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Mesoamerican Turkeys- Dinner or Bling?

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posted on Feb, 4 2010 @ 08:46 PM
It seems that researchers in Canada and America have concluded our favorite Thankgiving Dinner had been domesticated in the Mesoamerican Region over 2000 years ago, but they also found that these Birds where not on the Menu.

Turkeys domesticated not once, but twice

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.

It goes on to suggest that it was only around 1000 years ago, that Turkey Bones started to increase in these middens, while "Other Food" seemingly became less frequent.

I did not know Turkeys where our "only" Tame/Dommestic animal from the Americas, and unless these things where treated like "Pets" in the past, I can not understand how you would let a good meal go to waste, solely for the feathers. Just seems funny, that does.



posted on Feb, 4 2010 @ 09:11 PM
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?

Maybe they did not feed them as well as we do, and they were skinny or something?

I really do not know. I will read more and see what their research shows in depth before I go speculating things that are probably wrong lol.

[edit on 4-2-2010 by muzzleflash]

posted on Feb, 11 2010 @ 11:35 AM

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?

That's actually pretty common in early cultures. What came to mind is the Hawaiians, where pigs were considered sacred and parts were only used on special occasions -- and the animal that took the place of the pig (eats garbage, common food source) was the dog.

posted on Feb, 11 2010 @ 07:20 PM
This reminds me somewhat of a story I once heard surrounding Bichon Frise dogs (one of which is my wonderful companion). It seems that in the French Royal Court years ago, it was fashionable to wear a bichon in a basket around one's neck, sort of like an over-sized living necklace.

[edit on 2/11/2010 by Soylent Green Is People]

posted on Feb, 13 2010 @ 02:29 AM
reply to post by Shane

Maybe they harvested the turkey feathers because they wanted to sell them due to the religious demand for them. You don't want to kill your livelyhood. It probably was an honor to raise an animal with a sacred symbol. They probably chose to eat another animal to sustain them.

People who sell wool wouldn't eat their sheep that supplied the cloth. A sustainable resource is quite valuable when there is a demand for it.

posted on Feb, 14 2010 @ 07:53 PM
reply to post by lostinspace

Well you are very close, in respects to the use of the Feathers

Turkey Blankets

“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.”

Very good presumption on the matter Lost in Space

As for our Hawaiian input, you know I respect you Byrd.

I am always greatful for you assistance within topics and the Forum itself, but I have looked, and looked, and can not anything about Hawaiians and their Canines. Maybe you can recall where the info was from and post it for review.

I have found how they came to the Islands, what they brought, what they ate, how they prepared it, and on and on and on. I have even reviewed a Univeristy Study on Introduced Spieces and the Problems they produced with the Hawaiian Ecosystem.

I can not find anything about their dogs.

Awaiting your direction in respects to this.



posted on Aug, 11 2012 @ 07:58 AM
So, we are finding Dates now suggest The North American Turkey was being Domesticated some 2300 Years ago, and it appears the Turkey was used as a Sacrificial Offering, according to the Article Ancient Maya Domesticated Wild Turkey 2300 Years Ago.

A flock of wild turkeys in Leon County, Florida (Tim Ross)

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.”

The article goes on......

So there seemed to be some confusion as well, since it appears the Turkey used was a critter of Mexican Origin, and not one that was local to the region. They seemed to have brought their sacrifices to the Temple in El Mirador.

More food for thought, or ones spiritual well being, as this case maybe.



posted on Aug, 11 2012 @ 06:27 PM
I have wondered for a while why the crops that early Americans grew, seem to be class by class superior to old world crops. I know, technically turkeys are not crops, and that they are native to the Americas long before people could have raised them. Here is my limited comparison.

Old World New World

Wheat and Barley Maize and Potatoes
Chickens Turkeys
Figs, Grapes Pumpkins, Tomatoes
Olives Avocados

I know there are a few crops from Asia like rice and oranges that I left off.

My point is that many of the old world crops existed in their present, possibly optimal, form for several thousand years before contact. Avocados for example have existed pretty much as is for 9,000 years or so. They also do not survive in the wild, and require human maintenance. Whereas European, Middle Eastern, and African farmers had more time, if the current estimates of when and how people migrated into the Americas is to be believed, to develop their own high quality staple crops. Either the Americans were much better at selective breeding plants than anyone else, or they had more time.
You must also consider that in any case, the first people who arrived in the new world would have not had any impetus to change a hunter gatherer way of life right after arrival. Instead what seems to have happened, should current estimates be trusted, is that groups of people travel great distances to arrive at prime hunting grounds, only to very rapidly abandon the only way of life they knew to investigate farming.
One big factor in the Americans favor is climate being tropical, so I grant that, but area-wise no real advantage

What do others think? Is there a thread on this?



posted on Aug, 11 2012 @ 06:32 PM
Well thats annoying.
The attempt at a table above failed, take 2.

Old World

Wheat, Barley, Chickens, Figs, Grapes, Olives.

New World

Maize, Potatoes, Turkeys, Pumpkins, Tomatoes, Avocados.


posted on Aug, 11 2012 @ 08:36 PM
Turkey feathers made/make excellent fletching on arrows. Some of the best. I guess having a ready source of them is good planning.

...oh yeah, they look nice too. But when it comes down to brass tacks, eating and self defense trumped looking good.

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