The Donkey in Human History: An Archaeological Perspective

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, 2018 - Nature - 306 pages
Donkeys carried Christ into Jerusalem while in Greek myth they transported Hephaistos up to Mount Olympos and Dionysos into battle against the Giants. They were probably the first animals that people ever rode, as well as the first used on a large-scale as beasts of burden. Associated with kingship and the gods in the ancient Near East, they have been (and in many places still are) a core technology for moving people and goods over both short and long distances, as well as a supplier of muscle power for threshing and grinding grain, pressing olives, raising water, ploughing fields, and pulling carts, to name just a few of the uses to which they have been put.

Yet despite this, they remain one of the least studied, and most widely ignored, of all domestic animals, consigned to the margins of history like so many of those who still depend upon them. Spanning the globe and extending from the donkey's initial domestication up to the present, this book seeks to remedy this situation by using archaeological evidence, in combination with insights from history and anthropology, to resituate the donkey (and its hybrid offspring such as the mule) in the unfolding of human history, looking not just at what donkeys and mules did, but also at how people have thought about and understood them.

Intended in part for university researchers and students working in the broad fields of world history, archaeology, animal history, and anthropology, but it should also interest anyone keen to learn more about one of the most widespread and important of the animals that people have domesticated.



1 Why Donkeys?
2 Origins
3 Along and beyond the Nile
4 The Ancient Near East
5 The Classical World
6 The Triumph of the Mule
7 New Worlds for the Donkey
8 The Donkeys Tale
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About the author (2018)

Peter Mitchell is Professor of African Archaeology, University of Oxford, Tutor and Fellow in Archaeology, St Hugh's College, Oxford, and Hon. Research Associate, GAES, University of the Witwatersrand. His primary specialization has been in southern African hunter-gatherer archaeology and hehas directed several projects in Lesotho. More recently, Professor Mitchell has focused on the archaeology of animals (including dogs and horses). President of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists from 2004 to 2006, he is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and co-edit Azania:Archaeological Research in Africa, as well as sitting on the editorial boards of several other journals.

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