New research indicates that the birds were tamed in Mesoamerica and what is now the southwestern United States, with the poultry we eat today is descending from the former region.
Turkeys, the only domesticated animals from the New World that are now used globally, were actually domesticated twice -- once in Mesoamerica as was previously believed and once in what is now the southwestern United States.
The new findings, reported this week by Canadian and American researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, come from a DNA analysis of ancient turkey bones and coprolites, the polite name for fossilized excrement.
Surprisingly, the researchers found that both strains of domesticated turkeys are now extinct, replaced by more highly inbred strains. The turkeys we eat today, moreover, are not descendants of the North American turkeys, but of those from Mesoamerica, which in a convoluted journey were taken to Europe by Spanish explorers, then reexported to North America.
Evidence of turkey domestication in the Americas appears in remains from at least 2,000 years ago, but evidence from the first 1,000 years of that period suggests that the birds were raised for their feathers and ritual value, not for their meat. Middens -- essentially garbage dumps -- from the period contain "lots and lots of turkey poop and very few turkey bones," said archaeologist Brian M. Kemp of Washington State University, a co-author of the study.
Originally posted by muzzleflash
Thanks for the link to the Info.
I did not know about this, and it is rather bizarre.
So they kept them as pets and only used parts of them as decorations. But rarely ate them?
“The researchers speculate that the Puebloans may have traveled east to catch these birds for their superior feathers,” ScienceNow said. “Turkey feather blankets replace rabbit fur blankets at about the same time turkey remains begin to appear in archaeological sites.”
Published online in the journal PLoS ONE, the discovery of the turkey bones at an ancient Mayan archaeological site in Guatemala provides evidence of domestication, usually a significant mark of civilization, and the earliest evidence of the Mexican turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, in the Maya world.
“The discovery of the turkey bones is significant because the Maya did not use a lot of domesticated animals. While they cultivated domesticated plants, most of their animal protein came mostly from wild resources,” said lead author Dr Erin Thornton, a research associate at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
“We might have gotten the timing of the introduction of this species to the ancient Maya wrong by a significant chunk of time,” Dr Thornton said. “The species originates from central Mexico, outside the Maya cultural area. This is the species the Europeans brought back with them to Europe – all domestic turkeys originated from Mexico.”
Using archaeological evidence, comparisons of bone structure and ancient DNA analysis, the scientists determined the turkey fossils belonged to the non-local species Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo, which is native to central and northern Mexico.
The Mexican turkey is the ancestor of all domestic turkeys consumed in the world today and Mesoamerica’s only indigenous domesticated animal. The discovery of the bones south of the turkey’s natural range shows animal exchange occurred from northern Mesoamerica to the Maya cultural region during the Late Preclassic period from 300 BC to 100 CE.
“This research has consequences for understanding Maya subsistence because they would have had access to a controlled, managed resource,” Dr Thornton said. “The turkey bones came from right within the ceremonial precinct of the site, so these are probably the remains of some sort of elite sacrifice, meal or feast.”