Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 237–251 | Cite as

Long-term morphological changes and evolving human-pig relations in the northern Fertile Crescent from 11,000 to 2000 cal. bc

  • Max D. PriceEmail author
  • Allowen Evin
Original Paper


The pig (Sus scrofa) was one of the earliest animals in the ancient Middle East to undergo domestication. Scholars have long been interested in the pig’s unique history, especially in the northern Fertile Crescent (NFC), the region in which the first steps towards pig domestication took place in the ninth–eighth millennia cal. bc. Yet, few zooarchaeologists have studied the morphological changes in pigs and other animals over the long term, especially in the periods after the initial appearance of domesticates. We combine geometric morphometrics (GMM) and more traditional biometrics to demonstrate how suid morphology evolved over a long timespan: 11,000–2000 cal. bc. Our GMM and biometrical data from Jarmo and Domuztepe, Neolithic sites occupied after the first domestic pigs emerged in the region, show that wild boar continued to play important roles in human-suid relations. More generally, our data show a gradual reduction in size and the attainment of a “morphological plateau” in the fourth millennium cal. bc. We suggest that these changes reflect (1) the evolution of pig husbandry practices over time in response to deforestation, intensive agriculture, and urbanism and (2) a reduction in the frequency of hybridizations between wild boar and domestic pigs.


Pigs Sus Biometrics Geometric morphometrics Near east Domestication 



Many thanks to Melinda Zeder, Richard Meadow, Ajita Patel, Gil Stein, Elizabeth Carter, and the staff at the Field Museum (especially Bill Simpson) for facilitating access to zooarchaeological collections. Thanks also to Hitomi Hongo for discussing the details of the Çayönü Sus material with us and to Jesse Wolfhagen for discussing mixture modeling. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Funding information

This research was supported by a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant (Award #1405344) and a Smithsonian Short-Term Visitor Fellowship.

Supplementary material

12520_2017_536_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 15 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Christian-Albrechts University of KielKielGermany
  2. 2.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Institut des Sciences de l’Évolution de Montpellier, UMR 5554 CNRS, EPHE, IRD 226, CNRS, IRD, EPHE, CiradUniversité de MontpellierMontpellier cedex 05France
  4. 4.Department of ArchaeologyClassics and Egyptology University of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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