02-2017, tome 114, 1, 2017, p. 25-52 - Christian Jeunesse et Anthony Denaire - Origine des animaux sur pied, circuit de la viande : la formation des assemblages osseux dans le contexte d'une fête traditionnelle à Sumba (Indonésie). Une enquê

Cliquez sur la photo pour zoomer

Quantité :

Prix : 15,00 €TTC

02-2017, tome 114, 1, 2017, p. 25-52 - Christian Jeunesse et Anthony Denaire - Origine des animaux sur pied, circuit de la viande : la formation des assemblages osseux dans le contexte d'une fête traditionnelle à Sumba (Indonésie). Une enquê

Les études anglo-saxonnes sur l’économie du feasting nous ont rendu attentifs à l’existence, dans des sociétés non-étatiques à organisation hiérarchisée ou stratifiée, de formes d’élevage dans lesquelles l’utilisation rituelle des principaux animaux domestiques joue un rôle central. Les travaux les plus marquants ont concerné essentiellement des sociétés sud-est asiatiques (Hayden, 2001, 2003 et 2009 ; Adams, 2016).

Le cochon et le buffle y sont les principaux animaux domestiques. Ils sont considérés comme des bien rituels et ne sont abattus et consommés, sauf exception notable, qu’en contexte festif.

Les choix en matière de gestion des cheptels sont conditionnés par la nécessité de satisfaire aux besoins du rituel. L’abattage est saisonnier et la consommation sur l’année est donc irrégulièrement répartie. Les animaux abattus lors des fêtes sont fournis pour partie par l’organisateur et pour partie par ses parents biologiques et ses affins. Si l’essentiel de la viande est consommé sur place, une partie significative fait cependant l’objet d’un partage et d’une consommation « décentralisée ». La circulation centripète des bêtes sur pied et la circulation centrifuge des parts de viande se fait selon les lignes de la parenté. Le rituel primant sur toute autre considération, certains aspects considérés ailleurs comme cruciaux ne jouent ici qu’un rôle secondaire. C’est le cas, par exemple, des contraintes liées à la reproduction des cheptels.

Si les travaux ethnoarchéologiques cités nous livrent une bonne caractérisation générale de l’économie du feasting, ils n’évoquent que de manière indirecte les conséquences archéologiques de cette manière de concevoir le rôle des animaux domestiques. C’est cette lacune qui a motivé l’organisation de notre projet, dont l’un des objectifs est de mener une analyse détaillée de la circulation des bêtes sur pied et du circuit de la viande partagée dans le cadre de l’économie du feasting. Cet article présente une analyse détaillée d’une fête en particulier qui s’est déroulée en juin 2016 dans le village de Tarung (île de Sumba, Indonésie). Il débouche sur une amorce de réflexion épistémologique sur les conditions de production des interprétations dans le domaine de l’archéozoologie des sociétés de la Préhistoire récente.


Mots clés : archéozoologie, ethnoarchéologie, Sumba, feasting, sacrifice.


Since the 1990s English-speaking studies on the feasting economy have shed light on the existence, in non-state hierarchically organized or stratified societies, of forms of breeding in which the ritual use of the main domestic animals plays a major role. The most landmark studies have dealt mainly with societies from south-eastern Asia (Hayden, 2001, 2003 and 2009; Adams, 2016), with a specific focus on the populations from Toraja land (island of Sulawesi, Indonesia) and the island of Sumba (Indonesia). The fact that these areas have long remained isolated is a positive aspect, since the effective takeover by the Dutch colonizers and the arrival of the first religious missions occurred only at the beginning of the twentieth century. Despite the Christianization of most of the local population, traditional practices and in particular feasts with mass slaughters of buffaloes and pigs have persisted, and this is what motivated our decision to initiate an ethno-archaeological research project dedicated to the conditions of formation of bone assemblages within the frame of a feasting economy.

Pig and buffalo are the main domestic cattle involved. They are considered as ritual goods and, with notable exceptions, they are slaughtered and consumed only in feasting contexts. During the most significant ceremonies, namely those held on the occasion of funerals or for the reconstruction of the ancestor house, mass slaughters often involve several dozen animals. These ceremonies are always two-dimensional, both religious (sacrifice) and social (the slaughtered animals representing ostentatious signs of wealth and prestige). The amount, in terms of quantity, of goods consumed depends on social status, wealth and on how much the organizer is involved in social competition.

The choices presiding over cattle management are conditioned by the necessity of meeting the needs for the ritual. The main characteristics of the breeding system are the following: 1) Seasonal slaughter, since the major feasts take place mostly during the dry season, after the rice harvest. Consumption is thus irregularly distributed over the year. 2) Slaughtered cattle are provided partly by the organizer of the feast and partly by his biological relatives and community. As a result, the diversity of sources is great since external cattle may come from several settlements and, often, a large number of households. 3) While most of the meat is consumed in situ, in particular at the banquet held during the feast, a significant part of it is nevertheless shared, this “decentralized” consumption often concerning several hundred households. 4) The major feasts take place only in the main villages, in which there are one or several ancestor houses. Since cattle, buffaloes in particular, are usually bred in secondary villages, the breeding locations and the places where most of the consumption occurs are significantly dissociated. 5) The centripetal movement of live cattle and the centrifugal movement of the pieces of meat follow the lines of kinship. 6) Since the ritual stands above all other consideration, some aspects that may elsewhere be considered as crucial here play a secondary role. This is for instance the case for the constraints linked to livestock reproduction.

The ethno-archaeological studies mentioned above provide a good overall characterization of a feasting economy, but the archaeological consequences inferred by this conception of the role of domestic cattle are only indirectly addressed. This lack of data drove us to set up this project, which took the form of two missions in the field carried out in 2015 and 2016. One of the goals was to conduct a detailed analysis of the circulation of live cattle and of the meat portions shared within a feasting economy framework. The economic and social contexts of the areas under study as well as the theoretical model for the circulation of cattle and shared meat portions have been presented in a previous article (Jeunesse, 2016a). This second study presents the detailed analysis of one particular feast. It is based on an inventory and a systematic pinpointing of all the donors of live cattle and all the recipients of meat portions. The first part describes a traditional feast held in June 2016 in the village of Tarung (island of Sumba, Indonesia). Although it was a rather modest ceremony, 21 animals coming from about ten different settlements were brought in and more than 600 portions of meat were distributed and consumed in at least 30 different settlements distributed over an area of a hundred square kilometres. The bones of one single animal are thus likely to end up scattered among the organizer’s house, the other houses of the village in which he resides, and a various number of other houses located in several distinct settlements. The bones will thus be distributed among the main rubbish structure, the one directly linked to the banquet and the ceremony, and a large number of secondary rubbish structures.

The second part puts in perspective the main results obtained. The pattern elaborated by this study can be considered valid for at least two areas of the Indonesian Archipelago (Sumba and Toraja land), and a first review of the literature available allows us to consider that its main aspects could certainly be easily extended to all the “hill tribes” of south-eastern Asia. A concentric approach leads, at the end of our reflection, to the consideration of the possibility of extending this pattern to other present or recent contexts. It is obviously too early to seriously consider transposing it to recent European Prehistory. We hope nevertheless that our research on presumed exotic forms of relationships between man and animal are already likely to nourish epistemological reflection on the way interpretations are produced in archaeo-zoology.


Keywords: archaeo-zoology, ethno-archaeology, Sumba, feasting, sacrifice