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Osteomorphology and origins of sheep/goats domestication in China

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The origins of Chinese domestic sheep and goats have long been an issue that needs to be clarified. It has been assumed that sheep and goats were not originally domesticated in China, but came from the west as domestic animals. However, current zooarchaeological research in China has a basic problem in taxa identification. Several closely related Caprinae and gazelle species in western China cannot be correctly separated. This project carries out a detailed and systematic osteomorphology and osteomety study of the Caprinae and gazelle in western China and dif erent Ovis species on Eurasia by examining the modern specimens. A system of diagnostic criteria of the dif erent Capraine and gazelle was established, with their osteomorphology found to be related with the dif erent ecological habitats. The cline of osteomorphology between the Ovis from the dif erent parts of Eurasia is found to be related with their geographical distributions, and the features on two leg bones reflect the animals’ morphological diverge under domestication. This result is in parallel with some of the previous genetic study, and conformed that evolutionary history is documented in dif erent forms of biological markers –- anatomical, embryological, and molecular. The criteria newly developed are applied to the archaeological specimens from five sites in western China from 10,000 to 3,500 BP to trace the domestication and migration process of sheep and goats. Together with traditional zooarchaeological methods, it was found that the origins of sheep and goats domestication in western China may represent a complex continuum of interactions between the dif erent animals and humans in the unique ecological and social context.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Science Seminars series.

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