Cattle domesticated 10,660 years ago

By Hu Yongqi in Kunming ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-11-13 09:14:18

Cattle domesticated 10,660 years ago

Zhang Hucai shows an ancient cattle fossil found in Northeast China at the laboratory at Yunnan Normal University in Kunming. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Scientists have found evidence that Northeast China was one of the first areas to domesticate cattle from about 10,660 years ago.

The findings are detailed in an academic paper by scientists in Yunnan province that was published in the peer-reviewed science journal Nature Communications on Nov 8.

Cattle domesticated 10,660 years ago

Dongba papermaking craft in Lijiang 

Cattle domesticated 10,660 years ago

Nuo Opera staged in E China's Jiangxi

The paper, titled Morphological and Genetic Evidence for Early Holocene Cattle Management in North-Eastern China, is the result of research efforts by Professor Zhang Hucai and his team at Yunnan Normal University in Kunming, the provincial capital.

The paper is based on six years of research on a bovine jawbone with teeth marks consistent with those left by buccal devices used to restrain domestic animals. Through bone analysis, the bovine mandible has been identified as that of a Bos Taurus, namely a cow, from Northeast China. DNA analysis suggests it belongs to a sister group of the cattle previously regarded as the first to be domesticated in ancient Turkey and India.

However, the archaeological context and the sensor dating results of the fossil bone pointed at a time frame that pre-dates the time suggested for initial domestication of cattle in Turkey.

"About 110 years earlier, to be specific," says Zhang, who secured from one of his friends the fossil found near Kongnigou village in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, in 2005.

"It was different from other animal fossils. There was a notch in the mandible. In addition, the notch was grounded out with something square not round, showing that it must be from human tools," Zhang says. "Then I guessed the animal must have been domesticated."

A preliminary dating at Peking University in Beijing shows the fossil was more than 10,000 years old, which encouraged Zhang and his colleagues to research further to reveal Chinese animal husbandry.

A complete DNA sequence was determined and confirmed the cattle fossil was a transitional group between undomesticated and domesticated cattle, after two years in cooperation with professor Michi Hofreiter at York University in the UK, Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, and the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark.


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