The chicken It is one of the most consumed animals, but it was not always like that, at the beginning they were considered exotic animals. Two new studies provide data on the time of its domestication and its spread from Asia towards West.
Previous research suggested that chickens were domesticated about 10,000 years ago in China, Southeast Asia or India, and that they were present in Europe more than 7,000 years ago.
A team from the universities of Munich Y Oxford publishes today an investigation in Pnas, in which the oldest bones that undoubtedly belong to a domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) were found in the town of Ban Non Wat (Thailand) and are dated between 1,650 and 1,250 BC
The researchers evaluated the domestic status of chicken remains at more than 600 sites in 89 countries based on archaeological, iconographic, and textual data. In addition, they related their distribution in the archaeological record with human societies and their subsistence strategies.
Thus, they discovered that an association with rice cultivation probably started a process that has led chickens to become one of the most numerous animals and found evidence that, at the beginning, they were considered exotic and it took several centuries to be used as food.
The beginning of rainfed rice cultivation in Southeast Asia attracted a type of red wild rooster (Gallus gallus) from the jungle, which began a closer relationship with people and gave rise to today’s chickens.
Subsequently, research suggests, they were first transported by Asia and then for him Mediterranean along the routes used by early Greek, Etruscan and Phoenician sea traders.
A second study published today Antiquity led by the University of Exeter (UK) analyzes when and how these animals came to Europe and the northeast of Africa.
The team used radiocarbon dating to establish the age of 23 of the oldest chickens found in western Eurasia and northwestern Africa, and most of the bones were younger than previously thought.
Contrary to previous research that pointed to the presence of these animals in Europe before the first millennium BC, the new data indicate that they did not arrive until around 800 BC.
After reaching the Mediterranean region, it took almost another thousand years for them to establish themselves in the colder climates of Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia and Iceland.
Chickens were not always considered food and, during the Iron Age in Europe, they were revered, said the University of Exeter.
Several of the oldest remains of these birds are buried alone and without sacrifice, while other specimens are buried with people.
The Roman Empire helped to popularize these animals and their eggs as food, which, for example, in Britain, were not regularly eaten until the 3rd century AD, especially in urban and military settings.
“Eating chickens is so common that people think we have always eaten them. This evidence shows that our past relationship with chickens was much more complex and that for centuries they were celebrated and revered.”highlighted the author of the study Naomi Skykesfrom the University of Exeter.
These new studies call into question what was known until now. “The fact that they are so ubiquitous and popular today and yet have been domesticated relatively recently is amazing.”added another of the signatories, Ophelie Lebrasseurof the National Institute of Anthropology and Latin American Thought.