chapter  4
26 Pages

Working-animal supply logistics

WithJill Goulder

Chapters 4–7 set out the main body of insights from the 389 modern development studies which form the data-set for this book, with additional input from my two research visits to Africa. The breeding and supply of working donkeys (and cattle) constitute major industries in regions making significant use of working animals today, though with little published recognition as the operators prefer to remain outside official scrutiny. In the ancient Mesopotamian texts there is fragmentary but telling evidence of large-scale transfer from suitable breeding areas to centres of high demand, likely to have been conducted via regional and local markets. I also address the underestimated scale and complexity of the hiring, sharing and lending of working animals, which today supplies a vital social and economic levelling mechanism; new insights from modern studies urge a bottom-up community-level revision to established models of social inequality relating to their adoption in antiquity.

This chapter includes an outline of donkey ‘products’ – hides, milk, dung, and the key subject of the comparative rarity throughout history of the consumption of donkey meat, leading to the archaeological scarcity of their remains in settlement-oriented archaeological fieldwork.