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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 May 3;108(18):7345-50. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1017647108. Epub 2011 Apr 18.

Role of mass-kill hunting strategies in the extirpation of Persian gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) in the northern Levant.

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  • 1Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel. guybar@research.haifa.ac.il


Continuous and intensive exploitation of wildlife resources by early agricultural societies had major ecological consequences in the ancient Near East. In particular, hunting strategies of post-Neolithic societies involving the mass killing of wild ungulates contributed to the eventual extirpation of a number of wild species. A remarkable deposit of bones of Persian gazelle (Gazella subgutarosa) from fourth millennium BCE levels at Tell Kuran in northeastern Syria provides insight into the unsustainable hunting practices that disrupted gazelle migratory patterns and helped set the course for the virtual extinction of this species and possibly other steppe species in the Levant. The social context of mass kills conducted during periods when people relied primarily on domestic livestock for animal resources sets them apart from the more targeted and sustainable practices of earlier periods, when wild animals were the major or sole source of animal protein.

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