World's Poultry Science Journal


Did chickens go north? New evidence for domestication

Barbara Westa1 and Ben-Xiong Zhoua2

a1 Department of Zoology, British Museum (Natural History), London SW7 5BD and Environmental Archaeology Section, Museum of London, London EC2, UK

a2 Also known as Chow Ben-Shun, Professor of Archaeozoology, Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, People's Republic of China


Using archaeological evidence for chicken domestication from China, Asia and Europe, as well as palaeoclimatic evidence from China, it is concluded that chickens were first domesticated from the red junglefowl Gallus gallus in Southeast Asia well before the sixth millennium BC and taken north to become established in China by c. 6000 BC, whence they were later introduced to Japan via Korea during the Yayoi Period (c. 300 BC-300 AD). Domestication occurred in India much later (c. 2000 BC?), either independently or as a diffusion from Southeast Asia. Although the Iron Age was the main period for dispersion of chickens throughout Europe, they were already present in some areas during the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. It is proposed that the earliest European material may be derived from China via Russia. Because the key is likely to lie in central areas of the USSR, the finding of positive or negative evidence for the theory will depend on the interest of archaeologists working in the Soviet Union. Their collaboration is invited.


  • Red junglefowl;
  • chicken domestication;
  • faunal remains;
  • palaeoclimate;
  • China;
  • Russia;
  • Europe