Ancient Mayans First Domesticated Turkey
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August 9, 2012

Turkey, one of the most widely consumed birds worldwide, was domesticated by the ancient Mayans, more than 1,000 years earlier than previously believed.

The discovery of bones of a turkey from an ancient Mayan site in Guatemala provides evidence of domestication, a mark of civilization, and the earliest evidence of the Mexican turkey in the Maya world, according to University of Florida researchers.

The Mexican turkey is the ancestor of all domestic turkeys consumed in the world today and was Mesoamerica's (extending from central Mexico to Belize and Guatemala) only indigenous domesticated animal.

The discovery of the turkey bones is significant because the Mayans did not use a lot of domesticated animals, the journal Public Library of Science ONE reports.

While they cultivated domesticated plants, most of their animal protein came mostly from wild resources, said Erin Thornton, research associate at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the Florida campus, who led the study.

"We might have gotten the timing of the introduction of this species to the ancient Maya wrong by a significant chunk of time," Thornton said, according to a Florida statement.

"The species originates from central Mexico, outside the Maya cultural area. This is the species the Europeans brought back with them to Europe - all domestic turkeys originated from Mexico," Thornton added.

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