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Animal Domestication in the Near East
Research on the origins of animal domestication in the Eastern Fertile Crescent focuses on the study of curated collections of sheep and goat bones from archaeological sites in Iran and Iraq now housed in the Smithsonian and other museums around the world. This research has succeeded in developing a new method for constructing sex-specific harvest profiles that have proven effective in identifying the initial stages of animal management in the archaeological record. Using this technique we have been able to detect clear signs of human management of goat herds at about 10,000 years ago in the highlands of southwestern Iran. It is likely the leading edge of domestication of goats, as well as sheep and pigs occurred somewhat earlier from 11,500-15,000. The research has been instrumental in demonstrating that signs of human management of animals can be detected 100s of years before any morphological changes in the size or shape of skeletal remains. It has been instrumental in changing our understanding of not only the markers of initial domestication in animals, as well as the timing and location of the earliest steps toward animal domestication.
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