Chicken domestication in China
Study shows chicken domestication occurred in China almost 10,000 years ago.Reuters

A recent study of ancient chicken bones from archaeological sites in Northern China suggests that mankind may have been domesticating chickens as early as 10,000 years ago.

Many scientists, including the "Father of Evolution", Charles Darwin, have suggested in the past that chicken domestication originated in the Indus Valley in South Asia, around 4000 years ago. However, the recent archaeological study conducted by researchers from China and Germany proves that chicken were domesticated in various parts of ancient Asia, including regions in Southeast China, Southwest China and South Asia.

Based on a technique called radiocarbon dating, professor Xingbo Zhao of China Agricultural University and his colleagues determined that the 39 ancient chicken bones they uncovered range in age from 2,300 to 10,500 years. The ancient bones were found from Cishan, Nanzhuangtou and Wangyin, three archaeological sites that represent the earliest sites for chicken bones in not only northern China, but also the world, and a relatively newer site known as Jiuliandun Chu Tombs, Xinhuanet reported.

To confirm if the specimens are related to the present-day domesticated chicken, the scientists compared their mitochondrial DNA sequences to that of many modern-day heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds including pheasants, rock partridges and chicken. They were also compared to ancient specimens from Hawaii, Easter Island, Chile and Spain.

It was inferred from the analysis that the chicken bones found in northern China belong to the genus Gallus, which also includes modern domesticated chicken. The study also provides further evidence for one of the earliest mixed agricultural complexities in the world

"Early Holocene chicken domestication in northern China" has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study included researchers from China's Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relic, Hebei's Xushui County Office for Preservation of Ancient Monuments, Jilin University, and University of Potsdam in Germany. It puts northern China as a centre of chicken domestication within Asia.