May 30, 2024

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Chicken, eggs and humans: A more recent history than previously thought, according to a study

Chicken, eggs and humans: A more recent history than previously thought, according to a study

Almost 24 billion. It is the number of chickens (A domestic rooster) in this world “any time”, according to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). They form “Undoubtedly, domestic cattle are ubiquitous and abundant, and are found more or less everywhere inhabited by men”, Reference Company.

However, the circumstances of their remote domestication, particularly where and when it occurred, remains a mystery that zooarchaeologists have struggled to elucidate. If that doesn't succeed in dispelling all the mystery surrounding the chicken's history, a new study has just been published Natural communication However, April 2, 2024 is brought forward “The First Clear Archaeological and Biomolecular Evidence” 400 BC The former is known up to the date of domestication of animals for egg production. AD

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However, according to international researchers andMax Planck Institute of Geoanthropology (Germany) who conducted the research, found that although chicken is a staple in the global diet today, it has been associated with humanity – and compared to other edible domestic animals – for a shorter period of time than previously estimated.

Ancient Mysteries of Poultry History

A major challenge in reconstructing the history of the chicken lies in accurately dating and identifying its remains in archaeological contexts. In fact, its bones are not easily distinguishable from those of other birds. Also, as pointed out Daily HaaretzThe ancient Chinese and Egyptians consumed these other species (geese, ducks) in abundance, so that it is not really easy to study its distribution during antiquity.

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Experts have long believed that this gallinaceous reached Eurasia and northwest Africa about 8,000 years ago. or earlier. A study published in Old However, in 2022, chicken bones — or at least what archaeologists thought were chicken bones — found in these areas were incorrectly dated, some with an error of 5,000 years.

Of the twenty-three analyzed, only five were reported to be older. “The results indicate that chickens did not arrive in Europe until the millennium BC.”Then the authors of the article noted.

Other research findings published in PNAS The same year (2022), suggested that the first known domestication of poultry may have taken place in the rice fields of Thailand in the mid-2nd millennium BC. More broadly, experts agree that domesticated traits may have actually evolved in island populations of wild fowl in South Asia between Thailand and India. Gallus gallus ssp. Shovel.

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However, the lack of evidence that the first chickens were raised mainly for their meat raises questions. In some ways, the deliberate presence of chicken bones in burials, and sometimes even human remains, indicates a very ancient – and still very mysterious – cultural and ritual connection between the two species.

“Egg Factories” on the Silk Road

A recently published survey provides new clues. To do this, the researchers looked at small fragments of chicken eggshells at twelve archaeological sites in Central Asia, dating from about 1220 to 400 BC. AD

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They eventually, about 2,500 years ago, “Chickens were widely domesticated in Central Asia” – From the 4th century BC. From BC to Medieval Period – “and were probably scattered in ancient times Silk Road.

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Also, the abundance of shells in sedimentary layers suggests that the birds lay eggs out of season, unlike the chicken's famous wild ancestor. Gallus gallus spadiceus – Nests once a year and usually lays six eggs per clutch. This is the first evidence of seasonal clutch loss ever found. “It was this prolific egg-laying trait that made the domestic chicken so attractive to ancient peoples.”Researchers say.

In other words, the popularization and spread of the chicken across Eurasia may have been driven by our conversion of the animal from a seasonal layer to an egg factory. But how did we get there? The team points out that the species appears in the archaeological record of central Thailand at a time when rice and millet were being cultivated.

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“The production and storage of these grains may have acted as a magnet to start the domestication process.”In a commensalism relationship – a relationship between two organisms in which one benefits from the other without causing significant harm.

[Cette] This is the first evidence of seasonal clutch loss ever found in the archaeological record [est] An important clue to better understanding the interrelationships between humans and animals resulted from domestication. – Dr. Robert Spengler, head of the Research Group on Domestication and Anthropological Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology and lead author of the study.

With a higher egg-laying capacity than wild birds, the Central Asian chicken would have dispersed quickly. “Like a Wave of Progress”Ancient trade routes, especially the Silk Road and the southern coastal routes (Spice Route and Incense Route). “These two corridors shape cultures on three continents”Robert Spengler explains.

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Finally, these recent findings indicate that domestication of cattle, sheep, pigs, and wheat began much later than domestication, some 10,000 years ago. “I don't think many experts in this field of study are surprised by the conclusion that many of the early claims about chickens are wrong.Haaretz's expert concludes. […] Good number [de ces dernières] It has not been previously dated using modern radiocarbon dating methods.”