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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: August 2009

Ch. 2 - BUILDING THE BARNYARD

Summary

There is in every animal's eye a dim image and gleam of humanity, a flash of strange light through which their life looks out and up to our great mastery of command over them, and claims the fellowship of the creature if not of the soul.

John Ruskin

HUNTING WAS THE MAJOR preoccupation of people everywhere around 18,000 years ago and there were plenty of caribou and bison to be hunted – these animals still staring out at us from cave paintings at Lascaux in southwestern France and Altamira in Spain. But over millennia, as temperatures grew warmer, herds were nudged northward. The caribou, probably the most important game animal in Europe, had long sustained humans and some followed the animals. Others, however, faced up to the problem by taking charge of the caribou, leading them between winter and summer feeding grounds, and harvesting individuals as needed for food. Does this mean that animal domestication preceded that of plants? Not really. These animals were probably no more domesticated than the wild grasses being harvested at the time. Most experts are convinced that domesticated plants came before domesticated animals, save the dog, and that the former were vital to the domestication of the latter.

Climatic change at the tail end of the Ice Age produced forests on what had been bare steppes and crafted a habitat of wild plants that fed smaller creatures such as deer, hare, boar, and various birds.

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A Movable Feast
  • Online ISBN: 9780511512148
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511512148
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