When and where

The beginnings and the progress of domestication of most "classical" domestic animals are not known in detail because they depend on archaeological discoveries of human settlements, for example, bone fragments from waste holes, cave paintings, or statuettes of animals. In the latest periods, it is possible to obtain domestication information using genetic comparative analysis. According to archaeologists, the beginnings of domestication were at a period when human gatherers and hunters became sedentary farmers, a period in which the domestication of wheat, barley, and peas also occurred. This change occured at the turning point of the Stone Age (Paleolithic and Neolithic) and it was so radical that it is referred to as the "Neolithic revolution." It is a temporal border that occurred more than 12,000 years ago. In archaeological findings from western Asia, which are 11,000 and 9,000 years old, it is possible to clearly follow changes in the way of life according to the structure of food, which changed very distinctively during that interval. While the remains of wild animal species including cattle, pigs, gazelle, deer, foxes, rodents, fish, and birds predominate in the older findings, there is a distinct predominance of sheep and goats in the more recent findings. It is very difficult to determine if the bone remains come from already domesticated animals or wild ones because at the beginnings of domestication the skeletal

The Yorkshire is a common breed of domesticated pig. It was created by crossing the large white pig with the smaller Chinese pig. (Photo by Lynn M. Stone. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

changes were very small. If there are predominatly male bones in the findings (females were left for the production of offspring) or if the bones are markedly smaller than those of wild animals, archaeologists assume that they belonged to domestic animals.

The domestication of the majority of the traditional domestic animals usually occurred in areas where the human populations had reached a certain level of cultural development and where there was a suitable wild ancestor. These areas are designated as a "center of domestication." The oldest (10,000 to 6000 B.C.) domestic centers were located in western Asia and in the Middle East (the area of the "Fertile Crescent") and were related to the beginnings of sedentary settlements and the first successful experiments with breeding grain. In that area, goats and sheep were domesticated for the first time, followed by cattle and pigs. Nevertheless, a very narrow relationship was created a few thousand years earlier between tamed wolves and humans, so that the first domestic animal was a dog. This period became a sort of "start" and "instruction" period for the next domestication processes. The next significant domestic centers occurred in the Indian continent (zebu), in China (goose, duck, pig, silkworm moth), in Central Asia (horse, camel), and in Southeast Asia (domestic fowl, pig, buffalo). In these areas the common domestic animals of today were domesticated. A small percentage of domestic animals were bred on the American continents, in Middle America, the turkey and musky duck, and in the western part of South America, the llama and guinea pig. From these centers domestic animals spread to other areas. Some species expanded all over the world (dog, cat, cattle, horse, sheep, goat, domestic fowl) while others remained only in the original area of domestication (yak, Bali cattle, llama).

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