Pigs and the Spread of Farming in Europe

Back in March I wrote a post about what the ancient pig DNA can tell us about the colonization of the Pacific Islands by Polynesians. A new article that will be published in PNAS, by the same group behind the last study, looks at Europe and the spread of farming. Science Daily has some details:

The research by an international team led by archaeologists at Durham University, which is published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, analysed mitochondrial DNA from ancient and modern pig remains. Its findings also suggest that the migration of an expanding Middle Eastern population, who brought their ‘farming package’ of domesticated plants, animals and distinctive pottery styles with them, actually ‘kickstarted’ the local domestication of the European wild boar.

The article goes on to point out that the later European pigs went on to spread across the European continent and back into the Middle East – the reasons for the latter are unknown.

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3 Responses

  1. Maybe the reason the pigs ended up in the Middle East later is because they were brought by citizens of conquering empires. To the indigent population, the pig is unclean; and everything the pig touches is unclean. When the conquering empire failed, the pigs were destroyed. The next conquerors brought new pigs.

  2. I doubt it, back migration is a much simpler explanation. Incidentally, the idea that pigs are unclean comes about 4,000 years after the time referred to in my post.

  3. In addition, the pig was not unclean to all Middle Eastern societies back when. To the Canaanites the pig was even a holy animal, and had a prominent place in their social and religious life.
    I suspect that the Europenized pig was introduced into the Middle East because it was larger, grew faster, and bred faster and thus made for a better investment for the farmer.

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