Study: Pigs domesticated in Northern Germany around 4600 B.C.

iStock_000003693823Large_blogDogs may be man’s best friend, but they aren’t the only animal that has a long domestic history with humans.

New research published in Nature Communications shows that domesticated pigs were alive and well in Germany about 500 years earlier than previously believed, around 4600 B.C. The findings come from new fossil and DNA evidence from 63 pigs found at sites once inhabited by the Ertebølle culture. Researchers previously had known these hunter-gathers had domesticated hunting dogs; however, the new findings suggest the Ertebølle also had domesticated pigs, National Geographic reports.

The pigs also predate the appearance of domesticated sheep, goats and cattle by 500 years.

The pigs seemed to share ancestry with European and Near Eastern pigs. However, researchers aren’t sure how the Ertebølle first acquired the pigs (e.g., by trade or by capturing them from the wild).

“What is clear, however, is that the acquisition of domestic pigs by these last hunter-gatherers was one (perhaps critical) component of a broader socioeconomic process by which the Ertebølle acquired and assimilated agricultural elements, eventually leading to the emergence of the Trichterbecher culture,” the authors wrote.

Although the Ertebølle continued to hunt and gather while also keeping domestic pigs, it eventually led to a lifestyle more focused on livestock as a source of food.

Read the full study from Nature Communications here.

Krause-Kyora B, Markarewicz C, Evin A, Flink LG, Dobney K, Larson G, Hartz S, Schreiber S, von Carnap-Bornheim C, von Wurmb-Schwark N and Nebel A. Use of domesticated pigs by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in northwestern Europe. Nat Commun. 2013 Aug;4. doi:10.1038/ncomms3348


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