Equid introduction, hybridisation and agricultural intensification in the Ebro valley from the late Neolithic to the Iron Age
The innovative CENTAURO proposal relies on three key aspects:
Large-scale studio. A solid network of collaborators that guarantee access to their collections from different chronological periods and areas of the Ebro Valley. These render it possible to count on data from different institutions and research centres in Aragon, Catalonia and Castellón covering the entire chronological timeframe, from the end of the Neolithic to the Iron Age.
Multidisciplinary. The unique combination of traditional zooarchaeology with ancient DNA, isotopic chemistry, the latest X-ray techniques and spatial analyses will lead to applying new analytical techniques and protocols with great potential such as horse dental calculus analyses to evaluate changes in their diet, management and health.
International research. Collaboration with the ongoing ERC Pegasus and ZooMWest projects, with renowned national and international specialists applying new scientific techniques, will open up the project to international collaboration in a current context of open science and international standards.
For the first time the equids serve as cultural bio-indicators of the degree of connectivity between areas (through analysing their introduction, circulation and exchange) and the degree of technological and social complexity of pre-Roman communities (through the changes in their management, uses and improvements). In this sense, CENTAURO will determine new archaeozoological proxies for a better understanding of diachronic changes and adaptations in animal husbandry, mainly focusing on equids as a technological improvement that optimised agricultural work and facilitated light transport and territorial connectivity. By its scale of study, its comprehensive approach and its integration into the European research scheme, CENTAURO will represent a major contribution to Late Prehistory.
Social and economic impact
Throughout the contemporary and historical period, equines have contributed to the development of rural economies. For centuries, they have played an essential role in urban and rural landscapes. In Spain and Europe, the socio-economic importance of equids throughout history contrasts with their current situation. In Spain, according to the report "Razas autóctonas en peligro de extinción y otras razas - PAC 2020", 6 breeds of donkeys and 15 breeds of traditional horses are currently at risk of extinction. In Europe, local breeds of donkeys and horses are also under threat. This is a challenge for public administrations, and society in general, as these breeds have contributed to rural development, the settlement of rural populations and the preservation of the national genetic heritage and biodiversity.
Spain is one of the European countries with the greatest biological diversity. However, the variety and continuity of many livestock breeds are currently threatened by the progressive abandonment of their exploitation. Archaeozoological research can therefore generate new information and provide a historical perspective to current problems, thus contributing to improved decision-making in future planning and policy strategies for local and traditional livestock. This discipline has the potential to contribute to the fight against climate change, help adapt production systems, conserve livestock genetic resources and promote more sustainable models of extensive livestock production.
Images courtesy of the ©Fondo fotográfico Ramon Violant i Simorra, Ecomuseu de les Valls d’Àneu.
Economic and social impact is one of the priorities of the project through a balanced and constant interaction of scientific results. CENTAURO will thus collaborate with several horse breeders' associations, specialised veterinarians and universities - some of which are part of the working team - to coordinate joint activities aimed at raising public awareness of local breeds, which are often relegated to tourist or sporting functions. To ensure their survival, it is necessary to return them to their traditional economic functions and to reduce society's ignorance of traditional horse breeds. To achieve this, it is essential to make people understand that the current breeds are the result of centuries of genetic selection that have produced more adapted and ecologically efficient animals.
For the first time the equids serve as cultural bio-indicator, and offers new archaeozoological proxies focusing on equids as a technological improvement that optimised agricultural work and facilitated light transport and territorial connectivity.
Unique combination of traditional zooarchaeology with ancient DNA, isotopic chemistry, the latest X-ray techniques, spatial analyses, and ethnography.