MEAT EATING AND PREHISTORIC HUMANS
Ann Gibbons wrote in National Geographic: “Meat has played a starring role in the evolution of the human diet. Raymond Dart, who in 1924 discovered the first fossil of a human ancestor in Africa, popularized the image of our early ancestors hunting meat to survive on the African savanna. Writing in the 1950s, he described those humans as “carnivorous creatures, that seized living quarries by violence, battered them to death … slaking their ravenous thirst with the hot blood of victims and greedily devouring livid writhing flesh.” [Source: Ann Gibbons, National Geographic, September 2014 /*/]
“Eating meat is thought by some scientists to have been crucial to the evolution of our ancestors’ larger brains about two million years ago. By starting to eat calorie-dense meat and marrow instead of the low-quality plant diet of apes, our direct ancestor, Homo erectus, took in enough extra energy at each meal to help fuel a bigger brain. Digesting a higher quality diet and less bulky plant fiber would have allowed these humans to have much smaller guts. The energy freed up as a result of smaller guts could be used by the greedy brain, according to Leslie Aiello, who first proposed the idea with paleoanthropologist Peter Wheeler. The brain requires 20 percent of a human’s energy when resting; by comparison, an ape’s brain requires only 8 percent. This means that from the time of H. erectus, the human body has depended on a diet of energy-dense food—especially meat.
Websites and Resources on Prehistory: Wikipedia article on Prehistory Wikipedia ; Early Humans elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; Prehistoric Art witcombe.sbc.edu/ARTHprehistoric ; Evolution of Modern Humans anthro.palomar.edu ; Iceman Photscan iceman.eurac.edu/ ; Otzi Official Site iceman.it Websites and Resources of Early Agriculture and Domesticated Animals: Britannica britannica.com/; Wikipedia article History of Agriculture Wikipedia ; History of Food and Agriculture museum.agropolis; Wikipedia article Animal Domestication Wikipedia ; Cattle Domestication geochembio.com; Food Timeline, History of Food foodtimeline.org ; Food and History teacheroz.com/food ;
Archaeology News and Resources: Anthropology.net anthropology.net : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; archaeologica.org archaeologica.org is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine archaeology.co.uk is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience livescience.com/ : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons: online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel archaeologychannel.org explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites besthistorysites.net is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities essential-humanities.net: provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory
12,000-Year-Old Feast of Wild Boar, Deer and Aurochs
Feasting of meat, chopping, hauling, bone tossing, jewelry making and boasting are all suggested by remains found at a prehistoric Danish butchering site, called Lundy Mose, described in a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Jennifer Viegas wrote in discovery.com: “Bone fragments belonging to wild boar, red deer and aurochs were unearthed. But the hunters clearly had a taste for elk meat, since elk remains were prevalent at the site, located in South Zealand, Denmark. “Due to very good conditions of bone preservation, Lundby Mose offers exceptional opportunities for detailed reconstruction of exploitation patterns, and allows a very precise picture of the different activities involved in elk exploitation,” archaeologist Charlotte Leduc of the University of Paris wrote. [Source: Jennifer Viegas, discovery.com, October 7, 2013 ~~]
“Her detailed analysis of the remains determined that the hunters first cut around the elk heads and other parts of the body in order to remove the hides. At least one of the hides then likely became a perishable container, comparable to a garbage bag, upon which refuse was placed and later bundled. The hunters then removed meat from easy-to-access parts, such as the limbs, and likely feasted on it right then and there. No roasting pit or evidence for fire is mentioned, so it might have been consumed raw. All skeletal parts containing marrow — now a delicacy in many fine restaurants — were fractured to enable its extraction. ~~
“Wietske Prummel of the University of Groningen, who analyzed another prehistoric Northern European butchering site, told Discovery News that marrow was usually “consumed by hunters immediately after butchering. It was their reward for the successful kill.” The hunters skillfully cut around the body, trimming fat and boning meat for later easy consumption. Leduc thinks much of the meat could have been transported to a nearby settlement site. Before that happened, however, the hunters removed select bones, such as from the long limbs, likely for making bone weapons and tools. They also removed the antlers. ~~
“The elk’s shoulder blade bones were taken out and afterwards, back at the settlement, “were sometimes worked and used presumably as knives for fish processing,” Leduc suspects. As the hunters worked, they appear to have dumped waste material onto the reserved hide. It was later tossed into a nearby lake. The front teeth of the elks were missing, suggesting “a specific status of front teeth for the hunters,” according to Leduc. Other prehistoric hunt scenes support this theory, as do discoveries of prehistoric tooth bling. ~~
“This series of events likely played out countless times, even long before 12,000 years ago. “Modern humans hunted and butchered large game and cooked the meat from circa 45,000 years ago when they arrived in Europe,” Marcel Niekus of the University of Groningen, told Discovery News. The practices probably even went back to Neanderthal times, but not necessarily to the benefit of these now-extinct members of the human family tree. A prior study in the Journal of Anthropological Science, authored by Fernando Rozzi of France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), suggests that around 30,000 years ago, a person in France might have consumed a Neanderthal child and made a necklace out of its teeth.” ~~
Feast of Turtles and Steak for 12,000-Year-Old Female Shaman
The world's first known organized feast — or food event of any kind — appears to have been a meal for 35 people that included the meat 71 tortoises and at least three wild cattle held around 12,000 years ago at a burial site in Israel. Jennifer Viegas wrote in Discovery News: “The discovery additionally provides the earliest known compelling evidence for a shaman burial, the apparent reason for the feasting. A shaman is an individual who performs rituals and engages in other practices for healing or divination. In this case, the shaman was a woman. "I wasn't surprised that the shaman was a woman, because women have often taken on shamanistic roles as healers, magicians and spiritual leaders in societies across the globe," lead author Natalie Munro told Discovery News. [Source: Discovery News, Jennifer Viegas, August 30, 2010 ||~||]
“Munro, a University of Connecticut anthropologist, and colleague Leore Grosman of Hebrew University in Jerusalem excavated and studied the shaman's skeleton and associated feasting remains. These were found at the burial site, Hilazon Tachtit cave, located about nine miles west of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. According to the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the grave consisted of an oval-shaped basin that was intentionally cut into the cave's floor. "After the oval was excavated, the sides and bottom of the floor were lined with stone slabs lined and plastered with clay brought into the cave from outside," said Munro. ||~||
“The 71 tortoise shells, previously butchered for meat removal, were found situated under, around and on top of the remains of the woman. The woman's skeleton indicates she suffered from deformities that would have possibly made her limp and "given her an unnatural, asymmetrical appearance." A large triangular stone slab was placed over the grave to seal it. Bones from at least three butchered aurochs -- large ancestors of today's domestic cattle -- were unearthed in a nearby hollow. An auroch's tail, a wild boar forearm, a leopard pelvis and two marten skulls were also found. ||~||
“The total amount of meat could have fed 35 people, but it is possible that many more attended the event. "These remains attest to the unique position of this individual within her community and to her special relationship with the animal world," Munro said. Before this discovery, other anthropologists had correctly predicted that early feasting might have occurred just prior to the dawn of agriculture. ||~||
Harvard's Ofer Bar-Yosef, for example, found that fig trees were being domesticated in the Near East about 11,400 years ago, making them the first known domesticated crop. Staples such as wheat, barley and legumes were domesticated in the region roughly a thousand years later. Full-scale agriculture occurred later, about 10,000 years ago. As agriculture began, however, "there was a critical switch in the human mind: from exploiting the earth as it is to actively changing the environment to suit our needs," Bar-Yosef said. Munro agrees and thinks the change could help to explain the advent of communal feasting. "People were coming into contact with each other a lot, and that can create friction," she said. "Before, they could get up and leave when they had problems with the neighbors. Now, these public events served as community-building opportunities, which helped to relieve tensions and solidify social relationships."” ||~||
Evidence of 7700-Year-Old Barbecue Found in the Netherlands
According to an article in July 2011 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, 7,700-year-old remains of aurochs found in the valley of the River Tjonger, Netherlands, provide direct evidence of a hunting, butchering, cooking and feasting event that occurred more than 1,000 years before farming and cattle domestication arrived in the area."The animal was either caught in a pitfall trap and then clubbed on the head, or shot with a bow and arrow with flint point," co-author Wietske Prummel, an associate professor of archaeozoology at the University of Groningen, told Discovery News.[Source: Jennifer Viegas, Discover News, June 27, 2011 ***]
Jennifer Viegas wrote in Discover News: “Prummel and colleague Marcel Niekus pieced together what happened by studying an unearthed flint blade found near aurochs bones. These show that after the female aurochs was killed, hunters cut its legs off and sucked out the marrow. According to the study, the individuals skinned the animal and butchered it, reserving the skin and large hunks of meat for carrying back to a nearby settlement. Chop marks left behind by the flint blade show how the meat was meticulously separated from the bones and removed. ***
“Burn marks reveal that the hunters cooked the meaty ribs, and probably other smaller parts, over an open fire. They ate them right at the site, "their reward for the successful kill," Prummel said. The blade, perhaps worn down from so much cutting, was left behind and wound up slightly scorched in the cooking fire. Niekus told Discovery News, "The people who killed the animal lived during the Late Mesolithic (the latter part of the middle Stone Age). They were hunter-gatherers and hunting game was an important part of their subsistence activities." The researchers suspect these people lived in large settlements and frequented the Tjonger location for aurochs hunting. After the Iron Age, the area was only sparsely inhabited — probably due to the region becoming temporarily waterlogged — until the Late Medieval period.” ***
Aurochs, A Favorite Stone Age Meat Source
Aurochs, wild Eurasian oxen with large curved horns, were larger than their descendants, modern domesticated cattle. They were a favored meat source. Some of the early people that ate its first consumed the bone marrow and then the ribs. Jennifer Viegas wrote in Discover News: ““Aurochs must have been good eats for Stone Age human meat lovers, since other prehistoric evidence also points to hunting, butchering and feasting on these animals. A few German sites have yielded aurochs bones next to flint tool artifacts. Aurochs bones have also been excavated at early dwellings throughout Europe. [Source: Jennifer Viegas, Discover News, June 27, 2011 ***]
“Bones for red deer, roe deer, wild boar and elk were even more common, perhaps because the aurochs was such a large, imposing animal and the hunters weren't always successful at killing it. At a Mesolithic site in Onnarp, Sweden, for example, scientists found the remains of aurochs that had been shot with arrows. The wounded animals escaped their pursuers before later dying in a swamp. ***
Members of the even-toed ungulate family and cousins of buffalo, musk oxen, wild oxen and yaks, aurochs were huge animals, standing two meters at the shoulder, with long horns. Bulls were black with a white stripe running down their back. Cows were slightly smaller and reddish brown in color. Domesticated cattle are much smaller than aurochs.
Auroch ranged across Africa, Asia and Europe. Early men hunted them and depicted them in 30,000-year-old rock paintings. Their bones have been found at many early human settlements. Small shrines made from their horns were erected in 8,000-year-old settlements in Turkey. They endured until the 17th century when were made extinct by hunting and deforestation. The last auroch died in Poland's Jactorowka Forest in 1627. Wietske Prummel, an associate professor of archaeozoology at the University of Groningen, told Discovery News: "It became extinct due to the destruction of the habitat of the aurochs since the arrival of the first farmers in Europe about 7,500 years ago. These farmers used the area inhabited by aurochs for their dwellings, arable fields and meadows. The aurochs gradually lost suitable habitat."
Recreation of a 9000-Year-Old Pit Roast in Cyprus
A 9,000-year-old, stone-lined, ash-covered meat-roasting pit was discovered at Prastio Mesorotsos, a site in the Diarizos Valley outside of Paphos in southwest Cyprus, by archaeologists from the University of Edinburgh in 2015. The pit was enormous: about 2.5 meters (8 feet) across and 1 meter (3 feet) deep. So big that Andrew McCarthy, director of the expedition, wasn't sure if cooking in it would actually work. "I think it's probably the closest to the theoretical maximum that a pit oven of this type could be," McCarthy told Live Science, referring to the fact that too big of a space would've taken too much energy to keep hot enough. "It was kind of at the limits of what's possible. After we reported on what was found, we decided that the best thing to do would be to test our hypothesis in a number of ways." [Source: Megan Gannon, Live Science, September 2, 2015 /^]
On McCarthy’s effort to recreate a 9,000-year-old barbecue using the same size pit, Megan Gannon wrote in Live Science: “Slightly cheating, the team used modern metal picks and shovels to build the oven. ("To get to know how to use stone tools, we would have had to train for a long time," McCarthy said.) But to gather their other party supplies, they did stick admirably close to ancient methods. They scoured local riverbeds for big igneous stones that would retain and radiate heat, and they hauled their choice rocks uphill in sacks or with a yoke made from a stick and baskets — a time-consuming and painstaking task. "We pretty much came to the conclusion that this would have been a slow process of collecting stones — maybe even over the course of years," McCarthy said. With buckets on their heads, McCarthy and his team collected the clay that they would use to hold the 400 stones in place around the outside of the oven. They made their own charcoals out of lemon and carob wood. They tanned 10 goat skins that would be used as parcels for the meat. And they crafted meat hooks out of sapling wood.” /^\
The sites of the prehistoric inhabitants contained the bones from pigs, goats and deer. McCarthy ordered a 150-lb. (70 kilograms) pig, skin on, head detached and an 80-lb. (38 kg) goat. “Days before the feast, the team let a fire burn in the stone-lined pit for 24 hours so that the ground, possibly still cold and damp from a wet winter, wouldn't suck the heat out of their oven. The day before the party, it was time to light the charcoals, and cover them with another layer of stones so the meat wouldn't directly touch the heat source. When the oven was ready, the team tossed on the pig, which had been stuffed with bulgur wheat, wild fennel stems, anise and bay leaves before getting sewn up tightly with hemp twine and packed into a blanket. The goat meat had been chopped up and divided into two parcels, spiced with herbs like wild oregano./^\
The team packed more herbs on top of the meat, before sealing the oven with stones and a clay-and-mud mixture. Then they lit another fire on top of the closed pit so that heat wouldn't escape overnight. Not until the party time were they able to excavate the meat and perform a taste test. "I think it was a success," said McCarthy, adding that he was nervous about how the meat would turn out. "It really was delicious. You could taste the lemon wood and the carob and the bay leaf. It infused into the meat."/^\
Not only was the team able to feed nearly 200 guests but they also ate leftovers for a week. Leftovers may have sustained prehistoric partygoers for even longer. "I've been told that the fat that's rendered from the pig liquefies to some extent and you can put meat in a container of the fat," McCarthy said. "The fat itself will go rancid, but the meat will not, and you can store it for up to a year." Near the original ancient barbecue pit, the archaeologists also found a roughly contemporary, but much smaller, domed oven about 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) wide. McCarthy thinks this feature was likely used not for feasts but for everyday cooking.
“While preparing the pit roast, the team inadvertently recreated some of the more elusive, sensory elements of such a prehistoric feast — namely, the spectacle of the three-day-long fire required to heat the oven. "A fire of this size sustained for three days is probably something you wouldn't have seen all the time," McCarthy said. "If you think about this being a feast, a festival or big inter-community gathering, you would have had light and heat throughout the night. This is a very dramatic spot, and where the oven is located is almost like an amphitheater — it's between two rocks, it's shaded and sheltered, but at night it would have been a real stage, and you can imagine dancing and storytelling and all sorts of activities taking place there." /^\
Scandinavians Began Fermenting Fish 9,000 Years Ago
Lund University reported: “200,000 fish bones discovered in and around a pit in Sweden suggest that the people living in the area more than 9000 years ago were more settled and cultured than we previously thought. Research published in the Journal of Archaeological Science suggests people were storing large amounts of fermented food much earlier than experts thought. [Source: Lund University, February 8, 2016]
“The new paper reveals the earliest evidence of fermentation in Scandinavia, from the Early Mesolithic time period, about 9,200 years ago. The author of the study, from Lund University in Sweden, say the findings suggest that people who survived by foraging for food were actually more advanced than assumed.The Mesolithic period, which spanned around 10,000-5,000 B.C., marked the time before people started farming in Europe. At this time, researchers previously believed groups of people in Scandinavia caught fish from the sea, lakes and rivers and moved around following the sources of food they could find. “This is a really exciting and surprising finding that gives us a completely new picture of how the group lived,” said Adam Boethius, author of the study and historical osteology PhD student at Lund University in Sweden. “We’d never seen a site like this with so many well preserved fish bones, so it was amazing to find.”
“For the first time, the new research suggests the foraging people actually settled much earlier than previously thought. They stored huge amounts of fish in one place by fermenting them, suggesting the people had more advanced technology and a more sedentary life than we thought. If the people were more sedentary, they would have been better able to develop culture. This, say the authors, makes the culture more comparable to the Neolithic people in the Middle East, who were traditionally thought to have settled much earlier than their northern European counterparts.
“Boethius and his colleagues had been excavating a site at Norje Sunnansund to rescue any artifacts from Mesolithic settlements before a road was built. As they started to dig, they found lots of fish bones, which indicated people had lived there. They then uncovered an elongated pit or gutter surrounded by small stake holes and completely filled with fish bones. “It was really strange, and because of all the fish bones in the area we knew something was going on even before we found the feature,” said Boethius. “At first we had no idea what it was so we rescued it from the area to investigate.”
“The excavation involved 16 archaeologists during five months. Boethius analyzed the feature and the contents and discovered the fish bones were from freshwater fish. He also showed the fish had been fermented – a skillful way of preserving food without using salt. The amount of fish they found could have supported a large community of people. Given the amount and type of fish found at the site, Boethius believes freshwater sources played a more important role in the development of culture in the area than we thought. He is now working on further research to find out exactly what people were eating, and how this knowledge impacts our understanding of these ancient societies.”
Britons Ate Frogs’ Legs Around 9,000 Years Ago
It appears that Stone Age Britons ate frogs’ legs 8,000 years before the French. An excavation at Blick Mead, Wiltshire, a mile or so from Stonehenge, yielded the charred bones of toad’s leg dating to between 7596 and 6250 B.C. The leader of the excavation, David Jacques, said: “We were completely taken aback.” [Source: Mark Brown, The Guardian, October 15, 2013]
Mark Brown wrote in The Guardian: “Following assessment by the Natural History Museum, it has been confirmed that there is evidence the toad bones were cooked and eaten. “They would have definitely eaten the leg because it would have been quite big and juicy,” said Jacques. And it’s not just toads’ legs. Mesolithic Wiltshire man and woman were enjoying an attractive diet. “There’s basically a Heston Blumenthal menu coming out of the site,” said Jacques. “We can see people eating huge pieces of aurochs, cows which are three times the size of a normal cow, and we’ve got wild boar, red deer and hazelnuts. There were really rich food resources for people and they were eating everything that moved but we weren’t expecting frogs’ legs as a starter.”
The discovery is entertaining, but has a wider importance, said Jacques, a s enior research fellow in archaeology at the University of Buckingham, as it adds to evidence that there was a near-3,000-year use of the site. “People are utilising all these resources to keep going and it is clearly a special place for the amount of different types of food resources to keep them going all year round. Frogs’ legs are full of protein and very quick to cook: the Mesolithic equivalent of fast food.” Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of Amesbury museum and heritage trust, said: “No one would have built Stonehenge without there being something unique and really special about the area. There must have been something significant here beforehand, and Blick Mead, with its constant temperature spring sitting alongside the River Avon, may well be it. I believe that as we uncover more about the site over the coming days and weeks we will discover it to be the greatest, oldest and most significant Mesolithic home base ever found in Britain.”
Russian Steppe Teens Ate Dogs 4,000 Years Ago in Manhood Ritual
According to a paper published in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, roasted and chopped bones from at least 64 dogs and wolves, found at the 4000-year-old site of Krasnosamarskoe (Kras-no-sa-MAR-sko-yeh), north of the Caspian Sea in the Russian steppe, were signs of an initiation rite in which teenage boys ate the flesh of dogs at a ritual site to “transform” them into men. [Source: Bridget Alex, Discover, August 8, 2017]
Bridget Alex wrote in Discover: “Initiation rites, in which boys lived in the wild, acting like wolves and dogs, are described in ancient texts of Greek, Latin, Germanic, Celtic, Iranian, and Vedic Sanskrit—all Indo-European cultures that descended from the same ancestral group. Dog- and wolf-themed initiations were “very widespread in Indo-European mythology,” says archaeologist David Anthony, who coauthored the study with Dorcas Brown, both of Hartwick College, New York. “This seems to be the first site where we have concrete evidence for the actual existence of this kind of practice.” Moreover, finding a common Indo-European ritual of this age, in this region, adds support to a debated hypothesis: that Indo-European peoples originated on the Pontic-Caspian steppe and spread across Eurasia, aided by their invention of horse-drawn, wheeled vehicles.
“The small settlement of Krasnosamarskoe held a cemetery and two or three buildings, inhabited 3,700-3,900 years ago by people of the Srubnaya culture, sedentary pastoralists of the steppe. Although Srubnaya people left no written records, some say they spoke an Indo-European language based on cultural and genetic similarities with other Indo-European groups. Archaeologists from the U.S. and Russia excavated the site between 1995-2001, to investigate if, in addition to herding, the Srubnaya were also farming, as is the case with most sedentary people. “We found no evidence for agriculture whatsoever,” says Anthony.
“What they did find was chopped dogs and wolves—a lot of them. Dozens of dogs and at least seven wolves comprised 40 percent of the animal bones at Krasnosamarskoe. Other Srubnaya sites had less than 3 percent canid. “It was a surprise. It was anomalous,” says Anthony. He recalls thinking, “uh oh what does this mean?” Butchered dogs are relatively rare from archaeological sites worldwide, according to Lidar Sapir-Hen, an animal bone specialist at Tel Aviv University, Israel, who was not involved in the study. “If they are found they are usually buried complete…eating them is not a common practice,” says Sapir-Hen.
“At Krasnosamarskoe, the dogs and wolves had been roasted, fileted and chopped into bit-sized, 1- to 3-inch pieces. Over the span of about two generations, the canids were killed predominately in winter, based on microscopic analysis of growth lines in their teeth formed annually during warm and cold seasons. Most of the dogs were old, between six and 12 years, and well treated in life; their bones showed few signs of trauma before they were sacrificed. According to Anthony, “They were familiar pets.” Cows, sheep and other animals at the site did not show these patterns. They were killed year-round, sometimes at young ages, and butchered less intensively. While other animals were chopped into eight to 23 pieces, the average dog ended up in 54 parts. “Particularly the dog heads were chopped in a very standardized way with an axe, like somebody who has practiced and done it many times,” adds Anthony. And over 70 percent of the dogs subjected to DNA analysis proved to be male, hinting the canids were involved in male initiation rites.”
Dog Ritual Settlement at Krasnosamarskoe
Bridget Alex wrote in Discover: “The dog remains caused archaeologists to reevaluate other unusual features of the site. For example, although the researchers did not find agricultural plants, they did identify wild ones with medicinal properties, such as Seseli, a sedative possibly given to animals or humans during the rituals. With 27 graves, the site’s cemetery contained mostly children and only 4 complete adults — two males and two females. The adult men had unusual skeletal injuries caused by twisting to their knees, ankles, and lower backs. [Source: Bridget Alex, Discover, August 8, 2017]
“Anthony thinks the adults represent two generations — two couples — of ritual specialists who lived at the site. And the injuries: “This is just speculative… but it might be related to shamanic dancing,” he says. Based on the archaeological finds, researchers concluded that Krasnosamarskoe was a place where males went episodically, over many years, to eat dogs and wolves during rituals overseen by the site’s residents. But to understand the meaning of those rituals, Anthony and Brown reviewed the myths of many ancient and modern cultures. “We start looking for explanations for a male-centered rite of passage in which they’re being symbolically transformed into dogs and wolves,” says Anthony.
“There turned out to be plenty of examples in ancient Indo-European texts. These widespread sources discussed groups of adolescent boys, usually from elite families, who would spend a few years behaving like dogs or wolves in order to be initiated as warrior men. During this period, the teens were permitted to “behave obnoxiously in many ways,” explains Michael Witzel, a scholar of Sanskrit and ancient mythology at Harvard University. “Use words they shouldn’t use…Take away cattle from their neighbors.” The boys could raid, steal and have their way with women. They were landless, with no possessions aside from weapons. And they symbolically became dogs or wolves by assuming canid names, wearing skins and sometimes eating the animals.
“Anthony and Brown propose that Krasnosamarskoe was the place where Srubnaya boys went to become dogs, to become men. According to Witzel, “their evidence fits quite nicely,” with the ancient texts. Regarding the dog remains, archaeologist Paula Wapnish-Hesse, says, they “present a pretty good range of arguments that are traditionally used for identifying ritual in animal bone collections.” An expert in ancient texts and animal bones, Wapnish-Hesse has analyzed the largest known dog cemetery, comprising more than 1,000 skeletons of mostly puppies, buried some 2,500 years ago at the site of Ashkelon, Israel. Their attempt to extrapolate myths to a culture without written texts, is “a very ambitious bite,” she adds. “They’re going out on a limb and it’s good.”
“However, some scholars disagree with the views that the Srubnaya culture belonged to Indo-European traditions, and that Indo-Europeans originated in the steppe. The main alternative hypothesis is that these cultures descend from early farmers of Anatolia, in present-day Turkey. To this objection, Anthony and Brown respond, in the article, that Indo-European languages were spoken across much of Bronze Age Eurasia in this period and “therefore are ‘on the table’ as possible sources of information.”
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, Ancient Foods ancientfoods.wordpress.com ; Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018