A New Study of Pig DNA Clarifies Farming Pre-History

While we are on the subject of animal domestication and the agricultural revolution and urbanization in the Near East, I wanna share with you news that the first domesticated pigsPig Skull in Europe were introduced from the Middle East by Stone Age farmers, as reported by a new study in PNAS which I think will soon be published online.

The study involved examining the DNA from mandible and teeth of modern and 7,000-year-old pigs. The findings revealed that domesticated pigs in Europe have a Near Eastern ancestry, indicating that farmers migrated to Europe, bringing their livestock and farming methods with them.

These new findings challenge a previous study, which was written by the some of the same authors but only analyzed the DNA from modern pigs. What they found then showed that all modern pigs are descended from European wild boar. This led researchers to conclude that early Europeans domesticated pigs independently of other farming methods. But the integration of ancient DNA from the mandible and teeth brought about a new conclusion.

Keith Dobney clarifies that the domestic pigs of European wild boar ancestry appear soon afterwards,

“By use of genetics, we’ve shown that the earliest domesticated pigs that moved into Europe were originally from the Near East. That means that people moved these animals from the Near East into Europe.

And what happened after that, which is even more interesting, is it appears that once they were introduced, these domesticated pigs spurred or lit the blue touch-paper for people to domesticate the local indigenous wild boar. So, we have a secondary domestication which is happening in Europe soon afterwards.”

So, the DNA records show that European domestic pigs of wild boar became widespread throughout Europe, and that the Near Eastern pigs disappeared.

This sorta research reminds me of what was recently discovered about Polynesians and chicken domestication in the Americas, which I shared with you back in June. Genetic evidence of not only plants, but in these two studies of animals, are helping archaeologists and anthropologists resolve patterns of cultural exchange such as agricultural techniques and migration of people.

P.S. – Dobney seems to be all about understanding pig domestication, earlier this year he also published a paper in PNAS on, “Phylogeny and ancient DNA of Sus provides insights into neolithic expansion in Island Southeast Asia and Oceania.”

2 thoughts on “A New Study of Pig DNA Clarifies Farming Pre-History

  1. Very nice and informative article. Question: Do european wild boar have an extra tooth that can be used to identify the the difference between wild boar and domesticated pigs in the United States?

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