Station: [206] Domestic Animals

The lime-rich soils that are found inside settlement pits, for instance, often contain animal bones. The domestic animals that are known to have existed in the Neolithic period, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats did not evolve from the local wild animals. Genetic research has shown that the ancestors of sheep and goats, the mufflon and Bezoar goat, were native to the mountains of the Middle and the Near East.   Domestic cattle and pigs were descended from Eastern variants of the aurochs and wild boar that were present in Central Europe.

These domesticated animals had to forage in the woodlands for their food. Bone finds reveal that many settlements specialised in particular types of animal, and we can work out the ratio of animal to plant food in the diet.  We can also find out how much wild game was eaten, compared with domestic animals. After all, hunting still played an important part in the food supply.

Domestic animals didn’t only supply meat and milk, the bones, sinews and skins were also used.  This is shown by a number of bone tools, such as this bone awl, and the vertebra hammer with a wooden handle and cord, inside the showcases, here. Bones were also used for making jewellery; animal skins were fashioned into clothes and covers, and sinews were turned into tough cords.