This article advances the hypotheses that sheep (Ovis aries Linnaeus, 1758) and goats (Capra hircus Linnaeus, 1758) in the Neolithic Middle East were employed regularly as pack animals and were domesticated to serve as pack animals. The employment of pack ovicaprines, especially pack goats, can explain how obsidian and other goods that circulated in exchange networks were transported across long distances and mountainous terrain. A pack goat can carry 30% of its weight over 24 km of mountainous terrain daily. A lactating dam can provide milk for human consumption on the trail. Compared to pack sheep and pack cattle, pack goats are more agile and adaptable to a greater variety of environments. Training a goat to pack is not difficult, and research on caprines’ social preferences suggests that the wild sheep (Ovis orientalis Gmelin, 1774) and wild goat (Capra aegagrus Erxleben, 1777), if born in human captivity, could be trained to pack. Findings support the hypothesis that dairying originated from the training and use of pack goats in the Neolithic. Goats usually don’t sustain bone pathology from bearing pack loads, and bone pathology and increased bone robustness from pack-bearing, especially of goats, may be impossible to discern from the faunal record. Neolithic figurative evidence of pack ovicaprines is highlighted.
Domestication, milking, ovicaprines, goats, Neolithic, Middle East, pack animals, exchange networks.