1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Top 6 Signs of Animal Domestication

How Can Archaeologists Tell if an Animal is Domesticated?


The domestication of animals was an important step in our human civilization, involving the development of a partnership between human and animal. The essential mechanism of that domestication process is somebody selecting for an animal's behavior and body shape to suit his or her specific needs.

The process of domestication is a slow one, and sometimes archaeologists have a difficult time identifying whether a group of animal bones in an archaeological site represents domesticated animals or not. Here is a list of some of the several signs that archaeologists look for in determining whether the animals in evidence at an archaeological site were domesticated, or merely hunted and consumed for dinner.

1. Body Morphology

One indication that a particular group of animals might be domesticated is a difference in body size and shape between an archaeological assemblage and animals found in the wild, called morphology.

2. Population Demography

Population demography refers to differences in the range of genders and ages between a domesticated group of animals and those found in the wild.

3. Site Assemblages

Site assemblages--the content and layout of settlements--hold clues to the presence of domesticated animals.

4. Animal Burials

How the remains of an animal are buried has implications about its status as a domesticated partner.

5. Animal Diets

A domesticated animal will eat differently than one in the wild, normally; and this dietary change may be identified through the use of stable isotope analysis.

6. Mammalian Domestication Syndrome - Mechanisms Behind Animal Taming

New studies published in 2014 suggest that the entire suite of behaviors and physical modifications developed in domesticated animals--and not just the ones we can spot archaeologically-- might very well have been created by genetic modifications of a stem cell connected to the central nervous system.


©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.