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Animals in social life: Hunting and herding in Iron Age southern India

By Radhika Lu Bauer


In order to create a more holistic perspective on the interrelationships between human and animal populations, this dissertation considers animals as integral and dynamic aspects of human social life. Using data excavated from the Iron Age (1000 B.C. to 300 B.C.) site of Kadebakele (Northern Karnataka, India) as a case study, I examine intersecting issues regarding the current state of knowledge in South Indian (pre)history, and zooarchaeological approaches to animal use. First, I explore anthropological considerations of social organization, highlighting the notion that social relations of difference are shifting and mutable; this insight stands in contrast to historiographical narratives of South Asian (pre)history, which have often emphasized static hierarchy and inequality. Furthermore, my research rejects traditions of considering South India derivative of the northern subcontinent, rather than an independent locus with unique, historical trajectories. Second, I consider zooarchaeological studies of animal use with specific focus on models of subsistence and social relations. Specifically, the coupling of subsistence modes and social organization has led to erroneous assumptions that do not adequately represent the complexity of social life. Further, animals are ritually used in ways that cannot be subsumed under rational-economic models of resource exploitation. Finally, faunal data from Kadebakele provides evidence for a subsistence regime that differentially included hunting, herding and ritualized use of cattle. These data suggest that quotidian consumption incorporated non-mammalian taxa, while domestic stock was reared for secondary products. Cattle were imbued with social value, and were ritually consumed in feasting events associated with megalith construction. The social distinctions associated with these tasks were therefore overlain and differentially highlighted in Iron Age society. This dissertation concludes that animals must be conceptualized as integral components of social life; residents of Kadebakele engaged with animal populations in different ways, and these interactions were central to their relationships with one another

Topics: Archaeology|Asian History|South Asian Studies
Publisher: ScholarlyCommons
Year: 2006
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Provided by: ScholarlyCommons@Penn
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