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Wild Sheep

24 August 2017

At https://phys.org/print422623388.html … wild sheep lived and thrived in the Black Desert region of eastern Jordan in the Late Pleistocene. To be exact, during the warm period separating the end of the Late Glacial Maximum and the onset of the cold Younger Dryas climatic period, known in Europe as the Bolling and Alleroed warm periods. The research is published in the Royal Society's Open Science journal and the field evidence was recovered by the University of Copenhagen.

14,500 years ago, roughly 600 years prior to the Younger Dryas episode and therefore contemporary with Clovis in N America and the Magdalenian in Europe (Late Palaeolithic). The desert zone of eastern Jordan and western Iraq clearly did not exist at that time – or during the early Holocene. It is much more inhospitable today than it was even a couple of thousand years ago. Humans in the Late Pleistocene were able to exploit wild herds of sheep and gazelle – and this activity likely persisted into the early Holocene. However, at some point people in the region (including eastern Syria and northern Arabia as well) learnt to manage the herds and eventually domesticate them as they became rare in the wild. These sheep herders had a role during the Sumerian and Babylonian periods as they provided sheep for sacrifice in major temple complexes in the sedantory areas surrounding the steppe or grassland zone.

The area is now arid but whenever climate swung in the past as a result of temporary monsoon shifts the grass pasture was reduced – and may even have temporarily disappeared in some cases. This caused a series of incursions by sheep herders into surrounding regions where farmers were dominant – and there were towns and cities with a sophisticated economy. This occurred fro example around 3000BC, 2300-2000BC, and again at the end of the Late Bronze Age (and is reflected in the Biblical story of David and his relationship with the Arameans).

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