À l'aube de la domestication animale. Imaginaire et symbolisme animal dans les premières sociétés néolithiques du nord du Proche-Orient.


fr Anthropozoologica 39 (1) - Pages 143-163

Published on 30 July 2004

This article is a part of the thematic issue Animal domestications: social and symbolic dimensions. Homage to Jacques Cauvin

At the dawn of animal domestication. Animal symbolism in the first Neolithic societies of the northern Levant.

During the process of neolithisation in the Near East (12th-7th millennia BC cal.), with the establishment and development of agriculture and herding, the ideological preoccupations of human societies expressed themselves in various ways and in various materials. Only certain types of evidence have survived. The most frequent are burial practices, ritual deposits of animal bones, and geometrical, human and animal representations. In this article we wish to stress the importance of animal representations for the study of the symbolic system, particularly in the light of recent discoveries in northern Syria and south-eastern Turkey. All the available data placed in perspective indicate, for this region, a veritable explosion of animal symbolism at the end of the PPNA horizon (9500-8700 BC cal.), prior to the appearance of the first domestic animals. At this period, the recurrent themes in the iconography are bulls, felines (panther), canines (fox), diurnal birds of prey (vulture) and snakes ; these do not at all correspond to the species which were commonly consumed. Once the production economy is fully mastered, during the middle PPNB (8200-7500 BC), these symbols appear to disappear, with the exception of the bull, and are replaced by representations of domestic animals.


Prehistory, Neolithic, Near East, symbolism, animal.

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