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Northern Mesopotamian Pig Husbandry (Late Neolithic-EBA)

Data related to documenting pig husbandry strategies in northern Mesopotamia from the 7th through 3rd millennium.

Project Abstract

Site Names and Periods:

All dates are in calibrated BC:

  • Hallan Çemi Tepesi (Turkey): 11th-10th millennium
  • Qalat Jarmo (Iraq): mid-8th-mid-7th millennium
  • Domuztepe (Turkey): early 6th millennium
  • Gird Banahilk (Iraq): early-late 6th millennium
  • Tell Ziyadeh (Syria): early-late 5th millennium
  • Tell Mashnaqa (Syria): early-late 5th millennium
  • Hacinebi Tepe (Turkey): early-late 4th millennium
  • Tell Atij (Syria): early 3rd millennium
  • Tell Raqa’i (Syria): early 3rd millennium
  • Tell Leilan (Syria): early-late 3rd millennium
  • Tell Umm Qseir (Syria): early-mid 6th millennium


Zooarchaeology, Pigs, Sus, Mesopotamia, biometrics, geometric morphometrics, pathologies


This dataset contains information related to documenting pig husbandry strategies in northern Mesopotamia from the 7th through 3rd millennium. Data are from archaeologically recovered pig bones and teeth and include the following:

  1. measurements of teeth;
  2. measurements of post-cranial elements;
  3. tooth eruption and wear data;
  4. incidence of linear enamel hypoplasia;
  5. incidence of dental calculus;
  6. photos of teeth and landmarks used for geometric morphometrics;
  7. data from dental microwear analysis.

All data are recorded for individual specimens along with information relating to archaeological context.

The data were collected to provide information on ancient pig diet, health, size and shape, and age-at-death. The ultimate goal was to understand ancient husbandry strategies. This project was a specialized zooarchaeological study, and did not include more general zooarchaeological analyses such as identifying the relative abundances of taxa. All of the assemblages had been analyzed by previous zooarchaeologists, and their decisions, often undocumented, necessarily shaped the nature of the assemblage and the data to which I had access.

For each assemblage, I went through curated collections (sometimes boxes of unsorted bones, sometimes sorted according to taxon, sometimes sorted according to skeletal element) and pulled out pig bones and teeth. Of course, the potential for error is always there: previous analysts could incorrectly sorted bones or I could have missed relevant specimens while going through boxes. In three assemblages (Hallan Çemi, Hacinebi, and Domuztepe), I had to sub-sample. Sampling was done in a randomized fashion. I did not, however, permanently record which boxes I sampled and which I left unsampled (in retrospect, a regrettable oversight!). Moreover, future analysts may have difficulty matching the specimens in my database to those in the assemblage since I did not mark the bones I analyzed (this was not allowed by most curators).

The raw data for geometric morphometrics are photographs of specimens with plotted landmarks. In this case, the data consists of individual photographs of upper and lower M2s and M3s and their landmarks.

Methodological Notes:

The methodology will be detailed in the dissertation. Methodological notes will be added here.

Potential Applications of Dataset:

The dataset should provide a good baseline for future projects related to documenting pig husbandry using the methods described above. In addition, it provides a set of baseline measurements for pigs in Mesopotamia and the rest of the Middle East.

Related Publications:

The dataset will be replicated in a PhD dissertation (Max Price, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, 2016).

Coding Scheme References:

Dobney, K. and A. Ervynck

A Protocol for Recording Linear Enamel Hypoplasia on Archaeological Pig Teeth. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 8:263-273.

Driesch, A. von den

A Guide to the Measurements of Animal Bones Archaeological Sites. Peabody Museum Bulletin 2, Cambridge (MA).

Grant, Annie

The Use of Tooth Wear as a Guide to the Age of Domestic Ungulates. In Ageing and Sexing Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites, edited by B. Wilson, C. Grigson and S. Payne, pp. 91-108. British Archaeological Reports, British Series. British Archaeological Reports (BAR) British Series 109, Oxford.

Payne, S. and G. Bull

Components of Variation in Measurements of Pig Bones and Teeth, and the Use of Measurements to Distinguish Wild from Domestic Pig Remains. Archaeozoologia 2:27- 66.

Suggested Citation

Max Price. (2016) "Northern Mesopotamian Pig Husbandry (Late Neolithic-EBA)". Released: 2016-03-01. Open Context. <> DOI:

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