New insights into livestock management and domestication at Tel Ro'im West, a multi-layer Neolithic site in the Upper Jordan Valley, Israel

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The issues of exactly when, where and how many times were farm animals (goat, sheep, pigs and cattle) domesticated in the Near East have been addressed for decades, using archaeological data, the frequencies of hunted and managed ungulates, bone measurements and DNA studies. In most Neolithic sites in the southern Levant, a stratified PPNB – PN sequence representing the relevant time period and direct evidence for the management and domestication phases of goats, sheep, pigs and cattle was not found or studied. The site of Tel Roʻim West (TRW) in the northern Jordan Valley encompasses such a sequence and is used here as a case study for characterizing the local trajectory leading from hunting to livestock husbandry. Our results indicate that the spatial spread and diffusion of sheep husbandry from the north to the southern Levant was via the Levantine corridor through settled land, rather than through the more arid zones to the east. In the PPNC most of the goats at the site were domesticated or at least were at a high level of cultural control. Cattle underwent a slow process of diminution. The pigs from PPNC and PN TRW were already about the size of domesticated pigs. Thus, the faunal composition of TRW reflects both change and continuity in the exploitation patterns over time. The change is apparent in the transition from the PPNB to the PPNC, when hunting became a secondary component in the subsistence economy. Continuity is evident in the gradual and long process of domesticating cattle and pigs during the PPNC and the PN. Continuity is also evident in the livestock composition at the nearby Hula valley sites, which remained largely unchanged from the Neolithic times onward.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101991
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank our partners during field work: T. Ghraieb, U. Grinberg, A. Haeim and P. Spivak. Work was carried out under Israel Antiquities Authority license number B-291/2004. The research was funded in part by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 147/04 ). We thank N. Marom and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of the paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Jordan Valley
  • Livestock domestication
  • Neolithic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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