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Bos Primigenius, the aurochs

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Chapter Summary

Stone sculptures of aurochsen seem to be limited in time and space to the Indus Valley of Pakistan of the late third to early second millennium B.C.E. They figure on steatite seals, the so-called unicorn seals. Regarding the numerous steatite seals portraying an aurochs bull, we may assume that this animal played a role in society. At the time, wild aurochsen still roamed the westernmost part of the subcontinent in large numbers. Though the aurochs was domesticated about 6,000 years B.C.E., the peoples of the Indus Valley may have used wild aurochsen nevertheless for special purposes, such as sacrifices much in the same way tribal peoples still do today with the feral gayal. The carved aurochsen sometimes bear a collar around the neck and always have a bipartite object in front of them, which is best explained as a ritual object used at some stage of a blood sacrifice.

Keywords: aurochs; blood sacrifice; Bos Primigenius; ritual object; steatite seals; stone sculptures



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