Cattle Domestication Can Be Traced to Ten Thousand Years Ago in China

DEC . 24 2013

Peking University, Dec. 19, 2013: Peking University Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Carbon Age Research Team, lead by Professor Wu Xiaohong from School of Archaeology and Museology and Professor Liu Kexin from School of Physics,measured the age of the cattle bones with human domestication traces unearthed in Heilongjiang Province and proved that cattle domestication can be traced back to ten thousand years ago. This new finding got published in Nature-Communications on November 8, 2013.


Earlier in 2007, cattle bones with suspected human domestication traces were sent to Chronology Laboratory of School of Archaeology and Museology in Peking University by Professor Zhang Hucai, who is supported by the Hundred Talents Program of the Chinese Academy of Science. Soon an international cooperation team of multidisciplinary was organized to study this sample systematically. After several years of comprehensive analysis of chronology, morphology (Figure 1), DNA sequencing (Figure 2) and other indicators, the team proved that the traces on the cattle bones were left by human domestication. The content of Carbon-14 determined by Peking University and University of Kiel were highly identical, which lead to the conclusionthat the cattle bone can be traced back to 10,660 years ago. It is earlier than the time of 10500 years ago, which was previouslyconsidered the first time domesticated cattle appeared.


The common view of international academics as regards cattle domestication is that people started domesticating cattle (humpless cattle, taurine ) in Near East from 10,500 years ago, and about 2,000 years later, the domestication of humped cattle (humped cattle, zebu) began in South Asia. The analysis of Ancient DNA shows the spectrum of cattle found in Northeast China different from that of Near East and South Asia. Thereof the domestication of cattle could be multi-centered, not with single origin as thought previously. The Northeast China could be the center of cattle domestication as well. This finding rewrites the history of cattle domestication to some extent.



Figure 1. Fossil Evidence of Cattle Domestication



Figure 2. DNA Evidence of Cattle Domestication (Network built from short sequences obtained from the Chinese cattle (red), together with 116 sequences from all taurinehaplogroups; T (bright blue), P (orange), Q (purple), R (dark blue) and zebuinehaplogroup I (green).)


Figure 3. Cattle Domestication and Origin of Cattle


The Original Paper:‘Morphological and genetic evidence for early Holocene cattlemanagement in North-Eastern China’,


Written by: Zhou Shuya

Edited by: Li Chiyang