Bones and DNA from a Neolithic site in Iran provide the earliest evidence for the domestication of bezoar goats.
Since the middle of the last century, in the Zagros mountains in western Iran, archaeologists have found the bones of animals domesticated by the inhabitants of this region in ancient times. This area is located at the eastern end of the Fertile Crescent, which in the era of the Neolithic revolution became one of the centers of the emergence of agriculture, and then the first civilizations. This is evidenced by the remains of animals, which date back to the age of 10 thousand years and bear a number of signs of "domestication", such as smaller bodies and horns.
Unfortunately, revolutions and wars interrupted this research for decades. Interest in them in Iran has revived only in recent years. However, the authors of the new work, published in the journal PNAS, used bones collected as early as 1960-1970 in the ancient settlements of Ganji Dar and Tepe Abdul Hussein. People lived there in the early Neolithic, between 7600 and 8200 BC, and the main prey of local hunters were the wild ancestors of domestic goats - the bezoar goats (Capra aegagrus).
They became one of the first animals tamed by man, as evidenced by the bones. During normal hunting, the main effort is spent on relatively large adults. Pastoralists try to keep more females capable of producing milk and offspring, so many young, not so massive males go under the knife. The same is indicated by a curious find made at Ganji Dar. - the print of a goat's hoof in one of the clay bricks. Obviously, the animal stepped on him at the construction site, in the middle of the village, where a wild animal would hardly have wandered.
The oldest animal remains found date back to 8200 BC. Kevin Daly and his colleagues from Europe, Iran and the United States sequenced the DNA extracted from them and compared it with the genome of modern bezoar goats that live right there in the mountains. The work showed that even then shepherds kept herds in comparative isolation from wild relatives. In particular, they found a genomic variant STIM1-RRM1, known as one of the markers of domestication, leading to a decrease in anxiety in the animal.
According to the authors of the work, this is the oldest DNA from domestic animals that has ever been sequenced. Her analysis showed that among the ancient domesticated goats there were representatives of six different mitochondrial haplogroups - the same ones that are known in modern domestic animals. This indicates their direct hereditary relationship. Scientists have no doubts: the place of domestication of goats has been found. Although, note, some works indicate that this happened in a completely different region.