Wild, domestic and feral? Investigating the status of suids in the Romanian Gumelniţa (5th mil. cal BC) with biogeochemistry and geometric morphometrics

Marie Balasse*, Allowen Evin, Carlos Tornero, Valentin Radu, Denis Fiorillo, Dragomir Popovici, Radian Andreescu, Keith Dobney, Thomas Cucchi, Adrian Bălăşescu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


In south-eastern Romania, a prominent place was given to pigs in the Gumelniţa culture (Late Chalcolithic, second half of 5th millennium BC); as was the highly prized wild boar, one of a variety of species targeted for hunting. The wild boars' ecological niche and the scale of pig husbandry were investigated during a stable isotope study of the Gumelniţa A2 occupations at Borduşani-Popină, Hârşova-tell and Vităneşti-Măgurice. Results from the bone collagen δ15N and δ13C analysis suggested that the wild boars did not inhabit dense forests, in any of these locations. The emerging picture is of small-scale pig husbandry involving household management: pigs being fed leftovers and/or by-products of human activities. At Vităneşti, previous work involving geometric morphometrics on suid molars evidenced, besides the two expected groups of small domestic pigs and large specimens with wild molar shape (i.e. wild boar), the presence of specimens with large size and domestic shape molars, whose relationship with the human community was unclear. Results from the combined geometric morphometric and stable isotope analyses, suggested that the large specimens with domestic molar shape lived in close proximity to the wild ecosystem. They were probably not part of the domestic stock, but belonged to a feral population and were acquired through hunting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-36
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Early online date10 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

This research was funded by the CNCS – UEFISCDI; project PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-1015 (A. Bălășescu and R. Andreescu); and project PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-0982 (V. Radu and D. Popovici) for field archaeology, zooarchaeology and archaeobotany; by the ERC grant “SIANHE” (GA 202881) for stable isotope analyses and a post-doctoral fellowship to Carlos Tornero; and by a Natural Environment Research Council grant (NE/F003382/1) for geometric morphometrics and palaeogenetical analyses. Stable isotope analyses were performed at the SSMIM (Paris), with technical supervision by Joël Ughetto-Monfrin and Denis Fiorillo. Copy-editing by Jill Cucchi. This is publication ISEM 2016-040.


  • Bone collagen
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Late chalcolithic
  • Sus scrofa
  • Teeth
  • δC
  • δN


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