The Living Stock of Antiquity

Examining Conceptualizations of Non-human Animals as Tradable Commodities in the Ancient World

  • Jessica C Tselepy


The human species is often painted as a perennially productive one. Human animals, through millennia of evolving skills, aptitudes, and awareness, have rendered ourselves, according to our hierarchically pattern seeking minds, at the top of an ostensibly ‘natural’ tree of life. So the tale, in the unique vernaculars of countless disciplines, is often told. We now live in an age where that tale is starting to be seriously and massively questioned and unravelled. Lenses of care, collaboration, and cooperation are blossoming. This article serves as a small part of that movement: to question and reappraise the once ‘perennial’ dominance of ‘man’ and seek a better comprehension of that narrative. It does this by honing in on one of the most dominant assumptions that have pervaded ‘man’s’ relationship with ‘animal’: that non-human animals have been ‘used productively for human gain’ (in other words, ‘exploited’) for so long that there must be something ‘natural’ about this use. This article serves, then, as less of a challenge to the expansive timeline of human animals’ use of non-human animal, and more of a ‘awareness expanding tool’ of where and how this use arose in some of the earliest examinable periods of our species’ history. By digging deeper into both the zooarchaeological and related written source materials that reveal elements of this ‘use relationship’ during distinct ‘snapshots’ of ancient world, we may bolster the seriousness of critiquing the ‘naturalness’ of this relationship. Only from such ‘points of un-revelation’ can the consequential harms of this dominant narrative be truly appreciated, and subsequently unwound for the sake of the non-human animals that are continually and massively exploited in our modern world.

How to Cite
TSELEPY, Jessica C. The Living Stock of Antiquity. Global Journal of Animal Law, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 2, p. 36-51, july 2024. ISSN 2341-8168. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 25 july 2024.