Looking for constraints: Caprine Husbandry Strategies

Identifying ancient biomolecules in arid environments to unravel past human adaptations to climate change.

As a result of numerous factors, including climatic change, past human societies integrated new subsistence strategies based on the domestication of species. The incorporation of domesticated caprines, namely sheep (Ovis aries) and goats (Capra hircus) into dietary strategies is particularly difficult to assess in archaeological assemblages of the Levant and Africa due to the fragmentation of the remains. Indeed, in such arid environments the existing strong morphological similarity between these caprine species and other representants of family Bovidae is emphasised by particularly harsh burying conditions that greatly affect the bone matrix.

The project is focused on the specific identification of faunal remains from seven archaeological sites located at comparable latitudes in the Levant and Africa. Those sites have been chosen for their well documented stratigraphies covering the end of the Pleistocene and the beginning of the Holocene, allowing to get better insights on numerous climatic events alongside the introduction of domesticates into past human subsistence strategies.

Using palaeoproteomics, we will rely on biomolecular data from the archaeological remains to identify them to genus or species level. In addition, in order to expand currently available protein sequences databases, de novo sequencing of a small number of wild bovids is carried out, allowing to refine zooarchaeological identifications. After precise molecular identifications, reconstructions of the consumed species will be carried out and, coupled with paleoenvironmental data, this allows to document putative changes in the dietary behaviour of past human populations.