Which came first…the chicken or the egg?
You’ve most likely heard that phrase before, right?
Well, there’s some new data on that old adage, because researchers say that they’ve found a new date and a new location for the world’s first domesticated chickens.
The origin of when and where humans first domesticated chickens has been up for debate for a long time and it was previously believed that it occurred in either Southeast Asia, India, or northern China.
But new research from a team that studied data about chicken remains found in 89 countries and 600 different locations suggests that the earliest domesticated chickens come from a Neolithic site called Ban Non Wat in Thailand.
Joris Peters, a zooarchaeologist at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich and lead author of the study says, “Although jungle fowl can feed on a variety of foods, they prefer seeds, so we assume that initially, wild birds foraged in the fields in search of seeds and occasionally entered the villages of cereal-cultivating farmers. Over time, the fowl’s permanent presence in the human niche allowed developing a closer relationship between humans and birds and ultimately their domestication.”
The researchers found chicken bones at Ban Non Wat in Thailand that date to between 1650 BCE and 1250 BCE. They also found juvenile chickens at the site, which suggests that poultry farming was happening there.
Furthermore, the researchers found a link between the cultivation of millet and rice and the domestication of chickens at the site. This led them to believe that wild chickens may have happened upon the millet and rice that was being grown and decided that life would be easier around humans, thus leading to their domestication.
Peters said, “By combining archaeofaunal and archaeobotanical evidence, our study rewrites the origins and history of poultry husbandry and offers for the first time a testable hypothesis for the integration of chicken farming into human subsistence practices.”