Biblical Paleoarcheology

The First Animal Husbandry

Article #17

Wikipedia gives the following definition to animal husbandry:

Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture concerned with animals that are raised for meat, fibre, milk, eggs, or other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding and the raising of livestock. Husbandry has a long history, starting with the Neolithic revolution when animals were first domesticated, from around 13,000 BC onwards, antedating farming of the first crops.

The secular date of 13,000 BC should of course be adjusted to 2300 BC to agree with the Bible. Animal husbandry includes ranching and pasturing, but does not include hunting wild animals. Notice that farming is supposed to have begun after the first evidence of the raising of animals.  This conclusion comes from the fact that some strata have evidence of animals without any evidence of farming. Keep in mind that the interpretation of the artifacts is subject to the viewpoint of the writer. Herding sheep and goats rather than farming may have simply been a practical choice that many people made. Nothing precludes farming and ranching from having begun at the same time, immediately after the Flood.

Pigs were first domesticated in Cayonu, just 250 miles from Ararat. Actually, several sites claim to be the first, but they are all in the Near East. We typically think of the Jews as refusing pork because of the Mosaic law. This may not have been the case in the beginning. Archeologists examine the remains at each level of ancient villages to determine what people ate. Bones from various animals give us a good idea of what animals were consumed and in what ratio. These results give us an amazing overall picture of animals in the early world.

The map above is a commonly-used depiction of areas where early farming and animal husbandry seem to have started. Although helpful, it needs correcting. The dates given, such as 11,000 BC for the first goats, are of course based on human evolution. The large areas shown belie the fact that they only represent a limited number of excavations. Most importantly, the area marked “Fertile Crescent” is the only area that is not the Fertile Crescent. The name lies over Mesopotamia, which was not fertile and required irrigation to grow crops. The Fertile Crescent is the area where goats, pigs, cattle, sheep, barley, and wheat are shown. These all intersect around Mount Karak and Cayonu that we have previously discussed.

The Fertile Crescent in the Near East is universally recognized as the location where animals were first raised. Here is a typical statement on the subject:

The domesticates that spread through the peripheries [Portugal to India] to become the staple in these disparate regions — wheat, barley, sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs — were first bred in the Fertile Crescent and its hilly flanks from indigenous wild species.(1)(emphasis added)

Although theories about domestication are speculative, the location is not. The Biblical narrative provides a better explanation for the dispersal of animals.

Animal husbandry was alive and well during the year on the Ark. Noah and his sons fed and cared for all the animals during that time, so, there was a smooth transition to freeing animals into the new environment. A proper reconstruction of history would assume that Noah purposely and skillfully divided them into groups. Useful animals such as cattle and pigs were fenced in. Sheep and goats were herded. Deer and antelope were allowed to roam, but managed by people, as archeology indicates. Some animals that coexisted with humans became huge, such as giant sloths, mastodons, and some varieties of dinosaurs. These thrived on their own and were hunted to extinction.

Civilization Began in the Fertile Crescent, downhill from the Mountains of Ararat

We know that a false narrative that is not challenged can become popular belief. That is why believers have a responsibility to ask the difficult questions. Where is the proof that Noah and the animals from the Ark did not repopulate the world from the region of Ararat? Show me the proof that animals were domesticated and that it took thousands of years to do so. A theory is not proof. Reconstruction is not the same as recorded history. Empirical evidence and opinion cannot be equated. Christians should not be hesitant to talk about their belief in Noah, who is one of the greatest heroes of human history. Until such time as theories of human evolution can be absolutely proven, we have the right to affirm that animal husbandry in our post-Flood world began with Noah.

(1) Cunliffe, Barry. By Steppe, Desert, & Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia, 2015, Oxford University Press, page 50.

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