Friday, May 18, 2007

The domestication of the African wild ass

Profile of Fional Marshall, and details of her work into the domestication of the donkey. The donkey was domesticated in Egypt during the late Neolithic period, and was the most important pack animal until the camel came into mainstream use under the Ptolemies:

"Marshall is an African archaeologist whose research incorporates zooarchaeological and ethnoarchaeogical approaches to the beginnings of food production and the development of pastoralism — tending of large herds of animals — in northeast Africa. She has published many articles on these topics and is conducting a National Science Foundation-sponsored multi-year study on African pastoralism and the domestication of the donkey. . . . Marshall also examined modern African populations in an attempt to determine how many people use donkeys and whether or not they are important to modern pastoralist societies. 'No one has ever examined the importance of the donkey to pastoralists,' she says. 'Everyone knew donkeys were important to the early states because the Egyptians used them to establish land-based trade with the Sumarians and others. In fact, they were so important that donkey skeletons have been discovered in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs.' "