Archaeologists from the Field Museum have discovered the first evidence of turkey domestication.
They have unearthed a clutch of domesticated turkey eggs used as a ritual offering 1,500 years ago in Oaxaca, Mexico.
"People have made guesses about turkey domestication based on the presence or absence of bones at archaeological sites, but now we are bringing in classes of information that were not available before," said one of the study authors Gary Feinman from Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois.
‘The archaeologists have found a full clutch of unhatched turkey eggs, adult and juvenile turkey bones in a grave.’
The researchers discovered the eggs during an excavation in Oaxaca that was home to the Zapotec people going back thousands of years.
"It was very exciting because it's very rare to find a whole cluster of intact eggs. This was very unexpected," Feinman said.
Scanning electron microscope analysis of the eggshells confirmed that they were indeed laid by turkeys, said the study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science
: Reports. The researchers also found turkey bones nearby.
"The fact that we see a full clutch of unhatched turkey eggs, along with other juvenile and adult turkey bones nearby, tells us that these birds were domesticated," Feinman said.
The eggs, according to Feinman, were an offering of ritual significance to the Zapotec people.
The Zapotec people still live in Oaxaca today, and domesticated turkeys remain important to them.
The turkeys that are so important to the Zapotec today are similar birds to the ones that play a role in the American tradition of Thanksgiving.
"These are not unlike the kinds of turkeys that would have been around at the first Thanksgiving, and similar to the birds that we eat today," Feinman said.