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Title: The history of the European aurochs (Bos primigenius) from the Middle Pleistocene to its extinction : an archaeological investigation of its evolution, morphological variability and response to human exploitation
Author: Wright, Elizabeth
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2013
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The aurochs (Bos primigenius) was an important animal to humans, during prehistory when it was widely hunted, and in some areas also during historical periods. It is generally agreed to be the wild ancestor of domestic cattle (Bos taurus) and therefore an in-depth knowledge of this animal is key to research exploring human-cattle interactions, and the origins and spread of cattle domestication. Domestic cattle are smaller than their wild ancestors, but there is also a degree of overlap between the two species, which means that distinguishing them can be problematic. However, previous analyses of aurochs morphology have generally been patchy, and do not provide a picture of aurochs variation across Europe according to environment, climate and geography. We also do not have a good chronological overview for any specific area of Europe. As a consequence, zooarchaeologists often refer to comparative biometrical data from geographical areas and time periods which may not be suitable for identifying remains from their study area. This thesis provides the widest ranging review of aurochs material in Europe to date, bringing together aurochs bone and tooth biometrical information from a number of European geographical areas and time periods, in order to gain a better understanding of the morphological variation of this animal, and provide a data resource which can be used in future for more geographically and temporally relevant identifications. A number of patterns of body size and shape variation were identified including a south-north cline in body size during the Pleistocene and Early Holocene, and hints of a west-east cline during later periods. An increase in the body size of the aurochs during the Chalcolithic period in Iberia is particularly intriguing as it fits with similar patterns previously identified for other animals. A general slendering of certain postcranial bones over time has also been identified; this begins during the Pleistocene and therefore cannot be solely linked with domestication. Possible interpretations of these findings, and others, are discussed.
Supervisor: Albarella, Umberto Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available