Why chickens may have crossed the Silk Road

The secret of what came first, is chicken or the egg is often dissolved-it was an egg. However, there are questions about how well chickens were dispersed in ancient times, as are other wild bird bones. not so well known as the bones of domesticated chickens.

With the help of new technology, a recent analysis of egg shell fragments in Central Asia shows that domestication of chickens making eggs it must have been common in the area from about 400 BCE to 1000 CE. The ability of domesticated chickens to lay eggs outside of the breeding season is what led to the spread of these birds across Eurasia and northeast Africa. The results are described in a study published on April 2 in the journal Nature Communications and help explain how they became an important economic and agricultural resource.

a square shaped piece of eggshell from an archaeological dig

A fragment of an egg shell from the site of Bash Tepa, representing one of the earliest evidence of chickens on the Silk Road CREDIT: Robert Spengler

An international team of archaeologists, historians, and biomolecular scientists studied fragments of egg shells from 12 different archaeological sites in Central Asia for about 1,500 years. It seems that they were scattered on the side of the central road Old Silk Road, the largest Eurasian trading group from present-day China to the Mediterranean Sea. The network was used from 100 BCE to the mid-1500s and facilitate religious, cultural, economic, and political interaction between Asian and European countries.

[Related: Humans have been eating hazelnuts for at least 6,000 years.]

To find out where the egg pieces came from, they used a biomolecular analysis method called ZooMS. It can identify other organisms from animal remains, including bones, skin, and shells. ZooMS also relies on protein signals instead of DNA, which makes it faster and cheaper than genetic analysis, according to the team.

“This research demonstrates the potential of ZooMS to shed light on human-animal interactions in the past,” said Carli Peters, study co-author and archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology in Germany. he said in his voice.

This method identified the pieces of skulls as egg fragments of domestic chickens, which is very important to find. The team believes that the abundance of chicken eggshells found in the mud at each archaeological site means that these birds must have laid eggs more frequently than their wild ancestors. the red bird of the forest. These beautiful tropical birds are still around It is found in Southeast Asia and other parts of South Asiaand nest only once a year, laying about six eggs per clutch. Domestic chickens lay eggs regularly, and some chickens do not laying one egg per daytherefore ancient people must have taken advantage of the ability to lay eggs that did not appear during a certain season.

The abundance of eggshells indicates that the birds were laying eggs on time. Domestic chickens are very useful because they have eggs that do not depend on a particular season.

[Related: Finally, a smart home for chickens.]

“This is the earliest evidence of the loss of a nesting egg in the known period in the archaeological record,” said co-researcher Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology paleoecologist and economist Robert Spengler. he said in his voice. “This is important information to better understand the relationship between humans and animals that led to domestication.”

The research shows that especially in Central Asia, the ability of domestic chickens to lay multiple eggs made them the most important agricultural species they are today. The team hopes that this work will show how the use of new low-cost analysis methods such as ZooMS and multidisciplinary collaboration can be used to address long-standing questions about the past.

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