Wealth in Livestock, Wealth in People, and the Pre-Pottery Neolithic of Jordan

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Within archaeology, the value of livestock is usually presented in terms of use values, the calories and products animals provide humans. Yet domestic animals are also sources of wealth that accrue symbolic and social values, tying livestock production to the reproduction of human social relations. Taking a Marxist perspective that recognizes dialectical relations between forms of value, we develop a model based on ethnographic examples in which the cycling between use value and social/symbolic values adhering to wealth in livestock are mobilized for the reproduction of 'wealth in people', or the accumulation of rights stemming from relationships between people. This model of cycling between forms of value can be applied to many ethnohistorical agropastoral political economies. We apply it to Pre-Pottery Neolithic B societies (c. 8500-7000 bc) in Jordan. During this time, the mode of production shifted from one grounded in the community to one centered on extended households. We suggest wealth in people was a key asset for LPPNB households and that wealth in livestock served as a major component of, and a particular 'moment' within, its reproduction. This might help explain the accelerated pace by which livestock production overtook hunting in the southern Levant in the eighth millennium bc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-82
Number of pages18
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 18 Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Archaeology


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