Bioarchaeology of the Near East, 8:83-107 (2014)

The size of ancient Egyptian pigs. A biometrical analysis using molar width

Louise Bertini* (1), Edwin Cruz-Rivera (2)

(1) Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology,
American University in Cairo, AUC Avenue, New Cairo, 11835 Egypt
email: (corresponding author)
(2) Biological Sciences Program,
Asian University for Women, Chittagong, Bangladesh

Abstract: A large assortment of pig mandibles from eleven ancient Egyptian sites dating from the Old Kingdom through the Ptolemaic-Roman period (c. 2686 BC and up through AD 400) were analyzed and their measurements compared to: 1) a modern domestic pig standard sample from Egypt, and 2) a wild boar standard sample from Turkey. Age at death, sizes of first, second, and third molars (M1, M2, and M3), and coefficients of variation (CV) were consistent with the presence of domestic pig-only populations for most sites. However, tooth sizes, CV, and tendency towards bimodality in the distribution of sizes for Mendes and Kom Firin suggests the presence of either two populations of similar animals or sexual dimorphism. For these two sites, comparisons with the two standards were consistent with the presence of domestic pigs and either larger feral pigs or wild boar, sometimes at similar densities. Furthermore, results for the Abydos Settlement Site suggested that wild boar/feral pigs might have been hunted occasionally. Consistent with previous studies, mandibular wear scores (MWS) showed that pigs were slaughtered within the first 18-21 months of age. Neither MWS, data distribution tendency, molar width, nor CV alone were sufficient to distinguish between pure and mixed pig populations; but, taken together they provided strong evidence for the presence of larger size pigs (possibly wild boar or feral pigs) in ancient Egypt.

Key words: teeth; domestic pig; wild boar; Egypt

Received 25 November 2013; accepted 1 May 2014; published online 3 May 2014.

Return to Volume 8:2014