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The ecology of chickens: an examination of the introduction of the domestic chicken across Europe after the Bronze Age.

Pitt, J., 2017. The ecology of chickens: an examination of the introduction of the domestic chicken across Europe after the Bronze Age. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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PITT, Jacqueline Clare_Ph.D._2017.pdf



The domestic fowl, Gallus gallus domesticus, or chicken, features as an important part of human society, culture and subsistence, both now and in the past. Despite studies into the origins and spread of many of the other domestic animals, the origins and nature of spread of the chicken west and into Europe has been largely neglected due to a lack of sufficient compiled evidence. It is widely accepted that chickens are descended from junglefowl in Asia and South East Asia, but more precise origins of the chicken are debated. As a bird with limited flight capability, the chicken has been transported worldwide by humans. Once the chicken arrived in Europe, very little attention has been given to the human-chicken interactions which governed its success, and enabled it to become permanently established in a region very different to where its ancestor originates- geographically, environmentally and culturally. This study compiles zooarchaeological evidence for the chicken across Europe, combines it with evidence from archaeology and anthropology, and takes the novel approach of applying ecological and biogeographical techniques. Such techniques complement traditional methods of archaeological assessment, and provide new and unique insights into the origins, spread and impact of this significant species. I establish the regions which are most suitable for initial domestication, and demonstrate that Europe would not be suitable for indigenous populations of the ancestor bird. This informs us about the human investment required to m aintain early populations of chicken. I identify India as the most likely origin of early European chickens, based on environmental suitability, presence of the ancestor species, and practical routes from Asia to Europe; but propose multiple centres of domestication in Asia. Once the chicken reaches Europe, multiple diffusion events associated with specific cultures are identified, primarily via trade routes. The niche of the ancestor is compared to the niche of the early domestic chicken and found to have shifted, indicating adaptation under domestication. The introduction of the chicken into Europe as a non-native species is shown to have directly and indirectly affected certain species, but the chicken itself is most affected by human agency. The date, location and context for the faunal remains, combined with literary evidence and material culture, establishes change and continuity in both use and perception of chickens by human societies. The conclusions and methods presented in this thesis are relevant to several subjects, including archaeology, zooarchaeology, ecology and conservation, and demonstrate the benefits of a multi- disciplinary approach.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Uncontrolled Keywords:chickens; archaeology; zooarchaeology; palaeoecology; ecology; prehistory; Roman
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:29756
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:22 Sep 2017 12:51
Last Modified:09 Aug 2022 16:04


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