Tuesday, June 7, 2022

The Origins Of Domesticated Chickens

Chickens were domesticated much later than I expected and spread to various places outside Southeast Asia much later than I would have expected (particularly given that a leading Harappan city in the Indus River basin was called "Chicken City" and the fact that they seemed to be part of the Austronesian domesticates package at some point).

For what it is worth, while the positive evidence they cite for the presence of domesticated chickens in various places is solid, the case that they make that earlier evidence, particularly from South Asia and island Southeast Asia, is not credible, is quite conservative and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Though chickens are the most numerous and ubiquitous domestic bird, their origins, the circumstances of their initial association with people, and the routes along which they dispersed across the world remain controversial. In order to establish a robust spatial and temporal framework for their origins and dispersal, 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, and that chickens were not domesticated in the Indian Subcontinent. 
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. 
To investigate the circumstances of their initial domestication, we correlated the temporal spread of rice and millet cultivation with the first appearance of chickens within the range of red junglefowl species. Our results suggest that agricultural practices focused on the production and storage of cereal staples served to draw arboreal red junglefowl into the human niche. Thus, the arrival of rice agriculture may have first facilitated the initiation of the chicken domestication process, and then, following their integration within human communities, allowed for their dispersal across the globe.
Joris Peters, et al., "The biocultural origins and dispersal of domestic chickens" 119 (24) PNAS e2121978119 (June 6, 2022) (open access).


Guy said...

Huh... Hard to take a paper super seriously that doesn't include an aDNA component.

Guy said...

Now that I have read the paper I withdraw my somewhat flippant comment. This reads like a solid paper. Very interesting.