The Ethnoarchaeology of pig husbandry in Sardinia and Corsica - Management & Seasonality
Our research shows that on both islands free-range husbandry is widely adopted with minimal control of pig populations. Interbreeding with wild (or feral) populations occurs regularly, with little effect on the general size of the animals, as both wild boars and domestic breeds belong to dwarf types – a well-known phenomenon for island populations. A great diversity of husbandry strategies is practised in Sardinia and Corsica. Many of these concern adaptation to specific climatic, environmental and cultural conditions occurring on the two islands, and we should therefore be wary of using them as a model to apply to other societies, periods and parts of the world. Yet there are elements that provide useful insights into the type of challenges that pig breeders must have faced in a variety of situations in the past. Zooarchaeologists may sometimes be too keen to make a clear distinction between the management of domestic and wild resources. This hardly seems to be applicable to all areas and situations. In Sardinia and Corsica not only is there a biological continuum between the two pig forms, but also husbandry practices are geared towards a combined management of wild boars and domestic pigs, whose interbreeding is in some cases regarded as an opportunity, more often as a nuisance.
Our study also draws attention to the difficulties related to attempts to assess seasonality from the study of pig archaeological remains. In Sardinia and Corsica even the traditional fully unimproved breeds may give birth twice a year, and the litters can be born at virtually any time of the year. This is probably a consequence of the mild Mediterranean climate that provides the opportunity for survival even to animals born at the beginning of the winter, and we must therefore be careful not to extend these conclusions to animals living in harsher climatic conditions, where harsh winters can limit the flexibility of the birth season. Slaughtering follows a more regular seasonal pattern as a consequence of the accumulation of pig fat occurring in the season of greatest food abundance (i.e. the autumn). Most pigs are consequently slaughtered in late autumn/early winter.