Study papers

Kill-off Patterns in Sheep and Goats: the Mandibles from Aşvan Kale

Sebastian Payne

Reports on animal bones from archaeological sites often include information about the “kill-off pattern” for each species – i.e. the relative representation of different age-groups in the sample. Osteologists believe that this information can be used as evidence for whether an animal was wild or domesticated, and, if domesticated, about the way in which man managed the animal. In this paper a method is described for recording such data for sheep and goat using mandibles and mandibular teeth; the analysis and interpretation of such data is discussed using excavated samples from Aşvan Kale.

When people keep sheep or goats, the age at which the animals are slaughtered depends on a range of factors: on the relative value placed on the different products, on the characteristics of the stock, and on a range of environmental factors – in particular, seasonal variation in the availability of grazing and feed. If meat production is the aim, most of the young males are killed when they reach the optimum point in weight-gain, only a few being kept for breeding.