aurochs and potential crossbreeding with domestic cattle in central

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  • 7ANTHROPOZOOLOGICA 2008 43 (2) Publications Scientifiques du Musum national dHistoire naturelle, Paris.

    Aurochs and potential crossbreedingwith domestic cattle in Central Europein the Eneolithic period.A metric analysis of bones from the archaeologicalsite of Kutn Hora-Denemark (Czech Republic)

    Ren KYSELInstitute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, v.v.i.

    Letensk 4, Prague 1, 118 01, Czech

    KEY WORDSAurochs,

    Bos primigenius,Bos taurus,

    central Europe,Czech Republic,

    Kutn Hora-Denemark,osteometry,

    intermediate form,crossbreeding,

    local domestication.

    Kysely R. 2008. Aurochs and potential crossbreeding with domestic cattle in CentralEurope in the Eneolithic period. A metric analysis of bones from the archaeological site ofKutn Hora-Denemark (Czech Republic). Anthropozoologica 43(2): 7-37.

    ABSTRACTThe site of Kutn Hora-Denemark (3 444 bones or bone fragments identi-fied) shows, contrary to most of the other seventeen Early and MiddleEneolithic sites in the Bohemian basin, a high percentage of hunted animals(more than a half). Aurochs are widely represented among 918 bovine bones.Besides metrically reliably determined aurochs and domestic cattle there is ahigh quota (almost a half) of intermediate sized bones, which could belong to:(1) large domestic males, (2) female aurochs or to (3) cross-breeds of bothforms or to locally domesticated cattle. Some proposed indications supportthe third hypothesis.The theoretical aspect of the problem is discussed at first (summary of know-ledge concerning aurochs; body size; variability components; domestication).The subsequent analysis is based mainly on metric evaluation of twelve widthmeasurements on long limb bones and phalanges (in total 483 data). Thisstudy contributes to the long standing debate concerning the local domesti-cation/crossbreeding of wild and domestic animals in Central Europe, i.e.outside the main domestic centre in the Near East.

    RESUMLaurochs et lhypothse de son croisement avec des bovins domestiques en Europecentrale pendant le Chalcolithique. Analyse ostomtrique du site archologique deKutn Hora-Denemark (Rpublique tchque). la diffrence de la plupart des autres dix-sept sites de lpoque du Chalco-lithique ancien et moyen dans le bassin tchque, Kutn Hora-Denemark(3 444 os ou fragmentes osseux dtermins) contient un taux lev de gibier(plus de la moiti). Les restes osseux du gibier montrent la prsencemarquante des aurochs. ct des aurochs et des bovins domestiques dter-mins (NR = 918) de manire certaine sur la base des donnes mtriques, on

  • Kysely R.

    8 ANTHROPOZOOLOGICA 2008 43 (2)


    This study was initiated by the determinationand archaeozoological analysis of osteologicalassemblage from the middle Eneolithic site atKutn Hora-Denemark; distr. Kutn Hora,ivn culture; see The site at Kutn Hora-Denemark (Kutn Hora distr.), Fig. 1, no 12.During the initial analysis a number of interme-diate sized bones were registered among reliablyidentified small domestic cattle and big wild cat-tle (aurochs). These intermediate large and notclosely assigned bones (described as Bos sp.) formalmost half of all cattle bones (the relationship ofdomestic, wild and unspecified cattle, accordingto the number of fragments, is 274: 181: 460).Differentiation among cattle (Bos genus) andfrom the wisent (Bison bonasus Linnaeus, 1758)were not possible in some cases, nevertheless thebones of wisent were most probably not presenton the site at all or only in an insignificant per-centage. Two facts support this presumption:(1) definitely classified bones from Kutn Hora-Denemark were always assigned to the Bos1

    genus, (2) wisent has not been reliably identifiedon a single Czech prehistoric site since theNeolithic (see Kysely 2005).

    The first part of the article summarises the pres-ent state of knowledge of the problem and analy-ses, in detail, its theoretical substance. Since ananalysis of aurochs problems for the regiondescribed has not so far been published, it isemphasised. Methodology is further proposedand analysis of the data is introduced in a form ofa case study.


    AUROCHS HISTORY, BIOLOGY, SIZEAurochs (Bos primigenius Bojanus, 1827) is theonly ancestor of all domestic breeds of cattle (seeZeuner 1963, Clutton-Brock 1999, Bradley &Magee 2006). In prehistory it inhabited a wide areafrom India to Great Britain in the west, to southScandinavia in the north and North Africa in thesouth (distribution map: e.g. in Murray 1970 andClutton-Brock 1999). In Europe as well as in TheNear East a subspecies Bos primigenius primigeniusoccurred, from which tauroid breeds of domesticcattle are derived (Bos taurus). Zeboid breeds (Bosindicus) are on the other hand derived from asouthasian subspecies of aurochs (Bos primigenius

    trouve un fort pourcentage (presque la moiti) dos de taille intermdiaire quipourraient appartenir (1) de grands mles domestiques, (2) des femellesdaurochs, (3) des croisements entre buf et aurochs ou des bovins domesti-qus localement. Quelques indices prsents appuient la troisime hypothse.La partie thorique de la problmatique (rsum des connaissances sur lesaurochs, la taille du corps, les lments variables, la domestication) est toutdabord discute. Lanalyse qui suit est base sur lvaluation mtrique surdouze mesures de la largeur dos longs et de phalanges (483 donnes). Cettetude contribue au dbat de longue date sur la domestication locale et lecroisement danimaux domestiques et sauvages en Europe centrale, rgionsitue hors du centre principal de domestication au Proche-Orient.

    MOTS CLSAurochs,

    Bos primigenius,Bos taurus,

    Europe centrale,Rpublique tchque,

    Kutn Hora-Denemark,ostomtrie,

    formes intermdiaires,croisement,

    domestication locale.

    1. Determination was done by comparison with collection skeletons (in archaeozoological laboratory of theInstitute of Archaeology in Prague) and with help of determinative literature (Olsen 1860; Stampfli in Boessnecket al. 1963, Patou-Mathis & Auguste 1994).

  • Aurochs and potential crossbreeding with domestic cattle in Central Europe in the Eneolithic period

    9ANTHROPOZOOLOGICA 2008 43 (2)

    namadicus). This postulate by Zeuner (1963) wasconfirmed by genetic studies (see Bradley etal. 1996, Bradley & Magee 2006). It was a com-monly hunted species in prehistory in the CentralEurope. In The Czech republic there is a good evi-dence of aurochs both in Bohemia as well as inMoravia. The phylogenetic divergency ofEuropean aurochs (haplogroup P), i.e. geneticisolation from Near East aurochs (and thus laterdomesticants) happened, according to a study byEdwards et al. (2007), ca 10 000-30 200 BP.A relatively high frequency presence on Neolithicsites indicates its abundance in nature. Significantdecrease of aurochs occurrence, probably in connec-tion with human presence, is evident since theNeolithic to the Bronze Age (Kysely2005, Fig. 2).Aurochs finds occur up to Early Medieval times,the latest osteological evidence from The Czech

    repub lic being the 10 th/ha lf of the13th century AD (Kysely 2005). Osteological evi-dence from the High Medieval Ages is missing.Presumably since the 13th century it lived in pre-serves only (fiukaszewicz 1952). Following his-toric sources Europe in the beginnings of the15th century did not know aurochs nor wisent(Rokosz 2006). Nevertheless sporadic (natural?)occurrence is possible even later, as is indicated byfinds from Germany dated up to the turn of the14th/15th century AD (summary of the finds inPrilloff 1994). In Poland, its last refuge, it sur-vived till post medieval times. The last individualdied in 1627 in Jaktorow near Warsaw(fiukaszewicz 1952, C lutton-Brock 1999,Guintard & Rewerski 1999, Rokosz 2006).Biotope requirements of aurochs are not com-pletely clear, but generally it could have been a

    FIG. 1. Map of the Czech Republic with the sites included in the analysis. 1: Tuchomrice; 2: Trmice; 3: Jentejn; 4: Drouzkovice;5: Litovice; 6: Makotrasy; 7: Vikletice; 8: Hostenice; 9: Mochov; 10: Praha-Mikovice; 11: Stehelceves-Homolka; 12: Kutn Hora-Denemark; 13: Velk Prlepy; 14: Radovesice. (Inforgraphists: M. Erne & R. Kysely).Kutn Hora-Denemark site marked with a cross; borderline of the Czech Repubic dashed.

  • forest animal. Lengerken (1955) mentions itsoccurrence in alluvial forest, Lehman (1949)states, that it lived on the border of both sparseand dense forests. Also recent publications(Clutton-Brock 1999) suggest that aurochs livedin forest environments or, if necessary in openbushy scrub landscapes. Other authors(fiukaszewicz 1952, Legge & Row ley-Conwy 1988, Van Vuure 2005) describe aurochsas an inhabitant of both types of environment:forest as well as open landscape. Otherwise a spe-cial relationship with sedge marshes and marshyforests is suggested (Van Vuure 2005). Lastgroup of aurochs in Polish Jaktorow lived in awoody, wet terrain, which is likely to be a refuge,therefore not completely corresponding with atypical and original biotope. Degerbl (inDegerbl & Fredskild 1970) considers aurochs asa forest animal, although he describes it also fromthe late dryas. In general, aurochs is believed tohave been a grazer (Grigson 1978, VanVuure 2005). However Schneeberger (exGesner 1602) mentions the importance of acornsin autumnal diet and branches of bushes and

    trees in the winter diet. New informationdeduced from isotope analyses of southernScandinavia aurochsen show changes in a dietduring the time corresponding with environmen-tal changes, specifically a change from an open toforested ecosystem (Noe-Nygaard et al. 2005).According to this work, in the Neolithic periodaurochsen were feeding in forests while domesticcattle grazing on


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