chapter  6
35 Pages

Transport

WithJill Goulder

Discussion of early use of working animals in Mesopotamia has commonly focused on ploughing, with local transportation (if mentioned) too often associated with carts/wagons; yet in developing regions today, donkeys spend the majority of their time on local pack-transportation tasks. Modern example demonstrates in particular how household use of donkeys for the daily transport of fuel, water and goods to/from market transforms the lives of women, not only in relieving them of heavy burdens but in providing free time for making goods to sell. Donkeys are also invaluable in transporting crops to threshing-floor, barn or market, conveying bulky or heavy raw materials (ore, clay), construction materials and finished goods, and carrying implements and manure. Meanwhile, from a traditional focus on riverboats for long-distance transportation in Mesopotamia, there is now growing archaeological recognition of the complementary role of donkey caravans. The invisibility of pack-donkey caravans in antiquity and to the present day is a sharp reminder of the likely extent of activity unrecorded in ancient texts. There has been strong interest throughout history in conducting profitable activities under the radar of authorities (and attackers), and donkeys are ideally suited for operating via long desert or mountain back-routes.