Mursi ox modification in the Lower Omo Valley and the interpretation of cattle rock art in Ethiopia
Cambridge University Press (CUP) / Antiquity Publications
Cattle are a key focus of traditional pastoralist societies in eastern Africa and also figure prominently in the rock art of the region. In both contexts, their cultural and social significance is underscored by colour and decoration. The contemporaryMursi of southwest Ethiopia transform favourite oxen in various ways, including horn alteration, ear cutting and decorative pattern branding. These practices may provide direct insight into cattle portrayal in Ethiopian rock art, where abstract or non-realistic symbols depicted on cattle coats could indicate the modification, alteration or beautification of cattle in prehistoric societies.
Timothy Insoll is grateful to the University of Manchester for funding his participation in the fieldwork. Timothy Clack acknowledges fieldwork support from the British Academy and the Christensen Fund linked to elements of this work. All the authors are grateful to the Ethiopian Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage for permission to complete the fieldwork. They are also indebted to Ato Abebe Hailu, Antiquities Officer; Mr Juan Salazar Bonet for assistance in the field; and to the Mursi communities in Dirikoro for their hospitality. Paul Bahn, Rachel MacLean, Jean-Loïc Le Quellec, Julian Thomas and David Turton are thanked for comments on the paper, but all errors and omissions remain our own. Rachel MacLean is thanked for doing the line drawings and Ceri Houlbrook and Bryn James are gratefully acknowledged for putting some of the illustrations together digitally.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from CUP via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 89 (343), pp. 91 - 105