Russell, N., Martin, L. and Buitenhuis, H. 2005. Cattle Domestication at
Current Anthropology 46: S101-108.
Prior to this study, there had been two previously published works
examining the issue of whether the cattle at Catalhöyük are
morphologically wild. The first of these was a brief preliminary
analysis published in 1969 by Dexter Perkins. Unfortunately, there was
no follow-up report.
The second study was published by Pierre Ducos in 1988 and concluded
that while the cattle were morphologically wild, they were managed by
However, the bones from James Mellaart's excavation, on which these
studies were based, have been lost.
In order to re-examine the issue, the authors utilised faunal samples
drawn from the Hodder excavations in the period 1995-2001.
Mellaart had divided the site into architectural levels I-XII. Hodder's
team have added levels XIIA-E, older than Mellaart's level XII; an
addition of 400 years to the chronological sequence.
Perkins' cattle bone sample of 45 specimens was drawn from level VI and
levels X-XII. He looked at size reduction by measuring the distal
breadth of the humerus. The former's breadth was 86.3mm and the latter,
102mm. When combined with a rise of cattle bones as a percentage of the
faunal assemblage from 70% to 79%, he concluded that cattle
domestication was occurring, or had occurred, in situ.
Hodder's re-exacavation has revealed that the preponderance of cattle
bones was the result of poor faunal recovery. The percentage of cattle
bones in the newly excavated assemblages ranges from 20-25% in the
respective equivalent levels.
Russell et al. examined the faunal assemblages from three arbitarily
defined phases: Pre-XIIA-D (7400-7000 BC) and KOPAL (off the tell),
VII-XII (7000-6500 BC), and VI-IV (mostly VI, 6500-6300 BC).
The postcranial breadth and depth (but not length, due to potential for
distortion because of weight) measurements were compared against a
"standard animal", in this case the Ullerslev cow from Denmark.
In interpreting the results, it was noted that "the breadth and depth of
cattle metapodials, especially metacarpals, tend to reflect sexual
dimorphism more clearly than other skeletal elements". While the
proximal and distal metacarpals do indeed fall into two groups, similar
results were not obtained for the scapulae and distal metatarsals. Thus,
the morphological size range is more likely to be due to sexual dimporhism.
There was a shift towards female cattle in Phase 3, which is attributed
to an increased targetting of females in female-dominated auroch herds.
However, the authors also note the result of a study by Zeder and Hesse
(2000), which concluded that the origins of goat herding were
foreshadowed by an increase in the culling of females.
The cattle remains in the faunal assemblages from the later layers are
currently being examined, but the authors note that, as yet, no signals
of local domestication events have been found.
An option that the authors have not examined in depth in publication,
but which they leave the possibility open for, is that a form of
controlled management (see Kusimba (2005) for an overview of
archaeologically, ethnographically and historically recorded food
extraction behaviours) may have been practiced in Phase 3 which set the
socio-economic and ideological framework for the later acceptance of
externally domesticated cattle. Future publications will shed light on
this and other important questions which their study raises.
Kusimba, S. 2005. What Is a Hunter-Gatherer? Variation in the
Archaeological Record of Eastern and Southern Africa. Journal of
Archaeological Research 13, 337-366.
Perkins, D. 1969. Fauna of Catal Hüyük: Evidence for Early Cattle
Domestication in Anatolia. Science 164, 177-179.
Zeder, M. and Hesse, B. 2000. The Initial Domestication of Goats (Capra
hircus) in the Zagros Mountains 10,000 Years Ago. Science 287, 2254-2257.