Which came first?
Some cultures revered them before they became a dietary staple.
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Chickens are present on every continent except Antarctica. However, it’s not entirely clear when, where, or why the familiar fowl was first domesticated.
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Previous research alleged that chickens were first domesticated 8,000 years ago in China, and spread into Northwest Europe by the Iron Age (during the first century BCE).
But two new studies report that chickens may have been domesticated much more recently.
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Julia Best and Grace Clark
Using radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis, they reevaluated data from previous studies and traced back the oldest chicken bones across the globe.
A Neolithic site in modern-day Thailand called Ban Non Wat holds the remains of the oldest known domesticated chickens, dating between 1650 and 1250 BCE.
From there, it would take until 800 BCE for chickens to arrive in the Mediterranean.
The researchers argue that the budding practice of dry rice cultivation attracted wild junglefowl species that were eventually domesticated by humans.
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And in faraway places like Western Europe, chickens were initially treated as exotic animals, rather than common sources of food.
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“Our evidence shows that our past relationship with chickens was far more complex, and that for centuries chickens were celebrated and venerated.”