Monday, February 08, 2010

New Data on Turkey Domestication

Yesterday's LA Times had a most interesting piece on turkey domestication based on new DNA data. Apparently turkeys were domesticated independently twice, once in Mesoamerica and once in what is now the American Southwest. One of the archaeologists not involved with the study who is quoted in the article points out that the turkeys domesticated in the Southwest were originally more prized for their feathers than as a meat source, and appear to have been raised for ritualistic purposes. A post I put up here long ago, discusses how the Anasazi often placed sacrificed turkeys in kivas as part of a ceremony relating to the kiva's abandonment. Only much later did turkeys become important as a source of food for them.

A few years ago in Santa Barbara, I attended a lecture given by Brian Kemp, one of the co-authors of this study, on his research on Native American mitochondrial DNA and its use in tracing prehistoric migrations. Brian is a very sharp fellow and it's interesting to see him branching out into avian DNA work for this study.

1 comment:

Chas S. Clifton said...

I did an article for the Wild Turkey Federation once on Colorado's wild turkeys and was told by archaeologists then that, yes, the feathers were valued more than meat or eggs.

All the turkeys in this state in the 19th century were in places such as the Umcompaghre Plateau that were connected by contiguous habitat to Puebloan sites.

Now, thanks to introduction programs, they are in many more places.