The examine additionally suggests turkeys weren’t solely prized for their meat with demand for the birds hovering with the Mayans and Aztecs due to their cultural significance in rituals and sacrifices.
In a world collaboration, researchers from the College of York, the Institute of Anthropology and Historical past in Mexico, Washington State College and Simon Fraser College, studied the stays of 55 turkeys which lived between 300BC and 1500 AD and had been found in Mesoamerica an space stretching from central Mexico to Northern Costa Rica inside which pre-Columbian societies such because the Mayans and Aztecs flourished.
Analysing the ancient DNA of the birds, the researchers had been in a position to affirm that fashionable European turkeys are descended from Mexican ancestors.
The crew additionally measured the carbon isotope ratios within the turkey bones to reconstruct their diets. They discovered that the turkeys had been gobbling crops cultivated by people resembling corn in growing quantities, significantly within the centuries main as much as Spanish exploration, implying extra intensive farming of the birds.
Apparently, the gradual intensification of turkey farming doesn’t instantly correlate to a rise in human inhabitants measurement, a hyperlink you’d anticipate to see if turkeys had been reared merely as a supply of vitamin.
Lead writer of the paper and Marie Sk?odowska-Curie Fellow within the Division of Archaeology on the College of York, Dr Aurélie Manin, stated: “Turkey bones are rarely found in domestic refuse in Mesoamerica and most of the turkeys we studied had not been eaten some were found buried in temples and human graves, perhaps as companions for the afterlife.
This fits with what we know about the iconography of the period, where we see turkeys depicted as gods and appearing as symbols in the calendar.
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“The archaeological evidence suggests that meat from deer and rabbit was a more popular meal choice for people in pre-Columbian societies; turkeys are likely to have also been kept for their increasingly important symbolic and cultural role.”
The truth that among the turkey bones had been uncovered exterior of the pure vary of the species additionally means that there was a thriving turkey commerce in stay birds alongside Mesoamerica’s increasing commerce routes.
Senior writer of the paper from the Division of Archaeology on the College of York, Dr Camilla Speller, stated: “Even though humans in this part of the word had been practicing agriculture for around 10,000 years, the turkey was the first animal, other than the dog, people in Mesoamerica started to take under their control.
“Turkeys would have made a good choice for domestication as there were not many other animals of suitable temperament available and turkeys would have been drawn to human settlements searching for scraps”
A number of the stays the researchers analysed had been from a cousin of the frequent turkey — the brightly plumed Ocellated turkey. In an odd twist the researchers discovered that the diets of those extra ornate birds remained largely composed of untamed vegetation and bugs, suggesting that they had been left to roam free and by no means domesticated.
“Why two biologically very similar species living in the same area were treated so differently remains a mystery,” added Dr Speller.
Story Supply: Supplies offered by College of York.