The social uses of animals in the Halaf period: On the meanings of animal remains and animal representations

by Lonneke Grimbergen

Institution: Leiden University
Year: 2016
Keywords: Halaf; Near East; social; meaning; symbolism; animal; pottery; figurines; remains; zooarchaeology
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2068629
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/41878


Animals have played a major role in the Halaf. Animals did not only figure in Halaf subsistence and the economy, but they also played a prominent role in symbolism. We encounter animals in different material categories, as images in wall paintings, on Halaf Fine Ware ceramics, sealings, and as stamps for sealing, amulets, and figurines. Animal remains have been found alongside those of humans, or in other special or ritual contexts. How can we understand these animal representations and ‘ritual’ animal deposits? This preliminary study explores the meanings of animals in the Halaf by using a new approach that was never employed in this area before: Social zooarchaeology. Social zooarchaeology views animals not only as ‘good to eat’, but also as ‘good to think with’ as Lévi-Strauss so famously pointed out. This study investigates multiple case studies from various sites, like Domuztepe (Turkey), Tell Kurdu (Turkey), Kazane Höyük (Turkey), Fıstıklı Hüyük (Turkey), Tell Sabi Abyad (Syria), Tell Khirbet esh-Shenef (Syria), Tell Arpachiyah (Iraq), Banahilk (Iraq), and Yarim Tepe I and II (Iraq). In order to interpret the various animal representations and ritual deposits, every material category and ritual animal deposit is considered in its depositional context and context of use. Furthermore, comparisons with the zooarchaeological record are made, and subsistence. Four main contexts can be recognized in which animals fulfilled symbolic roles, and these often overlap: 1) Domestic space, 2) ‘ritual’, including communal events, commensality and burial, and 3) administration, including storage, the marking of property, and the usage of objects as mnemonic devices, and 4) bodily adornment. It appears that animals might have functioned as a common spoken language in the sharing economy, figuring in complex narratives, myths, and rituals, enforcing human-human relationships and tying together diverse people from various backgrounds in communal events. Advisors/Committee Members: Düring, Bleda (advisor).