During the Neolithic Revolution, early humans began to move from hunter-gatherer cultures toward agriculture, leading to the spread of animal domestication. In a theory presented in Homo Necans, mythologist Walter Burkert suggests that the ritual sacrifice of livestock may have developed as a continuation of ancient hunting rituals, as livestock replaced wild game in the food supply. Ancient Egypt was at the forefront of domestication, and some of the earliest archeological evidence suggesting animal sacrifice comes from Egypt. The oldest Egyptian burial sites containing animal remains originate from the Badari culture of Upper Egypt, which flourished between 4400 and 4000 BC. Sheep and goats were found buried in their own graves at one site, while at another site gazelles were found at the feet of several human burials. At a cemetery uncovered at Hierakonpolis and dated to 3000 BC, the remains of a much wider variety of animals were found, including non-domestic species such as baboons and hippopotami, which may have been sacrificed in honor of powerful former citizens or buried near their former owners. According to Herodotus, later Dynastic Egyptian animal sacrifice became restricted to livestock – sheep, cattle, swine and geese – with sets of rituals and rules to describe each type of sacrifice.
By the end of Copper Age in 3000 BC, animal sacrifice had become a common practice across many cultures, and appeared to have become more generally restricted to domestic livestock. At Gath, archeological evidence indicates that the Canaanites imported sacrificial sheep and goats from Egypt rather than selecting from their own livestock. At the Monte d’Accoddi in Sardinia, one of the earliest known sacred centers in Europe, evidence of the sacrifice of sheep, cattle and swine has been uncovered by excavations, and it is indicated that ritual sacrifice may have been common across Italy around 3000 BC and afterwards. At the Minoan settlement of Phaistos in ancient Crete, excavations have revealed basins for animal sacrifice dating to the period 2000 to 1700 BC.
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