Cows in Africa were domesticated ten thousand years ago

(ORDO NEWS) — The preliminary findings of researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences refute the traditional notion that domesticated cattle came to East Africa from Western Asia.

For more than 50 years, Polish archaeologists have been excavating in the area of ​​Old Dongola, the capital of the medieval kingdom of Makuria.

Now it is the territory of Sudan, the valley itself in the central course of the Nile is sometimes called the Letty Basin (one of the dry tributaries of the Nile, on the banks of which the city was once built).

Researchers consider this area the “great African crossroads” because it is there that the paths of animals and people that have existed for thousands of years along the Nile cross the southern border of the Sahara.

And here, on the border of the desert and arable land, they discovered archaeological sites that are much older than not only Christian Macuria, but also ancient civilizations. Preliminary dating – VIII millennium BC.

Cows in Africa were domesticated ten thousand years ago 2
On the left – a bone of cattle from the Holocene sites, on the right – from the medieval Dongola

The leader of the expedition, Piotr Osypiński, noted that the people who lived then in this area already knew about ceramic vessels, used millstones made of stone for grinding grain (wild varieties of millet), therefore, in his opinion, their communities can be called early Neolithic.

They still hunted the wild animals of the savanna, with one exception: cattle were in the early stages of domestication.

And this is a very unexpected conclusion. The fact is that, according to modern ideas, all domestic cattle that we know today descended from wild bulls (turs) that lived about ten thousand years ago in the territory of modern Turkey and Iraq. And he got to Africa, according to the same ideas, around the 6th-5th millennium BC.

However, earlier some archaeologists have already assumed that African cattle were also domesticated on the spot, in the Eastern Sahara region.

Their hypothesis was based on the fact that the desert ecosystem should have contributed to the “strengthening of relations” between humans and tours, and people from ancient times followed the herds of these large ruminants.

However, there was no direct evidence that such a process really took place, that is, the remains of wild cattle and its transitional and domesticated forms have not yet been found.

In the case of African domestication, the very presence of the remains of archaic cattle (in layers older than those attributed to the 6th-5th millennium BC) would be such evidence. And perhaps it happened.

At one of the sites of the beginning of the Holocene era (about ten thousand years ago), researchers found well-preserved remains of domesticated cattle with features similar to aurochs. They were among the bones of other, purely wild species of animals that lived in the savannah.

From a layer dating back to the same period, archaeologists have recovered a tiny clay figurine depicting a bull.

Although the head has not been preserved, according to the discoverers, the silhouette undoubtedly indicates a large ruminant. Very similar figurines are known from many pastoral cultures, including the Nuer people of South Sudan.

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Scientists believe that this figurine depicted a bull

Now researchers are waiting for the results of accurate dating of the samples, which will confirm their age. But everything indicates that we are talking about a period much earlier than the 6th-5th millennium BC – the generally accepted date for the appearance in Africa of domesticated cattle from the Middle East. This means that the domestication of bulls took place at the local level.

From all this it follows that the domestication of cows took place not only in the triangle of Asia Minor-Altai-India, as was previously believed, but also in East Africa. According to earlier genetic data, cows of the breeds familiar to us descended from a population of only 80 individuals that once lived in northern Mesopotamia.

The zebu line in India and Pakistan bears traces of another line of domestication. It is not yet clear whether the cows and bulls domesticated in Africa have left their genetic mark on modern cattle. Today, cows are the most numerous mammal of such a large size, there are about one and a half billion of them.


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