Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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Articles

Falconry in Iraq

The first artistic carvings has been found in northern Iraq. Dated to the period of King Sargon II (722-705 BC), this bas-relief depicts a small bird of prey on the wrist of a man. Significantly, this carving seems to show 'jesses' (leather thongs used to secure the bird to the human fist), tied to the bird's feet and passing between the thumb and forefinger of the falconer. This indicate that falconry (and its paraphernalia) was well developed by the eighth century BC in Mesopotamia.

Archaeological excavations are now throwing an exciting new light on the origin of falconry in Mesopotamia, along with new clues to the reasons why - and when - it began. In recent years, archaeologists have excavated many early human settlements in Iraq and Syria which date back to 8000-10,000 BC. Among the remains, they have consistently uncovered the bones of birds of prey.

Earlier in the Stone Age, people tended to hunt mainly the larger mammals. But during the short period of human history from 12,000 to 10,000 years ago, the economic focus of hunting in the Mesopotamia appears to shift from large mammal species towards a broader range of food - most importantly, a greater reliance on smaller animals. The range of mammals and birds remains at all these sites is very similar. They include gazelle, fox and hare, as well as game birds such as partridges, francolins and sandgrouse.

Hunters must have been both skilled and versatile in order to catch enough of these small species to feed their settlement. They certainly used a variety of techniques to capture their prey, including trapping, netting, digging and perhaps even poisoning. Perhaps the birds of prey found at these sites were also part of the repertoire of hunting techniques - an additional means of catching smaller prey species. In other words, falconry was first developed and employed as one of the hunting strategies in Mesopotamia as early as the late Stone Age.

Several researchers have offered a religious or symbolic explanation for the presence of the numerous bird-of-prey remains at the later prehistoric sites of Mesopotamia. It is quite possible that falconry may have served a dual spiritual and utilitarian role at these early sites.

The main species used for hunting in Iraq, are the "Saqr" falcons (Falco Cherruq)and the Peregrine (Falco Peregrinus), which are cought at "Himreen" hills. The "Sinjari" falcons are cought at mount of "Sinjar", and most of these catches are exported or smuggled to the Gulf states.

Techniques used by Iraqi falconers doesn't differ much from those used in Saudi Arabia or in the U.A.E.