Earliest Radiocarbon Dates for Domesticated Animals

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Science  19 Jan 1973:
Vol. 179, Issue 4070, pp. 235-239
DOI: 10.1126/science.179.4070.235


Our dates show that cattle and pigs were first domesticated in Europe. Sheep, which were thought to have become extinct in Europe during the terminal Pleistocene, also appear first in Europe. However, there remains little doubt that sheep were first domesticated in the Near East or Turkey, since no wild sheep appear to have existed in Europe at the beginning of the Holocene. Dogs were domesticated in both the Near East and Europe at virtually the same time. In the Near East, Asiab, at around 8000 B.C., qualifies as the first center of goat domestication. It is also the earliest center of domestication for all animals we have dated here. Horses were first domesticated in the steppes of the Ukraine, perhaps even earlier than our dates indicate, since all of the samples found at Polling are virtually contemporaneous (Fig. 1).

Undoubtedly, future research will alter the details of our overall impressions, especially after bones at earlier sites such as Nea Nikomedeia have been dated directly. But, on balance, there can be no doubt that southeastern Europe was as much an early center of domestication as the Near East was.