Study: Chickens were widely raised in South Central Asia as early as 400 BC | Trending Viral hub

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The origins and spread of the chicken (A rooster is a rooster) throughout the ancient world is one of the most enigmatic questions about Eurasian domesticated animals. The lack of agreement on the timing and centers of origin is due to problems with morphological identifications, lack of direct dating, and poor preservation of thin, brittle bird bones. In new research, archaeologists examined ancient chicken eggshells from 13 different archaeological sites, spanning a period of one and a half millennia. Their results show that chickens were widely bred throughout southern Central Asia from the 4th century BC. C. until the medieval periods, probably dispersing along the ancient Silk Road.

A compilation of evidence from ancient chickens in Central Asia: SEM images of a Bash Tepa eggshell, emphasizing morphologically distinct respiratory pores at magnifications x30 (a), x150 (b), x750 (e, f);  (c) a ceramic egg with clay balls from Bukhara dating to between the 10th and 12th centuries AD;  (d) the Sophytes coin from Bactria in 300 BC.  C.;  (g) a fragment of an ossuary from Bash Tepa dating from the last centuries BC.  C., with an apparent chicken on top;  (h) a selection of eggshells from the Bukhara site, showing color (essentially all white) and burning, which was evident in many of the shells.  Image credit: Peters et al., doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-46093-2.

A compilation of evidence from ancient chickens in Central Asia: SEM images of a Bash Tepa eggshell, emphasizing morphologically distinct respiratory pores at magnifications x30 (a), x150 (b), x750 (e, f); (c) a ceramic egg with clay balls from Bukhara dating to between the 10th and 12th centuries AD; (d) the Sophytos coin from Bactria in 300 BC. C.; (g) a fragment of an ossuary from Bash Tepa dating from the last centuries BC. C., with an apparent chicken on top; (h) a selection of eggshells from the Bukhara site, showing color (essentially all white) and burning, which was evident in many of the shells. Image credit: Peters. et al., two: 10.1038/s41467-024-46093-2.

“The debate over the origins and spread of domesticated chickens has intensified in recent years with the introduction of genetic and molecular methods, reviving old controversies about this enigmatic bird,” said Dr. Carli Peters, researcher at the Max Planck Institute. of Geoanthropology, and colleagues.

“Historical sources attest to the prominence of chickens in southern Europe and southwest Asia in the last centuries BC.”

“Similarly, art historical depictions of chickens and anthropomorphic chimeras between roosters and humans are recurring motifs in the prehistoric and historical traditions of Central Asia. However, it remains a mystery when this ritually and economically important bird spread along trans-Eurasian trade routes.”

“Specialists agree that domestication traits evolved in an island population of South Asian jungle birds, probably the red jungle birdA rooster is a rooster ssp. shovel) somewhere in its wide range, from Thailand to India.”

“However, scholars have also presented widely divergent dates and routes of spread, and part of this confusion comes from unclear identifications of birds in ancient art and from the overlap of morphological features of chicken bones with those of certain species. of wild birds”.

“In addition, hollow, fragile bones and eggshells are much less likely to be preserved, recovered and identified than those of other animals.”

In their new research, the authors discovered evidence of a prominence of chicken egg production in Central Asia beginning in the last centuries BC. C. and continuing until the medieval period.

“We show that chickens were widely bred in Central Asia from about 400 BC to 1000 AD and probably dispersed along the ancient Silk Road,” they said.

“The abundance of eggshells further suggests that the birds were laid out of season.”

“It was this prolific egg-laying trait that made the domestic chicken so attractive to ancient people.”

To reach these conclusions, the researchers collected tens of thousands of eggshell fragments from 13 archaeological sites located along the main Central Asian corridor of the Silk Road.

They then used a biomolecular analysis method called ZooMS to identify the source of the eggs.

Like genetic analysis, ZooMS can identify species from animal remains such as bones, skin and shells, but it relies on protein signals rather than DNA. This makes it a faster and more cost-effective option than genetic testing.

“Our study shows the potential of ZooMS to shed light on past human-animal interactions,” said Dr. Peters.

“The identification of these shell fragments as chickens, and their abundance in the sediment layers at each site, led us to an important conclusion: the birds must have laid eggs more frequently than their wild ancestor, the red jungle fowl. , which nests once a day. year and normally lays six eggs per clutch.”

“This is the earliest evidence of the loss of seasonal egg laying identified so far in the archaeological record,” said Dr. Robert Spengler, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology.

“This is an important clue to better understand the mutualistic relationships between humans and animals that gave rise to domestication.”

The teams paper was published in the magazine Nature Communications.

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C. Peters et al. 2024. Archaeological and molecular evidence for ancient chickens in Central Asia. common nat 15, 2697; two: 10.1038/s41467-024-46093-2

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