Hollanda Araştırma Enstitüsü  -  Nederlands Instituut in Turkije

Pig data as a proxy for investigating cultural identity and social dynamics in Late Bronze Age Kaymakçı, Western Turkey

Francesca Slim (Groningen University)

My project concerns the study of archaeological animal bones from the Late Bronze Age (3000 years ago) mega-site of Kaymakçı, located in Manisa, Western Anatolia. Particular attention is paid to pigs, as the relationship between humans and pigs throughout history is controversial. For instance, nowadays pigs are associated with the meat bioindustry, or occur in proverbial expressions with often a negative connotation. This perception of humans on pigs stands in stark contrast to past human-pig interactions. In the Late Bronze Age Aegean, pigs were part of elite food cultures and religious practices, as seen from archaeological data, iconographic images, as well as Homeric writings. Alternatively, pigs have frequently been associated with the lower classes of society and smaller, rural settlements. The relationship between humans and pigs is thus portrayed by a highly dynamic trajectory.
I am using the pig bone data to study hunting and animal husbandry practices at Late Bronze Age Kaymakçı by reconstructing the demographic and metric features of the ancient pig population. The pig data and deduced human-pig relationships can be used as a proxy to infer about cultural affiliations and social dynamics of Kaymakçı’s ancient population. Within the material culture excavated by the Kaymakçı Archaeological Project (KAP), Mycenaean as well as Central Anatolian influences are visible, regions with both varying interactions and perceptions on pigs. Comparing human-pig interactions between these regions can therefore shed light on the degree to which concepts regarding elite hunting, animal husbandry, food culture, and daily and ritual practices were shared.
My stay at the NIT allowed me to study an essential part of the faunal assemblage from Kaymakçı, as the study of archaeological materials needs to take place in Turkey. The gathering of the primary data by studying the bones allowed me to expand my dataset, take measurements, and include previously unstudied contexts. During my stay at the NIT I was facilitated with a pleasant workspace and equipment, close proximity to useful literature, the possibility to meet with the Kaymakçı excavation directors (Dr. Christopher Roosevelt and Dr. Christina Luke) and even the possibility to call upon the help of specialists (thank you, Dr. Scott Haddow). Most of all, I want to thank Dr. Fokke Gerritsen and Güher Gürmen for the friendly and helpful working environment at the NIT that gave me the opportunity to work in great contentment and to get through studying all those bones!