The experiment presentation of this reading amidst so many readings based upon speculations and ideas were extremely refreshing for me. I enjoy the debate that surrounds a topic that cannot honestly be answered with absolute conviction, but the constant back and forth can get repetitive. I find myself convinced of one ideal or notion on the origin of domestication only to be persuaded by another equally convincing claim. The way Anthony presented his experiment really left the decision to the reader. Of course he has to be partially biased just out of a sense of accomplishment for his work but he did an excellent job talking about skeptics of his work and even admitted to a failure. My favorite part of the reading was the competition between Levine and Anthony. After all the charts and data and reasoning I put my faith in Anthony’s mouth bit experiment over Levine’s use of variability to as a marker for domestication. The scope for the bit theory is much narrower but much more concrete in my mind. If it weren’t for the difficulty in finding proper specimens and the preciseness of the measurements it seems to me that the mouth bit theory could alone identify the origin of horse riding. Unfortunately as mentioned in the text, horses were likely domesticated first for their winter meat and it wasn’t until later that horse riding became the normal. But if we were able to unveil to questions behind the use of horses for riding then perhaps from their more could be discovered about the original domestication of the horse. The narrow scope for the bit theory does not question the validity of the experiment in my mind. When comparing the number of horses ridden to those consumed there should be no surprise that only a few teeth out of a sample show the marks of bit use. I don’t have much experience with horses but I know it must have taken a very forward thinking and brave person to suggest shoving a piece of bone into the mouth of a wild animal in order to gain control over it. I am completely sold on the bit theory and the experiment parameters. If domestication truly happened because humans found a weak male that they could control then there is no question in my mind that domestication has negative impacts on a species. Imagine where horses could be right now if we hadn’t bred the weakest of their genome.
The fact that acquiring things came before using archaeology as a tool to solve problems from the past really surprised me. I couldn’t help but wonder how much history was lost in the pursuit of simply acquiring stone, bronze and iron pieces for display. So much could have been gathered from where and why these artifacts where found. I found the idea of using the progression of materials to define periods of time very appealing. It may be a little simple but the progression of technology can really shape an entire culture and time. Innovation is a major part of culture. The second something becomes desirable because of ease or luxury, there will be those who use it to gain and those who gain to use it. This affects every aspect of a population. I think it’s unfortunate that a reoccurring theme in history is the incorporation of innovation and war. When the horse was domesticated the reading discusses transportation in the effort of making alliances, alliances against others. And then of course the benefits of horses were used over others instead of helping others. I was happy to see some undisputable evidence that Diamond’s geography theory contains some pit falls. I do not wish to completely discredit his stress on the importance of geography in domestication and evolution, but as proven in this reading there are many more variables that contribute more than geography
Why are western archaeologists so against migration as an explanation for prehistoric culture change? This came up several times in the reading.
Anthonys’ and Bulliets’ discussions of horses and donkeys paths to domestication really help to show the drastically different ways that animals come to be domesticated. Before this class, I viewed the domestication of animals as a sort of set in stone process that all animals followed to lose their wild instincts and aid humans, but throughout our readings it has become very evident that every animal has its own unique journey. It is truly astounding how some animals have worked their way into our lives as are the cases with both the horse and the donkey. For the horse it seems that it was simple as favorable winter eating habits while for the donkey it boils down to being well endowed. Such simple behaviors and attributes have led to societies that revolve around these animals in all aspects of their lives. It is hard to imagine how much history would be changed if these beasts of burden hadn’t pawed through the ice to get a drink of water on a cold winter day.
Even more relevant to me were all of the different methods that anthropologists make use of to obtain all the data we have on these domestication processes. The creativity they use to come up with answers is phenomenal. I pride them in continuing to press on with new methods and discoveries when they well know that many of the questions they are asking will never have definitive answers. No matter how much we look at the evidence of early domestication, short of time travel, we can never be certain exactly what happened; yet day in and day out these individuals head in to work and continue to try. I hope that I can be that interested and driven in my future endeavors. This was a bit of a side note but I couldn’t help but mention it just to see if any one else found this interesting. Anyways back to the blog.
Both Anthony and Bulliet’s accounts drew me in, but I must admit that it was the story of the donkey that I found most interesting. I know we have all been very hard on Bulliet and Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers but I did find his ideas on the domestication of donkeys to be interesting. Bulliet’s discussion of the development of the donkey throughout its history with humans shed a light on a side of the donkey that I was not familiar with. I have always associated the donkey with simplicity and farm life but all of the religious and sexual ties were new to me. The donkeys ties with sex and religion do provide an answer to the reason for the donkeys initial domestication which I must admit always puzzled me. The donkey never really provided the things that other domesticated species did, such as milk or meat. Also, it didn’t seem to me that the donkey could have been domesticated solely for its use as a beast of burden, as other animals that have additional uses could have filled this role. However, sex is a powerful force throughout human history, and it does not take a stretch of the imagination to see how any animal with such strong sexual ties could slowly be incorporated into human society. Sadly, it seems that the donkey has been on a steady decline throughout its history, and regardless of the validity of Bulliets arguments, it is a very good example of how domesticated animals slowly become objectified as their purpose shifts from affective uses to material ones.
In addition, as I mentioned in my last post, I really like learning about word and phrase origins. Bulliet had some very unique explanations for the origins of many of the different terms that developed around the “ass”. It is really cool to learn where words that pop up without a second thought everyday really come from. The next time I hear someone called a dumb ass it will bring a much different picture to mind. Also the whole development of the “dunce cap” finally explained how such a seemingly strange punishment came to be. It was great to add a couple more things to my bag of useless fun facts!
I thought these readings opened up a lot of new discussion topics, as well as built up many of the past thoughts we have discussed. I look forward to reading everyone’s posts and hearing what you all have to say on Tuesday.