioural characteristics, their removal from their natural living area and breeding community, and their maintenance under controlled breeding conditions for mutual benefits.

Note two things. Bokonyi sees the domestication process as heavily one-sided ('capture and taming by man of animals' - 'their removal from' - 'controlled breeding conditions'). The animals involved are essentially passive in the process, moved around and controlled to human ends, yet the last phrase refers to 'mutual benefits'. In reaction, Ducos (1989: 28-30) recapitulates an alternative definition he first published in 1978. This more anthropocentric view defines domestication as existing when living animals 'are integrated as objects into the socio-economic organization of the human group' (Ducos 1978: 54). Ducos affirms (1989: 29) that this was intended as an exclusive definition: 'Il y a domestication lorsque et seulement lorsque' - 'when and only when'; he further specifies that domestication exists because the humans, and not the animals, wish it so.

In introducing the later papers by Bokonyi and Ducos, Clutton-Brock (1989: 7) adds, with her usual clarity, a definition of a domesticated animal as 'one that has been bred in captivity for purposes of economic profit to a human community that maintains complete mastery over its breeding, organization of territory, and food supply'. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Working at Relationships: Another Look at Animal Domestication
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.