Evidence for early dispersal of domestic sheep into Central Asia

Taylor, William T. T., Mélanie Pruvost, Cosimo Posth, William Rendu, Maciej T. Krajcarz, Aida Abdykanova, Greta Brancaleoni, Robert Spengler, Taylor Hermes, Stéphanie Schiavinato, Gregory Hodgins, Raphaela Stahl, Jina Min, Saltanat Alisher kyzy, Stanisław Fedorowicz, Ludovic Orlando, Katerina Douka, Andrey Krivoshapkin, Choongwon Jeong, Christina Warinner, and Svetlana Shnaider (2021) Evidence for early dispersal of domestic sheep into Central Asia. Nature Human Behavior.

The development and dispersal of agropastoralism transformed the cultural and ecological landscapes of the Old World, but little is known about when or how this process first impacted Central Asia. Here, we present archaeological and biomolecular evidence from Obishir V in southern Kyrgyzstan, establishing the presence of domesticated sheep by ca. 6,000 BCE. Zooarchaeological and collagen peptide mass fingerprinting show exploitation of Ovis and Capra, while cementum analysis of intact teeth implicates possible pastoral slaughter during the fall season. Most significantly, ancient DNA reveals these directly dated specimens as the domestic O. aries, within the genetic diversity of domesticated sheep lineages. Together, these results provide the earliest evidence for the use of livestock in the mountains of the Ferghana Valley, predating previous evidence by 3,000 years and suggesting that domestic animal economies reached the mountains of interior Central Asia far earlier than previously recognized.

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