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RECENT RESEARCH SUGGESTS THAT a wild jungle fowl evolved into today’s chicken, and much later than was previously thought. Today in Part 2, we continue sharing tidbits from AAAS Science discussing the technical paper “The Biocultural Origins and Dispersal of Domestic Chickens.”
The Reseachers’ Methodology: “In order to establish a robust spatial and temporal framework for their origins and dispersal,” the researchers say, “we assessed archaeological occurrences and the domestic status of chickens from ∼600 sites in 89 countries by combining zoogeographic, morphological, osteometric, stratigraphic, contextual, iconographic, and textual data. Our results suggest that the first unambiguous domestic chicken bones are found at Neolithic Ban Non Wat in central Thailand dated to ∼1650 to 1250 BCE…. Chickens did not arrive in Central China, South Asia, or Mesopotamia until the late second millennium BCE, and in Ethiopia and Mediterranean Europe by ∼800 BCE.”
The Original Chicken Farm? “Chicken bones are rare in prehistoric archaeofaunal assemblages from mainland Southeast Asia,” the researchers note. “One exception is the Neolithic moated site of Ban Non Wat (∼1650 to 1250 BCE) in northeast Thailand, where >95% of the avifauna has been ascribed to Gallus [the chicken]. Given the presence of other domesticates, including pigs and dogs, and the fact that people would have had access to a highly diverse avifauna in this ecological setting, the abundance of Gallus remains has been interpreted as evidence that they may represent a domestic population.”
The researchers admit, “Although their domestic status remains unresolved, two other factors lend weight to the initial assessment. First, an exceedingly high proportion of juvenile bones are present in the assemblage. Second, these birds were deposited as grave goods alongside domestic pigs, dogs, and bovines in human burials at Bronze Age Ban Non Wat (∼1038 to 950 BCE) and Ban Na Di (∼800 to 500 BCE).”
Other Claims. The researchers also discuss other zooarchaeological records that claimed earlier evidence of chicken domestication.
Science reports that a researcher compared a leg bone (the tibiotarsus) from an ancient and a modern chicken. Both of these specimens were radiocarbon dated. The one on the left comes from Weston Down in England, and dates to 387–204 cal BC (in the Middle Iron Age); this hen was buried in a pit whole. The large specimen on the right comes from Hotnitsa in Bulgaria, and radiocarbon dating revealed that it was modern (20th century), rather than Neolithic/Bronze Age as previously proposed. The image also demonstrates the shape and size difference often visible between ancient specimens and large modern meat birds.
The researchers conclude, “Our conservative approach suggests that chickens were incorporated into human societies as domestic birds by 1500 BCE in peninsular Southeast Asia, and that they then rapidly spread south into Island Southeast Asia and west across South Asia and Mesopotamia to Europe and Africa. Additional archaeological investigations are necessary to test this chronology, and new excavations may reveal not only an earlier association between humans and red junglefowl, but also earlier human-mediated translocations of chickens across the globe.”
That is, loosely, it ain’t over until the last Arroz con Pollo is analyzed. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022