The Early Development of Pastoralism in the Central Zagros Mountains

Kamyar Abdi
Department of Anthropology, 6047 Silsby Hall, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755;


This paper explores the changes in early forms of pastoralism in the West Central Zagros Mountains from village-based herding in the Neolithic period to initial stages in the formation of full-fledged nomadic pastoralism by the Late Chalcolithic period. It has been argued that the initial development of pastoralism in the Central Zagros Mountains should be viewed as an adaptive strategy to a highland environment with limited and dispersed resources in order to supplement a primarily agricultural village-based economy. With expansion of the agricultural regime, the distance to be traveled to pastures by herders became greater, and as a consequence, the organization of labor involved in herding had to be modified to meet the more complex task of moving sizable herds over larger areas. The empirical evidence for the assessment of hypotheses proposed in this paper comes from archaeological fieldwork in the Islamabad Plain in the Zagros Mountains in western Iran, as well as previous archaeological and ethnographic research in the region.

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