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Animals

Pigs soon became very important as a wealth item, with consumption of pork showing high status. Domesticated pigs are now reported by 7000 ВСЕ (Lawler 2009), though this date is questioned. The possibility of their being domesticated in China, independently of the Near East, is still open (Larson et al. 2010).

By 6000 ВСЕ, pigs were domesticated in China (and also, apparently independently, in West Asia) and being fed millet husks and waste (Jing and Flad 2002; Li Liu 2004). It is possible that they occurred even earlier; bones from 7000 maybe those of domesticated swine (Cohen 2011). This is about as early as domestic pigs are also found in the Near East; they were independently domesticated in both places. This is not surprising. Pigs, like many animals, tame themselves if fed, and they are very good eating. People all over the world keep young wild pigs (and other wild game) today, especially if hunters kill a mother and young ones are left. The young are eaten when they grow big. This provides a good context for domestication. The most tranquil young may not be killed until they have bred, and thus tranquility and "domestic"-ness are selected. Tame pigs have had their brains reduced in size by a third, more than any other animal; they have been bred for docility, nonaggression, and sloth (Zeder 2012). They are still fairly intelligent as animals go, but nothing like a wild pig or peccary.

Early use and steady increase in importance of pigs is visible in the archaeological record. Significant pork-eating and the pattern of status consumption are clear by 3000 ВСЕ (S.-O. Kim 1994). This set a pattern; the same is true today throughout China except in Muslim areas. However, it is much more evident in north China than in the Yangzi country. The latter had so much game and fish that these resources remained more important than domestic livestock until quite late, perhaps 2000 (Yuan et al. 2008). Fish were so important in the lower Yangzi area that people were buried with them. Perhaps this was food for the other world. Fish may have been sacred (as some still are in south China) or may have been totems or spirit companions. Domestic dogs have existed in China since around 8000 ВСЕ (Liu and Chen 2012: 56)— at least as long as pigs and probably longer. In fact, the dog may be partly of Chinese origin—genetics is equivocal but does not rule out an East Asian input into the domestic dog. Chinese has two words for dog. An ordinary dog is gou. The other word is a classical stylish word, guan, "hound," an obvious Indo-European borrowing (Mair 1998) cognate with the English word. Mair thinks gou too may be IE (from Tocharian), but it seems to be older and indigenous, and I think it derives from the proto-Tibeto-Burman (= proto-Sino-Tibetan) form, which was something like kwe.

Dogs too suffered from the skull and tooth reduction that marks modern animals; compared to wolves, dogs have 30 percent less brain mass. The difference comes largely in the sensory, motor, and emotional areas of the brain; fierceness and extreme power have been bred out of them (Zeder 2012).

Meanwhile, sheep were domesticated around 8000 ВСЕ in the Near East. Recent evidence suggests that domesticated sheep came from the Near East across Central Asia. It now seems highly unlikely that sheep were domesticated independently in China (contrary to earlier speculations, e.g., E. Anderson 1988). In China they may go back to 4000 (Liu 2004: 59), but probably only to 2500 (Jing and Campbell 2009). The sheep are of a species found all across Asia then and now (Jing and Campbell 2009), but domestic sheep appear to be directly descended from a Near Eastern subspecies; still, the question is not closed. They are found earlier in Central Asia than in China.

Goats, which are strictly Near Eastern in origin, did not appear in China till 2800 ВСЕ (Liu 2004: 59). Cattle and other Near Eastern domesticates got to China even later (cattle by 2500; Jing and Campbell 2009). Magnificent longhorns like Texas longhorns are shown on bronze sculptures from the Dian culture in early medieval Yunnan (personal observation, Yunnan Provincial Museum). Other early animals include chickens, domesticated apparently in what is now southern China (B. West and Zhou 1988) by 4000 ВСЕ or earlier (Liu 2004), almost certainly by Thai-speaking peoples (see above).

Water buffaloes, so essential to rice cultivation, were possibly domesticated as early as 5000 ВСЕ (Olsen 1993) but probably not till much later, since early finds claimed to be domestic were actually wild (Liu 2004: 59). The buffaloes appear especially in the Hemudu area (lower Yangzi Valley), already a center of rice agriculture (as it still is). Water buffaloes were certainly domesticated by the dawn of empire in China—some 2000 years ago or earlier. They seem, however, to have been of an Indian variety, which, if true, means they were introduced already domesticated, from farther southwest (Liu and Chen 2012:109-10).

Horses came only later and will be discussed below. Wild animals exploited in the early Neolithic include "sika deer, water buffalo, water deer, hare, cat, raccoon dog, tiger, and bear" (Liu 2004: 59), among others. All these are still eaten or used for medicine.

Around 7000 years ago, the Western world experienced a dramatic "secondary products revolution" (Sherratt 1981). This was the development in the Near East (rapidly spreading to Europe) of dairying, wool production, hide processing, and use of other products of domestic animals over and above meat and furred skins. China never took to dairying, but it did do a great deal with hides, hair, and bones; the early cities had bone workshops that reached considerable size.

 
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