Donkey work began much later than thought

March 11th, 2008 - 11:48 am ICT by admin  


Washington, March 11 (IANS) Domestication of the donkey as a beast of burden might have taken much longer than thought previously, according to a new study. Researchers, basing their study on 10 donkey skeletons from three 5,000-year-old graves in the Pharaoh’s complex at Abydos, Egypt, found that they were then in an early phase of domestication.

They looked like wild animals but displayed joint wear that showed that they were used as domestic animals.

Earlier estimates suggested that the domestication of animals began much earlier.

Domestication of the donkey from the African wild ass was a pivotal point in human history. It transformed ancient transport systems in Africa and Asia and the organisation of early cities and pastoral societies.

“Genetic research has suggested African origins for the donkey,” said Fiona Marshall of Washington University. “But coming up with an exact time and location for domestication is difficult… Our findings show that traces of human management can indicate domestication before skeletal or even genetic changes.”

These findings have been published in the March 10 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research team examined the Abydos skeletons along with 53 modern donkey and African wild ass skeletons. All the Abydos skeletons exhibited a range of wear and other pathologies on their bones consistent with load carrying.

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