Domestic Stock Age Profiles and Herd Management Practices: Ethnoarchaeological Implications from Maasai Settlements in Southern Kenya
Age profiles of domestic stock from East African late Holocene archaeological sites have been used to make inferences regarding the advent and development of early pastoral economies ca 5000 to 2000 years ago. This ethnoarchaeological study among contemporary pastoral Maasai of southern Kenya was undertaken to examine the basis of these inferences in particular, and the interpretations that have been made regarding prehistoric herd management practices generally. Age profiles at the Pastoral Neolithic sites and those of contemporary Maasai settlements appear to be very similar. This supports the hypothesis that modes of subsistence and herd management practices at the prehistoric sites may have been closely similar to modern ones. Results also show that natural factors of mortality, rather than intentional culling contributed significantly to faunal accumulation on the Maasai settlements studied. I suggest that the reconstruction of prehistoric herd management on the basis of age profiles should consider the role of natural causes of mortality, and the possibility that intentional strategies of culling may play a more limited role in the formation of the zooarchaeological record than previously suggested.