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From western cowboys to eastern shepherds: Funerary practices and animal husbandry in Mauretania and Numidia from the first millennium BC to circa 500AD

AuthorsCruz-Folch, Irene; Valenzuela-Lamas, Silvia
Roman times
Issue Date25-Mar-2018
CitationQuaternary International 471(part A): 175-189 (2018)
AbstractThe use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in zooarchaeological studies and the comparison with other data sources are still very limited. This paper presents the results of a combined study of funerary monuments and animal husbandry practices dated from the first millennium BC to circa 500 AD in the present-day territories of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The main objectives were to determine whether Roman boundaries in the Maghreb were created based on existing cultural differences, and to explore changes and/or continuities in funerary practices and meat diet between territories and cultural groups. The multi-disciplinary approach revealed the existence of clear differences between the western and eastern area considered, both in animal husbandry and funerary practices. A prevalence of primary inhumations in bazinas was attested in Morocco and western Algeria, contrasting with the prevalence of secondary ‘defleshed’ depositions in dolmens in eastern Algeria and Tunisia. Regarding animal husbandry, sites located in present-day Morocco and western Algeria had higher relative frequencies of cattle compared to sheep/goats oriented husbandry at sites in eastern Algeria and Tunisia, at both Phoenician-Punic and indigenous sites. The results suggest the existence of distinct cultural groups that display different funerary practices and animal husbandry strategies in the first millennium BC, and that these differences persist over time. A possible economic frontier sits between the eastern limit of the Atlas Tellien and the Aures Mountains. Interestingly, a mixture of indigenous funerary practices is attested there, which suggests that it was an area of contact between different cultural traditions. The combined results roughly coincide with the limits of the Roman provinces of Mauretania Tingitana, Mauretania Caesariensis and Africa Proconsularis, thus suggesting that Romans considered previous existing boundaries to organise the territory.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2017.10.023
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