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Time & Location
- ,
Copenhagen, Denmark
About the Event

13th ICAANE (International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East)
22-26 May 2023 // Copenhagen

Session organized by E. Vila, J. Chahoud, M. Mashkour
The archaeology of the Near Eastern Sheep: material and intangible heritage.

The archaeology of Near Eastern Sheep: material and intangible heritage.
The sheep is one of the most represented species of domestic livestock in the Ancient Near East, in terms of faunal remains, texts, and iconographic representations. Since the domestication of this emblematic animal, the sheep has played an important role in the development and economic organization of ancient societies.
This workshop aims to discuss certain aspects of sheep husbandry and management by gathering together archaeologists, philologists, archaeozoologists, and ethnologists around the question of sheep herding from the end of the Neolithic to the Iron Age.

Several specific topics and approaches are addressed by the participants.

  • Material markers of livestock structures (enclosures, sheepfolds), herd management, territorial organisation of agro-pastoral activities.
  • Husbandry patterns, seasonal exploitation, and animal products such as meat, dairy products, fat...
  • Sheep representations in iconography and material culture


Oral Papers

1. The Image of Sheep in Ancient Near Eastern Societies

Emmanuelle Vila° & Jwana Chahoud°°
° + °° Archéorient, CNRS _Université Lumière Lyon 2
°° ArcheoSciences, Lebanese University, Beirut, Lebanon  —

Archaeozoological studies have shown that changes have occurred in sheep economy and types since their domestication. In our search to reconstruct animal management, we often interpret faunal remains as directly linked to human consumption, yet little is known about how ancient societies perceived this animal. To consider such issues, this paper attempts to combine archaeozoological results with iconography to discuss the economic role of sheep and its symbolic use in rituals and cults by ancient societies of Mesopotamia and the Levant during the Bronze Age. 

Key words: Archaeozology, Iconography, Rituals, Sheep, Levant, Mesopotamia.


2​ ​​​​. ​​
Representation of sheep in Iranian Prehistory

Marjan Mashkour
AASPE UMR 7209, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, CNRS, Paris, France & Archaeozoological section, Bioarchaeological laboratory, University of Tehran, Iran –

Since prehistoric times, Iranian archaeological sites have provided multiple testimonies that feature wild and domestic ungulates. This paper aims to give an overview of the representation of wild and domestic sheep on the Iranian plateau since the Neolithic.

Key words: Archaeology, Iconography, Sheep, Iranian Plateau


3. The sheep motif in Lebanon potmarking practices: ram’s head applications

Metoda Peršin
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany –

Potmarks are isolated signs incised, impressed, painted or applied on ceramic vessels. They have been found at many sites in the Near East and have been interpreted in various ways. This paper focuses on one group of the applied potmarks, the so-called ram’s head applications. These potmarks are one of the most frequently attested motifs among the potmarks in Lebanon. In this paper the different types of the ram’s head applications are discussed, as well as their ceramic carriers, find spots, and lastly what was their role in the regional potmarking system and how do they relate to the importance of the ram symbolism in the region.

Key words: Lebanon, pottery, potmarks, ram, symbolism


4. Sheep in the cuneiform texts from the 3rd to the early 2nd millennium B.C.  

Philippe Abrahami° & Cécile Michel°°
 °Univ. Lille, HALMA, CNRS-UMR 8164, Lille, France —
ArScAn, CNRS-UMR 7041, Nanterre, France —

Sheep played a central role in the economy of Ancient Near Eastern societies through the exploitation of its by-products. The fleece was of paramount importance for the textiles production. Leather, fat and sinews were essential raw materials for other craft sectors. Sheep was also the main provider of meat for the ancient Mesopotamians. It is therefore not surprising that it is one of the most documented animals in cuneiform texts. The present communication focuses on Sumerian and Akkadian texts dating from the middle of the 3rd to the middle of the 2nd millennium BC found in Mesopotamia, Syria and Anatolia. It will examine among others the physical features and the descriptive terminology linked to varieties such as “long fleece sheep” or “fat-tailed sheep”. Different aspects of animal husbandry will be examined including herds management, feeding methods and crossbreeding. Textual evidence relevant to the aforementioned by-products will be also presented.

 Key words: Cuneiform texts, herds, grazing, fattening, sheep by-products.

5. “101 ways to use tallow?”: On production, storage, and usage of sheep fat in third millennium BCE Mesopotamia according to written sources.

Paola Paoletti
Institut für Assyriologie und Hethitologie. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München,  Munich, Germany —

In third millennium BCE Mesopotamia, sheep provided wool and were slaughtered for exploiting fat (and meat), whereas goats provided hair, and milk for butter and cheese. In this regard, herders pursued various strategies that are reflected in the administrative textual documentation from Mesopotamia. While the exploitation of wool, goat hair, and goat milk or specific aspects thereof as well as herding strategies have been addressed in various studies over the last decades, sheep fat did not receive a comparable attention. This talk aims therefore to shed some light on the production, storage, and use of sheep fat in Mesopotamia in the second half of the third millennium BCE. To approach these topics, I will rely on written sources of administrative, lexical, and literary nature. The technical vocabulary of the administrative documents allows for both a quantification of the data and a qualitative investigation of production, storage, and use of sheep fat; lexical and literary sources may offer some glimpses into qualitative aspects rarely documented elsewhere. 

Key words: sheep fat, Mesopotamia, cuneiform sources, chaîne opératoire, craft


6. Banqueting in Kafir Kala reception hall? The role of sheep in Early Medieval Central Asia

Delphine Decruyenaere°, Alisher Begmatov°°, Amridin Berdimurodov°°°, Gennadiy Bogomolov°a, Hirofumi Teramura°b,  Takao Uno°c, Tomomi Murakami°c, Alisher Sandiboev°e & Marjan Mashkour°
°AASPE UMR 7209, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, CNRS, Paris, France -
Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, Germany
The Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan
Center for Cultural Resource Studies, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan
International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, Japan
Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan
Samarkand Institute of Archaeology, Uzbekistan
°e Archaeozoological section, Bioarchaeological laboratory, University of Tehran, Iran

The faunal remains recovered in the reception hall of Kafir Kala comprise primarily sheep remains that belong to two periods the 7-8th CE and the 8-9th CE. This hall is presumed to be originally a Sogdian Royal Residence located ca 10 km south-east of Samarkand, Uzbekistan. During the excavations of the reception hall in the shahristan area led by the Japanese-Uzbek mission, in addition to bones, wall painting fragments were also discovered. They are comparable to those of Panjikent and Afriasiab.

Banqueting scenes are common in Sogdian wall paintings. These representations show lively festivities and the guests are seen feasting in reception halls luxuriously decorated. While the murals depict some types of fruits and food difficult to interpret, meat products are regrettably thus far not well represented. However, some items, including mutton, are mentioned in written sources from Mount Mugh, another royal residence in the highlands of Tajikestan, not far from Kafir Kala. Sheep are also attested in other iconographic sources. We think that the bone assemblage from 7-8th CE is possibly remains of a banquet and will discuss in detail in its composition.

Key words: Uzbekistan, Archaeozoology, Iconography, Textual sources, Medieval period


7. What was this pot used for? An integrated approach of Prehistoric pottery analysis from Iran, between functionality and chemical signals of food.

Emmanuelle Casanova°, Om ol Banin Ghafoori°°, Hossein Davoudi°°°, Marjan Mashkour°°°°
°AASPE UMR 7209, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, CNRS, Paris, France
Iranian National Museum, Tehran, Iran —
Archaeozoological section, Bioarchaeological laboratory, University of Tehran, Iran —
°°°°AASPE UMR 7209, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, CNRS, Paris, France& Archaeozoological section, Bioarchaeological laboratory, University of Tehran, Iran

This presentation aims at presenting result of lipid residue analyses from Neolithic and Chalcolithic pottery assemblages from the Zagros region as well as south eastern Alborz.

The shape and typology of pottery is a subject of debate as for its original use and function. In this paper we would like to confront the lipid residues deriving from the preparation of meat and dairy products, and the typology and morphology of the pottery they are associated with for a better understanding of pottery function in Iranian prehistory. It is important to note in the context that sheep and goat where the most exploited animals in the studied sites and it can thus be hypothesised that the ruminant meat and dairy product derive in majority from ovi-caprines.

Key words : Zagros, Alborz, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Pottery, Lipid residue, Dairy


8. Ethno-archae(zoo)logical studies of a present-day transhumant system in the Greater Caucasus Mountains

Adeline Vautrin°, Gwendoline Lemaitre°°
AASPE UMR 7209, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, CNRS, Paris, France —
°°LESC UMR 7186, Université Paris Nanterre, CNRS, Nanterre, France —

In South Caucasus, despite complex and transhistorical pastoral cultures, studies on this theme remain locally partial, and rarely diachronic. Our respective interests in the relationship between transhumant pastoral mobility led us to collaborate on a mission in Khevsureti (Georgia) in July 2022. We will present here the stakes of this ethno-archaeozoological collaboration in order to elaborate methodological approaches in favor of the studies of extensive pastoralism in high mountains. Three themes will allow a progressive analysis of the relationships between contemporary transhumant cultures and the great diversity of traces that this way of life leaves or does not: consumption, production and habitation. This paper will therefore highlight the complexity of the modern Georgian pastoral system, in parallel with the methodological importance of taking into consideration the quantity of information lost over a long period of time, and finally discuss the methods used in archaeo(zoo)logy in order to get as close as possible to past lifestyles. 

Key-words: Ethnography, Pastoralism, Seasonality, Dairy products, Southern Caucasus