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Peters, Joris; Lebrasseur, Ophelie; Irving-Pease, Evan K.; Paxinos, Ptolemaios Dimitrios; Best, Julia; Smallman, Riley; Callou, Cecile; Gardeisen, Armelle; Trixl, Simon; Frantz, Laurent; Sykes, Naomi; Fuller, Dorian Q. and Larson, Greger (2022): The biocultural origins and dispersal of domestic chickens. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 119, No. 24, e2121978119

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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 similar to 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 similar 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 similar to 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.

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