Traction in Neolithic Çatalhoyük? Palaeopathological analysis of cattle and aurochs remains from the East and West Mounds

Safoora Kamjan*, Pınar Erdil, Esmee Hummel, Çiler Çilingiroğlu, Canan Çakirlar

*Corresponding author for this work

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Cattle traction was a technological innovation that made a significant impact on production, individual and household wealth, and social organisation. Despite ongoing debates regarding the origins and extent of the harnessing of cattle power among early agropastoral societies, only a few studies have attempted at addressing this matter systematically. In Neolithic Çatalhoyük, several studies have explored the symbolism and domestication of aurochs and cattle, while the systematic investigation of Bos skeletal remains regarding the presence of cattle traction has been missing. This study focuses on Neolithic Çatalhoyük in Central Anatolia, renowned for its cattle symbolism, to explore the possibility of cattle traction in the 7th and 6th millennium BCE. We studied the palaeopathological traces on the lower limbs of Bos from Çatalhoyük East (Early, Middle, and Late) and West Mounds. Our results suggest that arthropathies are present on the Bos lower limbs (particularly anterior elements) in all phases of Neolithic Çatalhoyük. ̈ Pathological and sub-pathological changes are on average more severe among the small cattle of Çatalhoyük ̈ West than in the preceding periods at Çatalhoyük East, a result affected by a few rather deformed specimens in Çatalhoyük West. We did not observe any clear correlation between cattle survivorship, size, and pathology severity. Although an unequivocal association between pathologies and traction in prehistoric cattle remains challenging, we discuss plausible explanations for the changing nature and intensity of cattle pathologies at Çatalhoyük ̈ throughout time. Furthermore, we discuss the implications of possible draught use of cattle for the socioeconomic shifts Çatalhoyük experienced in the 6th millennium BC.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101412
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Early online date26-Apr-2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2022

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