About thirty billion chickens live on Earth. This makes this delicious, flightless bird one of the most numerous of all domesticated animals – perhaps after the honeybee. And two new studies now show that the numerical success of Gallus Gallus Dominicus More than 3000 years ago in Thailand, when the population began to grow rice. This has attracted populations of red bushbirds (Gallus gallus spadiceus) that previously lived only in bamboo forests.
Searching in deserted paddy fields and searching for grain in the same villages, among pigs and dogs, those birds turn to humans and vice versa. Due to the abundance of food, the hens began to lay more eggs and the roosters lost their territorial instinct.
From Thailand, this domestic chicken spread fairly quickly to China and India, and rather slowly – along with rice cultivation – to the rest of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In Europe, chickens were spread from the Mediterranean by Greek and Phoenician traders, around 500 BC.
Very old bone not from chicken
Until now, chickens have often been thought to have been domesticated in China thousands of years ago, or in India about 4,000 years ago. Genetic studies are inconclusive: they show that domestic chickens are descended from the red bushfowl, and that the ancestors of domestic chickens separated from current bush chicken populations sometime between 12,000 and 6,000 years ago, but this does not mean that the separation occurred directly by domestication. But anyway, the ancient “chicken bones” from China are certainly from pheasants, and India’s bones are likely from other wild chicken species.
All of this is evident from two extensive studies this week in PNAS and in antique, in which some of the same researchers collaborated. The authors in PNASAlmost all archaeological evidence of early chicken farming (over 600 excavations in 89 countries) has been examined along with possible photographs and written evidence.
in antique This week, a large, mostly British, research team reported accurate C14 dating of 23 chicken bones from European fossils. These dates confirm an old suspicion of archaeologists: chicken bones ‘migrate’ easily between layers of sediment, and therefore should not be dated based on the layer of land in which they were found. Only five of the 23 bones consistent with their spur have been found. Bones from Bulgaria said to be from the late Stone Age, Greek bones from the “Bronze Age”, and bones from Morocco from “2700 years ago”: they turned out to be all modern or mostly medieval. And what was also remarkable: in the first hundreds of years after its appearance in Europe, there were no traces of butchering on the bones and they were often relatively old when they died.
They keep these animals for entertainment and fun
Julius Caesar V de Bello Galico
According to the researchers, these are clear indications that chickens were initially used as a status symbol: exotic animals from distant regions, as evidence of the strength of the owner’s network. Note to the Roman general Julius Caesar in his book De Bello Galico (about 50 BC) also indicates this, according to archaeologists. According to Caesar, the British considered eating rabbits, geese and chickens a divine taboo. “They keep these animals for entertainment and fun.”
Coincidentally, Dutch archaeologist Jorit Keelder (University of Oxford) was also told this week that his analysis of the rise Gallus Gallus Dominicus in the Middle East to be published later this year in Mediterranean Archeology† Kildare says by phone that in this article he came to different conclusions. Kielder believes that chickens were in the Middle East and the Mediterranean much earlier. “I see clear indications in the images in Minoan Greece in 1800 BC. Also in Egypt can be found quite convincing images of chickens from 1600 BC.” Assyrian texts about the crowing of roosters date back to about 700 BC. According to Kelder, they probably go back to ancient traditions. Nevertheless, Kielder praises the new research: “Very useful and very important that all those archaeological dates are now in order, finally! However, I am in favor of the importance of other sources, such as photos. These publications are not the end of the discussion, but the beginning.”