Trade, exchange, and social relationships in southeastern Poland: X-ray fluorescence and mitochondrial DNA analyses of neolithic sheep
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Social and economic factors were involved in intensified sheep rearing that occurred in southeastern Poland during the middle late Neolithic, 3800-3700 BC. Sheep data from three settlement sites, Bronocice, Zawar¿a, and Nied¿wied¿, were used to document the importation and crossbreeding of animals within this region over this span of time. Portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) was used to measure elemental strontium concentrations in sheep dental enamel. Distinct patterning was documented for each site and phase of occupation. The earliest phases showed little variation in strontium concentrations whereas beginning with Phase 3 (3650 BC) great variation was apparent. Based on these data it was possible to distinguish local from non-local sheep. At Bronocice a major change in sheep rearing occurred. Large scale sheep importation began around 3650 BC which lasted through the end of the settlement in 2700 BC. On the other hand, small settlements like Zawar¿a, and Nied¿wied¿ continued to raise sheep in the region, occasionally acquiring new stock from the sheep market at Bronocice. It does not appear that sheep were raised at Bronocice. Instead it is more likely that Bronocice was interested in the wool and thread produced by small herders for weaving. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was sequenced from sheep at the three sites dating to the period 3650-3100 BC (Phases 3 and 4) at the three sites. That study revealed that close genetic relationships existed among sheep from the three settlements. The sheep from the outlying villages of Zawar¿a and Nied¿wied¿ were more closely related to sheep from Bronocice than sheep at Bronocice were to each other. It is evident that sheep from outlying villages were descended from sheep imported to Bronocice. Six lineages were identified, two of which were found in sheep from Phases 3 and 4. Individuals from `Family 1' were found only at Bronocice while those from Family 2 were present at all sites indicating that two common sources of sheep were exploited over a few hundred years. This long term pattern confirms the existence of important social relationships between some groups and elites at Bronocice with outside communities, probably located in southeastern Europe. These data served as proxies for examining social relationships within and between settlements in the region as well as to investigate economic behaviors involving trade and exchange of sheep. Multiple levels of socioeconomic activities were revealed based on the XRF data revolving around the importation of sheep to Bronocice, the redistribution of sheep to smaller settlements, the staging of annual sheep market in late spring and the likely production of textiles for export. It is probably that people from the three communities shared social ties which extended beyond a shared cultural identity and included family and business partnerships. An annual cycle is proposed involving four distinct social categories: elites at Bronocice responsible for managing the annual sheep market, long distance traders importing sheep once a year, local sheep herders who acquired new stock from the traders and who harvested and spun wool for exchange, and weavers who required raw materials for making cloth. It is possible that weavers, whose cloth production depended on access to wool and thread, controlled or were involved with the importation and redistribution sheep to local herders and that they in turn exchanged wool and or thread. At Bronocice it is likely that control over sheep imports was managed by a small number of individuals, most likely elites. Evidence of a social hierarchy is evidenced by a large animal enclosure, fortification ditches and palisades, the construction of which reveals control over labor. The nature of trading relationships is unknown but may have been based on ancient ties dating to the early part of the Neolithic. Sheep intensification coincided not only with the growth of Bronocice in size, population, and appearance of specialists within the community, but also with an increase in fiber and textile production artifacts, most likely due to the start of wool production. At Bronocice, incipient wool production was suggested not only by signs of intensified sheep rearing but also by the recovery of large quantities of loom weights, spools and spindle whorls from houses, the numbers of which increased dating to different phases. The percentage of households within the settlement involved in fiber and textile production grew over time. Sheep intensification therefore appears to be strongly linked to the development of a wool industry. The identification of mobility patterns and sheep genetic relatedness afforded the opportunity to investigate animal husbandry practices, specifically breeding and the exchange of livestock, as well as to consider possible forms of social interaction between communities. Last, the scale and regularity at which sheep were imported to Bronocice over a period of 900 years suggest that a simple model of reciprocal trade between elites does not work for the later Neolithic. Instead, a more complex system is proposed in which sheep were an important trade commodity. They were imported on a regular schedule and in large numbers by specialized pastoralists. The data suggest they were imported during the late spring on an annual basis into Bronocice which strongly suggests the existence of a market system controlled by elites involving the acquisition of new sheep. Furthermore, it appears that sheep were redistributed sheep to outside settlements who managed the herds and that these communities were the primary suppliers of wool and spun fibers to weavers at Bronocice. There had to have existed codependent relationships between weaving households and local sheep herders which may have involved redistribution of sheep in exchange for wool products.